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March 6, 2013

Casino bill advances in N.H.

Full Senate to take it up next week

CONCORD — A New Hampshire casino bill cleared a Senate committee yesterday.

The full Senate is expected to take up the issue as soon as next week, after the Ways and Means Committee recommended passage for Senate Bill 152 on a 4-1 vote.

“We’re off to a good start,” Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry said. “This is great for our area. I am very, very pleased.”

The bill was expected to sail through the committee.

Rausch and Sens. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, sponsors of the bill, all serve on the committee, so the odds were in their favor.

“I think we were expecting a positive decision,” Morse said. “We are looking forward to a strong vote out of the Senate next Thursday. The timing for this bill is right.”

They received support from Sen. Andrew Hosmer, D-Laconia.

Chairman Bob Odell, R-Lempster, opposed the bill.

Rausch said Odell has opposed gaming expansion in the past.

Prospects for passage by the full Senate also are good.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, last week testified in support of the bill, which has bipartisan support.

Hassan praised the bill’s sponsors and applauded the committee vote, saying a casino is critical for creating jobs and building a more innovative economic future.

“With Massachusetts moving forward with casino gambling, New Hampshire stands to lose $75 million per year if we fail to act,” Hassan said. “The true risk we all face is the risk of letting our economy fall behind and allowing the good jobs and growing businesses of the innovation economy develop elsewhere.”

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, has previously predicted the Senate would pass the bill.

The chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, Jim Rubens, also has predicted the fight over the bill will come in the House, not the Senate.

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