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February 20, 2013

Casino debate is heated

Police, attorney general oppose expanded gaming

(Continued)

Revenue would fund roads, colleges

The bill would put gaming revenue, projected by a consultant for Millennium at more than $120 million annually, into highways, state colleges and economic development for the North Country.

The bill also requires the licensee to put $425 million into development of the casino.

Millennium has estimated the project could create 2,000 construction jobs and 1,300 gaming jobs.

D’Allesandro described the casino proposal as an “economic recovery, job creation package” in a briefing for reporters. He said the license could be awarded by late summer of next year.

Governors rarely testify on bills, but, underscoring its importance to her budget, Hassan did so on behalf of the casino proposal.

She said a casino would provide an important economic boost “that we cannot afford to disregard,” but she also said it is a way to pay for state priorities.

“The revenue from one casino would mean tens of millions of dollars each year that could be used to restore some of our most pressing priorities,” Hassan said.

She acknowledged expanded gaming has been an ongoing, difficult debate.

“I ask those who have opposed such an effort in the past to consider the realities,” she said. “We can no longer pretend that gambling isn’t coming to our communities. It is already here.”

Failure to act would let Massachusetts capture revenue, while New Hampshire communities bear the cost without the benefits, Hassan said.

Plenty of support in Salem

Salem Town Administrator Keith Hickey testified to the support of Salem selectmen, while Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce executive director Donna Morris delivered that organization’s endorsement.

Salem businessman Howie Glynn, a founder of the N.H. Casino Now group, warned charity gaming faces a real threat from development of casinos in Massachusetts if New Hampshire doesn’t respond.

“We know New Hampshire people will drive across the border to access better facilities,” Glynn said.

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