The voters have spoken, both in Salem, where 81 percent last week approved a nonbinding referendum backing expanded gaming, and statewide in polls, with favorable numbers 60 percent or better, Rausch said.
“They have demonstrated they want gambling, not taxes,” he said.
SB 152 would license one casino, with up to 150 table games and 5,000 slot machines, by bid, with local approval through a binding referendum.
The bill calls for an $80 million licensing fee. Las Vegas-based Millennium Gaming Inc., which has an option to buy Rockingham Park in Salem, has said it will bid, should the Legislature authorize a casino.
Proponents say the casino could bring the state more than $100 million annually once it opens, for colleges, highways, economic development and other purposes.
Rausch said expanded gaming would be good for the state and its workforce. The House, he said, must decide whether to participate.
“We’re giving them the opportunity to help economic improvement in our state in a non-tax way,” Rausch said.
House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, concedes he’s not sure how the House will act on the casino plan.
“There have been dozens of expanded gaming proposals that have failed in the past,” Chandler said.
The House Finance Committee is working on a budget that doesn’t count on casino licensing fees, Chandler said. He remains skeptical the state will see licensing fees in time for the budget cycle, though Senate sponsors are confident the money will be there.
The New Hampshire Republican Party is questioning the role of state lottery officials in the casino issue, requesting phone logs, emails and correspondence from the governor’s office and the Lottery Commission under the state’s right-to-know law.
State GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn is accusing the governor’s office of an “ethically questionable” lobbying effort, which Hassan chief of staff Pamela Walsh disputed in a letter to Horn.