EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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March 6, 2013

Casino bill advances in N.H.

Full Senate to take it up next week


SB 152 calls for licensing one casino in New Hampshire through a bid process.

The state would receive $80 million through a licensing fee.

The bill calls for splitting future gaming revenues, estimated at more than $100 million annually, among highways, colleges and economic development for the North Country.

Local voters would have to approve siting a casino in their community.

State police, the Lottery Commission and the attorney general’s office all would have a role in approving or regulating the casino operator.

Las Vegas-based Millennium Gaming Inc. has an option to purchase Rockingham Park in Salem and has made clear its intention to bid for the license, if the Legislature agrees to issue one.

Millennium has said a $450 million redevelopment of Rockingham Park would create 2,000 construction jobs and 1,300 gaming jobs.

Millennium spokesman Rich Killion called the Senate committee vote yesterday a big step forward.

“The growing consensus that now is the time to expand gambling is felt not just in the Senate, but illustrated in well over 60 percent of New Hampshire residents supporting a casino in New Hampshire,” Killion said.

“The people do not want to see our elected leaders simply hand to Massachusetts the tens of millions in non-taxpayer revenue, the thousands of jobs and significant economic development opportunities that should occur here in New Hampshire.”

The Concord-based Center for Public Policy Studies last week issued a report, warning lawmakers to be cautious about relying on gaming revenues when they build the state budget.

Yesterday, Joe Casey, president of the New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council, who has advocated for passage of SB 152, was critical of the study.

“We believe the social costs derived from the center’s own assumptions are overstated,” Casey said.

On Tuesday, Salem voters will consider a nonbinding referendum, unrelated to the legislation, about whether the community should host a casino.

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