EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

May 2, 2013

Panel has yet to talk with Salem officials

House reviews casino plan

A New Hampshire House subcommittee charged with examining potential community impacts from casino development has yet to talk to Salem officials or those from neighboring communities.

The Community Impact Subcommittee is scheduled to issue a report next week. But community leaders in Southern New Hampshire said they had not heard from the panel, which is meeting three days this week and at least once next week.

“Maybe they feel they already know Salem’s feeling,” Salem Selectman Stephen Campbell said. “It does seem a little bit odd.”

Salem is the early favorite to get a casino, should the Legislature agree to license one.

Las Vegas-based Millennium Gaming Inc. has an option to buy Rockingham Park, and track representatives have told lawmakers they will bid for an $80 million casino license. The company has plans for a $425 million track redevelopment.

The House is reviewing Senate Bill 152, which would let the state license one casino by bid with local community approval.

Salem voters, by a 4-1 margin, passed a non-binding referendum at Town Meeting supporting a casino.

The bill would provide aid to abutting communities that could be affected by a casino. In Salem’s case, those would include Atkinson, Derry, Pelham and Windham.

Officials in those communities said yesterday they had not been invited to committee work sessions.

The list of speakers who have appeared before the subcommittee or who are scheduled to appear did not include any local officials or business owners, though Millennium lobbyist Jim Demers met with the panel yesterday.

Rep. Mary Griffin, R-Windham, a subcommittee member who supports a casino, said she expected Salem selectmen will be invited to speak next week. Griffin does not think the subcommittee will meet its deadline. “I think we’re going to have to push that out,” she said.

Griffin said the subcommittee is trying to be thorough. “We’ve been meeting every day with experts in the field,” she said. “You want to do it right.”

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