By Doug Ireland
---- — Londonderry police Sgt. Patrick Cheetham is one of three people Gov. Maggie Hassan appointed yesterday to the state Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority.
The 11-year Londonderry Police Department veteran is tasked with recommending how the state should oversee and regulate a proposed casino if the Legislature approves expanded gambling next session. Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, said he will introduce gaming legislation next month.
Cheetham joins newly appointed members Rep. Richard Ames, D-Jaffrey, and Manchester attorney Kathleen Sullivan on the nine-member panel. The commission also includes Attorney General Joseph Foster and Sen. James Rausch, R-Derry, a strong proponent of casino gambling.
Hassan chose Cheetham because of his law enforcement experience, according to the her spokesman, Marc Goldberg.
“Gov. Hassan feels that Sgt. Cheetham will bring an important law enforcement perspective that will help the commission make recommendations for regulatory and oversight measures that will best address concerns about potential social costs,” Goldberg said.
He said Hassan knew Cheetham through his work as a legislative liaison for the New Hampshire Police Association.
Cheetham, a member of the association’s board, testified before lawmakers last session in support of Senate Bill 152 — legislation that would have allowed expanded gaming in the state, Goldbeg said.
SB 152 was passed by the Senate, but killed by the House in May. The bill, backed by Hassan, called for the establishment of a single, well-regulated casino in the state.
One of the locations considered was Rockingham Park in Salem, where Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas proposed a $600 million-plus casino complex if expanded gambling were passed. Millennium estimated it would create 3,000 construction and gaming jobs.
Cheetham, who works an overnight shift for the Londonderry Police Department, could not be reached for comment. But Londonderry police Chief William Hart said Cheetham, who is in his 30s, is a valuable member of his force.
“He’s a real capable young leader in our department,” Hart said. “I have the utmost confidence he will serve the citizens of our community in a balanced, unbiased way.”
The commission was formed in 2010 and its mission extended when the biennium $10.7 billion budget was approved by lawmakers in June. It’s charged with making its policy and regulatory recommendations by Dec. 15. The group’s first meeting is Aug. 15.
Hassan said in a statement yesterday that New Hampshire would benefit from casino gambling.
“As our state stands to lose an estimated $75 million per year to Massachusetts casinos, moving forward with New Hampshire’s own plan for one highly regulated destination casino will help create jobs, boost our economy, and generate revenue to invest in critical priorities,” she said. “I am confident that Rep. Ames, Sgt. Cheetham and Kathy Sullivan bring the right combination of expertise and knowledge to help develop effective regulations that will address these concerns, and I thank them for their willingness to serve.”
D’Allesandro said Monday he will sponsor a casino gambling bill next session because the state needs the revenue to fund its operations and much-needed infrastructure improvements. Those improvements include repairing or replacing dozens of roads and bridges.
“There is no question we need the money,” D’Allesandro said yesterday.
He said he didn’t know Cheetham and would have preferred Hassan appoint a member of the New Hampshire State Police force since they would be handling law enforcement duties if a casino is ever built.
But D’Allesandro said he would be glad to assist Cheetham and the other panel members in any way he could.
“I’m happy to act as a consultant,” he said. “I think it’s a step forward.”
Rausch doesn’t know Cheetham either, according to a staff member, but he is looking forward to working with him and the other commissioners.