SALEM — It doesn’t matter if you are running for selectman, the School Board or the Budget Committee — people in town want to know if you support casino gambling.
They also want to know if you support a proposal to establish a multimillion-dollar casino at Rockingham Park.
Candidates for elected office were peppered with questions about casino gambling during a 90-minute public forum last night at Salem High School.
The candidates forum, organized by the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce, featured 12 candidates running in six races for selectman, School Board, Budget Committee, Planning Board and trustee of trust funds. Two seats are open on the Budget Committee.
While none of the candidates were asked the same question, many of the questions focused on whether candidates’ supported casino gambling in town or proposals to spend up to $17 million to renovate three elementary schools.
Many of the candidates said — whether they were asked or not — that they backed expanded gambling and a proposal by Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas to establish a casino at the former racetrack.
If the Legislature votes to approve expanded gambling in New Hampshire as recommended by Gov. Maggie Hassan in her budget address last week, the revenues are expected to help revitalize the state’s economy.
Hassan’s proposed budget relies on $80 million the state would receive through the licensing fee. Senate Bill 152, co-sponsored by state Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, would allow for a single casino in New Hampshire, with up to 150 table games and 5,000 slot machines.
If Rockingham Park were chosen as the site for a casino, Salem would receive a chunk of the annual revenues, according to Patrick Hargreaves, an incumbent selectman who is seeking reelection.
“A casino will give us $4 million to $5 million a year,” Hargreaves said last night.
Hargreaves said he supports a casino and that the town has two dozen applicants for six seats on Salem’s newly formed Casino Advisory Committee.