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April 9, 2014

Salem officials hoping for casino passage by N.H. House

Salem leaders hopeful casino is OK'd

SALEM — The Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to every member of the New Hampshire House, is asking lawmakers to approve a Senate passed casino bill.

“Now is the time to act in favor of expanded gaming for our state,” president Donna Morris said in a letter sent on behalf of the Chamber.

The House Ways and Means Committee holds a hearing on Senate Bill 366 tomorrow.

The hearing is scheduled at 9 a.m. in Rooms 202-204 of the Legislative Office Building, across from the Statehouse.

“The Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce views the potential increase in economic development, the creation of permanent and contract jobs, and the definitive increase in revenue stream to our state as a result of expanded gaming highly beneficial,” Morris wrote.

The Chamber, which has more than 450 member businesses, also pointed to the results of last year’s non-binding referendum that showed 81 percent of Salem voters supporting a casino.

The business group also said a casino license would help Rockingham Park.

“We believe that Rockingham Park, as a business, should have the opportunity to be competitive in its own industry,” Morris wrote.

Las Vegas-based Millennium Gaming Inc. has an option to buy Rockingham Park and its co-CEO, Bill Wortman, personally has a 20 percent ownership stake in The Rock.

The company intends to bid on a casino license if New Hampshire establishes one and has plans for a $600-million-plus casino development with a hotel and entertainment venue.

Millennium has estimated the project could create 3,000 construction and gaming jobs.

Lawmakers have said a casino could bring the state $100 million in revenue annually.

The House rejected a House casino bill on a 173-144 vote last month. But the Senate approved SB 366, which would allow licensing of up to two casinos, 15-9.

Though Gov. Maggie Hassan favors licensing only one casino, she has encouraged House lawmakers to consider the Senate proposal.

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