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September 28, 2013

NH gambling authority head says good law is likely

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The chairman of a state panel charged with writing new regulations to expand gambling in New Hampshire said Friday that a Dec. 15 deadline for draft rules is realistic.

One day after meeting with the state’s new gambling consultant, state Rep. Richard Ames, a Democrat from Jaffrey, said there is enough information available and a willingness among members of the New Hampshire Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority to complete its task on time.

Ames said it’s premature to say which model of regulating casino operators and enforcing gambling laws will work, but he said consultant Maureen Williamson of WhiteSand Gaming had laid out several options.

“We’ll search for best practices, sorting through whatever everybody has done,” Ames said. “Best practices means what it always means here: Best practices for New Hampshire.”

Supporters of expanding gambling, including Gov. Maggie Hassan, see casinos as a revenue stream to help fund transportation, education and other needs.

Several pieces of legislation have been considered, but lawmakers couldn’t agree on one version. At Thursday’s authority meeting, Williamson said a Senate omnibus bill provided the best starting point for new legislation since it already incorporates “key concepts,” including a clear separation of the licensing and enforcement components. Hassan supported the Senate bill that would allow 5,000 video slots and 150 table games; it died in the House.

Ames said it’s premature to say what the final bill will look like but agreed the Senate bill was a good starting point.

“I think it’s workable,” he said of getting draft regulations to the legislature by the deadline. “I think we have a very good consultant and we have a very good membership on our authority that is dedicated to getting the job done.”

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, who sponsored that senate bill, said he expects to have a new bill on the floor in the next session. He said the new bill will take into consideration what the authority recommends and address three key areas: Allowing more than one license to be granted, improving oversight and adjusting the formula to distribute revenues.

“You obviously have to be extremely cautious but I think if you look at the scene around all the states, the success in Maine, what’s going on in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, I think we have a chance,” he said.

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