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March 19, 2013

Police unions support casino bill

Groups say gambling could fund positions, safety programs

CONCORD — Players in the high stakes New Hampshire casino game are raising bets as action moves to the House.

The New Hampshire Troopers Association and New Hampshire Police Association, which represents rank-and-file law enforcement, yesterday declared support for Senate Bill 152 during a press conference in Concord.

The groups said a casino could help the state fund public safety programs, without causing major crime problems.

Seth Cooper, president of the 286-member Troopers Association, said he had spoken with police in states that have licensed casinos. While they reported increased traffic-related problems and motor vehicle offenses, they saw nothing in the way of high criminal element, he said.

“The mob hadn’t come into town,” Cooper said.

New Hampshire chiefs of police had opposed the bill in testimony before a Senate hearing last month due to concerns about increased crime.

But Cooper said police officers are lining up to support the casino because of the potential benefits to the state as a funding source.

About 40 trooper positions were lost in the last budget cycle, meaning longer waits for help for people in trouble on Interstate 93 and other highways, he said.

Revenue from gaming could restore some of those jobs, he said.

“Obviously, that would mean a lot more coverage out there for people in the southern tier,” Cooper said.

Gaming revenue also might aid safety programs to reduce drug trafficking or protect children, he said.

The casino bill, with backing from Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, cleared the Senate last week on an overwhelming 16-8 vote and now moves to the House. A hearing isn’t scheduled yet, the speaker’s office said yesterday.

“It’s time for the state representatives to represent the citizens of the state and sup port this piece of legislation,” Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, said in the aftermath of Senate approval.

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