SALEM — There are few issues on which Democrats and Republicans agree.
But if you’re from Salem and running for a seat in the state Legislature, chances are you support expanded gambling.
That’s because a plan to establish a multimillion-dollar casino at Rockingham Park racetrack is expected to create thousands of jobs, generate millions in annual revenue and revitalize a slumping economy.
For the two District 22 Senate hopefuls and most of the candidates running for nine seats in House District 8, approval of expanded gambling is desperately needed. They voiced their opinions on gaming and other key state issues last night at a candidates forum hosted by the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce.
Only about a dozen people attended the forum at Salem High School, but many more watched the locally televised event at home.
The nearly two-hour forum was led by moderator Peter Rayno. It began with Republican Senate incumbent Chuck Morse of Salem and Democratic challenger Victoria Czaia of Atkinson fielding questions on numerous issues for 30 minutes. Czaia is the only candidate not from Salem.
Then, the 12 out of 18 House candidates who attended responded to questions on expanded gambling, adoption of an income tax, education, infrastructure, the economy and health care for almost an hour and a half.
But the proposal for a casino at the century-old racetrack and the need for lawmakers to approve expanded gaming to make that happen dominated the forum.
“I think a casino would do great things for this area,” Czaia said. Establishing a casino at Rockingham Park would create about 4,500 full- and part-time jobs, and raise millions in revenue for both Salem and the state, she said.
Failure to bring casino gambling to The Rock means that money would be spent at casinos in Massachusetts, Czaia said. “That’s an awful lot of money to look away from,” she said.