NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 20, 2013

coming up short in casino debate

Lawmakers seemingly favor Rockingham Park over Seabrook dog track

(Continued)

“We’ve had Seabrook Greyhound Park here in Seabrook for 40 years,” Khan said. “We’ve seen no increase in problems here because of the park. A casino would bring jobs and revenue. “

The crime and morality factor have played a pivotal role in defeating gambling bills in the House in past session, and former Gov. John Lynch’s opposition to gaming’s expansion for what he called “quality of life” issues took the revenue source off the table. But when Hassan made a casino part of her campaign platform, it changed the political dynamic.

With a reported revenue shortfall and Democrats hoping to restore drastic cuts in the state budget last session, the money gaming offers has already enticed former anti-gaming legislators — like Concord Democrat Sen. Sylvia Larsen — to vote in favor.

The bill would allow up to 150 table games and 5,000 slot machines at a casino. The developer would be required to invest more than $400 million into the project. The bill provides protection to legal charity gaming currently in place when the casino is approved, like those at Seabrook Greyhound Park, Hampton Falls and Hampton Beach.

The Senate proposal would tax the video slot proceeds at 30 percent and table games at 14 percent. Five percent of the video lottery revenue would go to the host community, neighboring communities and services for problem gambling. The rest would be used to fund highway improvements, higher education and North Country development. The table game revenue would go to higher education.

Since some of the casino revenue would augment highway improvements, many are hoping its passage would squelch the House bill that’s proposing a sharp increase in New Hampshire’s gas tax.

The bill allows only one casino venue, cutting out other sites that have been discussed in years past, like Seabrook Greyhound Park, which is currently open seven days a week offering wagering on national horse and dog racing as well as a charity gambling poker room.

Also hoping for consideration are sites in New Hampshire’s economically stressed North Country, like its resort hotels, as well as Green Meadow Golf Club in Hudson and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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