EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

May 8, 2014

Casino vote is bad news for The Rock

Future of casino gambling appears bleak

(Continued)

Callahan said he believes New Hampshire residents will now spend more of their money at new casinos being built in Massachusetts.

Rockingham Park will continue to host simulcast races and charitable gaming, he said.

Callahan said Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas still has an option to buy the park and build a multi-million-dollar casino and entertainment complex that Salem town officials, including all five selectmen, hope will create jobs and revitalize the local economy.

Selectmen Michael Lyons and Stephen Campbell said yesterday their community and the state would have benefited if the legislation had passed

Callahan has said the future of The Rock could be in jeopardy if expanded gambling were defeated.

He agreed with local lawmakers who said last week was the best opportunity ever to pass expanded gambling. But that opportunity — even if new bills are introduced again next year — may never come again, they said.

“The problem is,” Callahan said, “will there be a bill the majority can support?”

Rep. Joseph Sweeney, R-Salem, agrees that opportunity may never happen — even through a last-minute amendment this session.

“The options are still on the table, but it’s an uphill battle,” he said.

Sweeney is one of five Republican state representatives from Salem who supported the bill and among those who criticized three other Salem GOP lawmakers who did not.

Those three representatives are Patrick Bick, Marilinda Garcia and Bianca Garcia.

Their backing last week would have made all the difference, the supporters said.

“I’m disappointed,” Sweeney said. “There are people from Salem who didn’t represent the people.”

Eighty-one percent of Salem residents who turned out at the polls in March 2013 supported a nonbinding referendum calling for a casino at Rockingham Park.

Since the vote to kill the bill April 30, legislators on both sides of the issue lobbied their colleagues to change their minds or make sure they were present to vote.

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