SALEM — A gaming expansion bill is on the way to the Legislature that will agree to Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan’s desire for a bid process, but leave open for debate the number of casinos.
Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, will lead the fight as co-sponsor of the measure with long-time gaming expansion proponent Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester.
The senators were moving the proposal forward yesterday at the Statehouse. Morse said details are still to be worked out in the coming days.
The bill will provide for the competitive bid process Hassan repeatedly said on the campaign trail she would require to support expanded gaming.
“The governor has made clear what is acceptable to her,” Morse said.
Hassan spoke about the issue during a Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce forum at Rockingham Park in July.
“I believe strongly we can establish a highly regulated, high-end casino,” Hassan said. “If we can do it correctly, and I believe we can, we can create jobs and increase state revenues.”
Hassan wants only one casino venue, but that will be one of the talking points for the Legislature.
“We are willing to debate with her,” Morse said.
The Legislature will have many other familiar, related considerations to discuss, among them: regulation, the state’s licensing fee for a venue, the number and types of games, and how revenue will be used by the state.
Morse has supported gaming expansion measures before, but said he has never led the effort.
In the past, either the Legislature or the governor has stopped gaming expansion.
“I think there is a totally different atmosphere now,” Morse said. “With Massachusetts moving forward, those are revenues New Hampshire is going to lose. So, that is putting New Hampshire at a competitive disadvantage if we don’t move now.”