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March 1, 2013

Reliance on casino revenue is risky

Senate could vote next week on proposal

CONCORD — A study projecting revenues from a New Hampshire casino development highlights potential state budget risks.

The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies issued the report yesterday.

“Predicting revenue from license fees is difficult, and budget writers should use caution in basing a budget on such revenue,” the study concluded.

Gov. Maggie Hassan is backing a Senate bill that calls for including $80 million from casino licensing in the budget.

“There is a lot of uncertainty, short and long term from this,” the center’s executive director, Stephen Norton, told reporters.

Study authors acknowledge a casino could generate as much as $100 million from licensing, but question how soon that would happen if a local community like Salem must vote to approve and state agencies set up regulation.

“Experience in other states suggests that it could take at least two years before any tax revenues from casino operations would be available to the state,” the report said.

Senate sponsors have proposed licensing one casino, which they maintain could be approved within two years, and charging an $80 million fee they would put in the budget.

The study said what developers might pay for a license will depend on competition from Massachusetts and other factors, including required taxes once gaming starts at the casino.

Las Vegas-based Millennium Gaming Inc. has an option to buy Rockingham Park and has told legislators it is willing to pay $80 million for a license.

The company is planning a $450 million redevelopment, and is projecting 2,000 construction jobs and 1,300 gaming jobs.

Gambling problems could offset revenue

The study predicts the expense of coping with problem gamblers could offset new revenues, if a 30 percent tax on gaming is used as proposed in the Senate plan.

“Our model’s estimates of the social costs of problem gambling suggest no long-term net state benefit when the tax on casino operations is set at 30 percent or less,” the study said.

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