EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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March 5, 2013

Morse says Salem support for casino matters

Budget Committee irked after being left off local panel

(Continued)

“You do not have 100 percent representation from Salem,” he said.

He said “50 to 60 percent” of the town’s nine representatives support the proposal.

“I am not going to name names,” Azarian said.

“I believe I know who the four are,” Hargreaves said.

All five of Salem’s selectmen support a casino.

Morse and Azarian said the state could lose millions of dollars in annual revenue if New Hampshire doesn’t approve expanded gambling.

Azarian said that figure is estimated at $180 million to $200 million a year.

Casinos are being built in surrounding states, including Massachusetts and Maine, they said. A Las Vegas company has an option to build a casino at Rockingham Park.

“The upside is great,” Azarian said. “The downside if we do nothing is even greater.”

Morse praised selectmen for forming a nine-member committee to consider all the issues involved in establishing a casino in Salem.

“I think putting this committee together is a wise move,” he said.

But at the beginning of their meeting, selectmen were criticized by Budget Committee Chairman Russell Frydryck for not including a member of his committee on the casino panel.

Twenty people have applied to sit on the panel, which would feature six residents, a selectman, a School Board member and a state lawmaker from Salem.

Selectman Michael Lyons said the Budget Committee was inadvertently excluded from having a member on the panel. He made a motion to add a Budget Committee member and increase the number of residents on the panel from six to seven, making the total 11 members.

But Selectman Everett McBride Jr. said 11 was too many people. The board voted, 3-2, against the proposal, with Hargreaves and Stephen Campbell also in opposition.

Campbell said he voted against adding a Budget Committee member because he disagrees with the group’s philosophies.

He said the committee is more interested in expenses than generating revenue.

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