“The income stream from gambling comes at a huge societal cost,” Rice said.
Rep. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, challenged Rice, wondering if her office is willing to accept less money as the state struggles to fund services without expanded gaming.
“If you have a constructive solution, I’m all ears,” Sapareto told her.
Rep. Patrick Bick, R-Salem, conceded he was among the 20 percent of Salem voters opposed to a casino in a non-binding referendum last month.
Bick questioned the reliability of revenues from gaming, saying it is a dying industry, and wondered whether Salem will see the high-end casino proponents envision.
“If Salem were to get it, would we get stuck with a glorified slot barn?” Bick asked.
Salem Selectman Stephen Campbell supported the bill, saying it would be good for New Hampshire to have a casino, even if it is built somewhere else.
“I think it would be good for the whole state, not just Salem,” Campbell said.
While unions, including the Londonderry-based Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, supported the bill because of job creation and revenues for state services, others warned of the social costs.
Lew Feldstein, a leader in the Casino Free NH group, warned accepting one casino will mean more.
It’s not a question of if or whether, but when and how fast they will spread, Feldstein said.
“We will have gambling all across the state,” he said.
Joining Feldstein in opposition were former Attorney General Phil McLaughlin, Nashua Mayor Donalee Lozeau, the League of Women Voters and performing art centers, including the Music Hall in Portsmouth.
The joint House panel hears from experts when it convenes today at 9:30 a.m. at the Legislative Office Building.
Speaker Terie Norelli, meanwhile, has asked three subcommittees to look at key issues: regulation, potential revenues and community impact.