EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

November 1, 2013

NH panel considers combined gambling oversight

CONCORD, N.H. — A panel charged with drafting regulations for a future casino is considering beefing up and expanding the Lottery Commission to serve as an umbrella for gambling in New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority on Thursday discussed expanding the Lottery Commission from three to five members with the chairman serving full-time.

The new commission would oversee the lottery, a casino and charitable gambling.

The lottery’s executive director would report to the commission chairman as would the executive director of what is now Racing and Charitable Gaming and a proposed office of casino gaming administration and enforcement.

The gaming authority would continue in an advisory role.

Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes said it made sense to include all aspects of gambling in New Hampshire under one commission to improve communication and reduce duplication.

He said that including oversight of charitable gambling would help with reforms that the panel believes are needed.

The panel also does not plan to include financial details about a casino — such as the number of authorized video slots or tax rates — in the draft legislation it presents to the Legislature in December.

“I don’t feel my role is to make those decisions for the Legislature,” said Attorney General Joseph Foster.

The panel plans to make preliminary decisions Wednesday and begin drafting legislation.

The panel was created after the House killed a casino bill this year that had passed the Senate with strong backing from Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The rejected bill would have allowed the construction of one casino with 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games.

WhiteSands Gaming, the consultant hired to advise the authority, said 2,500 slots and 85 table games is a more realistic number to launch a casino. Hassan hopes the commission will address concerns about the state’s ability to regulate a casino that came up last spring.

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