EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

May 24, 2013

Future uncertain for The Rock

Death of casino bill disappoints many in Salem

SALEM — What seemed like a good deal to town and Rockingham Park officials proves there’s no such thing as a sure bet.

Disappointment was strong yesterday after the state House of Representatives voted, 199-164, Wednesday to kill legislation that could have brought a $600-million-plus casino and entertainment complex to the former racetrack.

Legislative approval of expanded gambling in New Hampshire was expected to pump millions of dollars into the state and local economies.

Now, the question is whether Rockingham Park — a Salem institution for more than a century — can remain open without a casino.

Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas recently unveiled its latest plans for a 300-room hotel and entertainment venue at the park. Passage of Senate Bill 152 could have meant 5,000 video slot machines, 150 table games and up to 3,000 construction and gaming jobs at the park. The bill would have authorized a single casino and many saw Millennium and The Rock at the front of the pack.

Millennium spokesman Rich Killion insisted yesterday his company remains committed to Rockingham Park and the people of Salem. Millenium will not sever its six-year relationship with the park, he said.

Millennium has an option to purchase the 170-acre property, an option the company extended this winter. Millennium co-CEO Bill Wortman personally has a 20 percent ownership stake in the racetrack.

Yesterday, Rockingham Park president and general manager Edward Callahan said he’s not sure what’s in the cards for The Rock.

A casino was the only serious alternative among the many presented to him over the years, he said.

“I’m sure in the next month or two we will sit down and review all the options,” he said. “We really haven’t pushed anything else there.”

Callahan said he isn’t sure what those options are at this point.

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