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September 10, 2013

N.H. officials return to casino discussion

Rockingham Park and Salem officials could testify before a state commission studying casino regulations this week.

The Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority will hold a public hearing Thursday in Concord, as it works toward a Dec. 15 deadline for issuing recommendations to the Legislature.

“We are going to be there,” Rockingham Park president and general manager Ed Callahan said yesterday.

The track’s message to the authority will be that 41 states have regulations and some type of gambling commission, most of which have been successful, Callahan said.

“The key to all this is finding regulations that work somewhere and adapt them to New Hampshire’s revised statutes,” he said.

Whether a casino in New Hampshire is regulated under the existing Lottery Commission or a new gambling commission, Callahan said, he doesn’t see a problem with it.

The biggest challenge for the authority at this point, he said, is devising regulations without knowing exactly what type of casino the Legislature would approve.

Salem Selectmen’s Chairman Everett McBride Jr. planned to bring up the hearing at last night’s selectmen’s meeting.

“I’d think we should have somebody there,” McBride said.

Callahan said he’s sure authority members by now are well aware that Rockingham Park and the town are ready to host a casino, should the state choose to authorize one.

Salem residents supported casino gaming by a 4-1 margin in a nonbinding referendum at Town Meeting.

Rockingham Park officials have said they are prepared to bid for a casino license.

Las Vegas-based Millenium Gaming Inc., which has an option to buy the track, has plans for a $600 million-plus casino development, including a hotel, that would create an estimated 3,000 construction and gaming jobs.

The Senate, with Gov. Maggie Hassan’s support, this year passed legislation that would have let the state award a single casino license by competitive bid.

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