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March 28, 2014

N.H. Senate revives casino gaming debate

House gets one last chance


“The latest casino bill is nothing but an attempt to buy votes in the House,” the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling and Casino Free NH said in a joint statement. “Debating another casino bill is nothing but a waste of time. The House has spoken. It’s time to move on.”

Rep. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, was pleased the House will get a chance at last to debate a casino plan similar to what House proponents envisioned.

“The Senate did make it as it should have been voted on the House,” Sapareto said, alluding to more than $25 million in revenue sharing for towns and regulation House lawmakers have backed.

Sapareto said the House debate earlier this month didn’t give lawmakers a chance to hear an amendment proponents thought could get more votes.

“We didn’t get a chance to discuss that in the House,” he said.

Sapareto predicts another close House vote.

“We are right there,” he said.

If the House rejects casino gaming this session, Sapareto still expects passage next session.

“Next session, it is going to go,” he said.

In Salem, there is concern time is running out to save Rockingham Park and charity gaming.

Las Vegas-based Millennium Gaming Inc. has a $600-million-plus casino development planned for Rockingham Park that would include a hotel and entertainment venue.

The company has said it would pursue a casino license if the Legislature approves one and estimates a casino would create 3,000 construction and gaming jobs combined.

A majority of Salem voters, in a non-binding referendum last year, supported casino gaming.

Legislative backers were pleased when Rep. John Sytek, R-Salem, moved into their camp, satisfied the House bill provided adequate regulation.

But proponents know it will be a tough fight in the House.

They will have to pick up at least 15 votes to change the outcome and there is division even in the Salem delegation.

Reps. Marilinda and Bianca Garcia, R-Salem, sisters, have opposed casino gaming in the past, though neither cast a vote on the House casino bill. Rep. Patrick Bick, R-Salem, did oppose the House version.

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