EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

March 14, 2014

N.H. House rejects casino bills

Senate still has its own bill on the table

CONCORD — The New Hampshire House rejected casino gambling yesterday.

It did so for the second consecutive year. Two bills went down to defeat.

House Bill 1633 would have licensed a single casino with up to 150 table games and 5,000 slot machines. It failed, 173-144.

HB 1626 would have licensed six gaming venues. That went down, too, 187-102.

HB 1633 was the main event, a bill that attempted to rebuild last year’s failed model amid more and tighter regulation.

It resulted in more than an hour of debate.

Rep. Richard Ames, D-Jaffrey, made the economic case in a written minority report from the Ways and Means Committee, which had narrowly recommended killing the bill, 11-9.

“A principal purpose, stated in the bill, is to promote economic recovery, small business development, tax relief and job creation,” Ames wrote.

Rep. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, pointed to the estimated annual revenue, projected as high as $100 million a year, and told colleagues there is no comparable source to fund state services.

Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, said she was not a fan of gambling, but didn’t want to tell other adults what to do. Failing to approve a casino would mean the state is letting revenue and jobs go to Massachusetts, she said.

Rep. Melanie Levesque, D-Hollis, shared Weber’s view, saying a casino and entertainment complex would benefit the state.

But lawmakers remained concerned about the potential negative impact on the state’s quality of life, uncertainty over revenue and the political influence of gaming interests.

They also weren’t buying the argument of proponents that a casino at Rockingham Park would attract tourists and gamblers from out of state.

“Salem is not going to be a destination casino,” Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, said.

Instead, it would be New Hampshire people within a half-hour drive gambling their income, he said.

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