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February 20, 2013

Casino debate is heated

Police, attorney general oppose expanded gaming


Patti Drelick, Salem senior services director, said gaming has existed in Salem for more than 100 years and she’s never felt threatened or scared.

“Keep your rose-colored glasses on,” Drelick told lawmakers, urging passage.

The bill targets some revenue for North Country economic development, which officials in the northern part of the state find appealing.

“My people are hurting,” Gorham Selectman Paul Robitaille told the panel.

Trade unions also see benefits from casino development.

“It will certainly help get us in the right direction,” said Joe Casey, president of the New Hampshire Building Trades Council. “We believe a rising tide will lift all ships.”

Concerns arise over fairness

Attorney Thomas J. Leonard of Nashua, representing Green Meadow Golf Club, and lobbyist Ed Dupont, representing the speedway, pressed for a fair process, expressing concern the bill as written may favor Millennium.

Leonard characterized the bill as “definitely in favor of the most public proposal,” meaning Millennium’s Rockingham Park plans.

The Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gaming, Cornerstone Action, New Hampshire police chiefs and the attorney general opposed the bill because of concerns about crime, political corruption and gaming addiction.

Cornerstone Action’s Ashley Pratt said it was risky to build the state budget on potentially unsustainable revenue.

“This is a desperate move that would be in great error,” Pratt said.

Sponsors battled back when challenged over the legislation.

When Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, said she opposed the bill because the concept didn’t represent the New Hampshire she loves, Morse wondered how she would pay for state services.

She didn’t offer a method, but said gaming isn’t the appropriate source of revenue.

“I guess the short answer would be we have to tax and fee the people of New Hampshire,” Morse responded.

Police worry about crime

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