EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

April 10, 2013

Lots of uncertainty about casino bill's future


Besides Major, only Rep. Marilinda Garcia, R-Salem, has a record of voting against expanded gaming.

Besides Azarian and Weyler, past supporters have included Allen and Elliott, Frank Sapareto of Derry, Mary Griffin of Windham, and Jordan Ulery, and husband-and-wife lawmakers Russell and Lynne Ober of Hudson. Ulery and the Obers represent Pelham.

All of the Southern New Hampshire lawmakers on the committee are Republicans.

SB 152 proposes licensing one casino for $80 million. Sponsors predict annual revenues of $100 million once the casino comes online.

They say the revenue can pay for highways, colleges and economic development.

Las Vegas-based Millennium Gaming Inc. has an option to buy Rockingham Park and has said it will bid for the license.

It has plans for a $425 million casino redevelopment that would include reviving thoroughbred racing.

Hassan has said New Hampshire will lose out to neighboring Massachusetts if it fails to license a casino.

Critics, including the coalition, warn gaming revenues are unpredictable and falling around the country, that a casino would hurt existing businesses, and crime — and potentially political corruption — would follow gambling.

The makeup of the joint committee means the legislation will get proper vetting in the House, in the view of coalition chairman Jim Rubens.

“They’re going to have tough questions,” Rubens said. “That is good.”

But Rubens, who served in the Senate, acknowledges a difficult fight is ahead. Even if the joint committee opposes the bill, the House could decide otherwise.

“Many of these legislators are under extreme pressure,” Rubens said. “No one should be counting chickens. We certainly aren’t.”

Rubens said he expects the final House vote will depend on the positions of freshmen Democrats who have expressed concern about revenues, which the coalition maintains are unpredictable and unsustainable.

Allen said she is supporting SB 152.

“It is the best deal on the table,” she said.

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