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February 8, 2013

Gaming company bets on voter approval

SALEM — Milennium Gaming Inc. founder and co-CEO Bill Wortman is betting the state is ready to approve expanded gaming.

Wortman disclosed last night his company has extended its option to purchase Rockingham Park before an audience of more than 200 at the track.

Wortman said he is very optimistic about the prospects of passage for a Senate bill co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, that could bring a casino to the track.

“We think there is as good a chance now as there has ever been,” Wortman said.

His company is ready to go with a $450 million redevelopment plan that could create 2,000 construction jobs and 1,300 permanent jobs at the track, should the state award Milennium the right to operate a casino.

Wortman said New Hampshire still has an opportunity to beat Massachusetts to casino development. “I think there’s still time to beat Massachusetts to the marketplace.”

The Rock is the ideal spot, in Wortman’s opinion. “This is the best place in New England to have one,” Wortman said. “I would choose this over Suffolk Downs.”

Responding to questions in a nearly two-hour forum, Wortman said if the state awards Milennium a license early next year the company would absolutely open a redeveloped track complex no later than 2016.

Rockingham Park president Ed Callahan said the track intends to operate charity gaming and simulcast racing throughout redevelopment, though it could be off track elsewhere in the community.

Wortman and Callahan encouraged Salem residents to pass a non-binding referendum supporting expanded gaming at Town Meeting on March 12.

Former New Hampshire Senate President Arthur Klemm of Windham, who attended the forum, said in an interview passage of the referendum is key and will send a message to legislators that the community welcomes a casino.

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