NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 22, 2013

NH House rejects 1 gambling bill, tables another

CONCORD, N.H. — A week after a gambling bill passed the state Senate, the New Hampshire House killed one casino bill Thursday but kept another alive, leaving open the possibility of passing its own gambling measure.

The House overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would have allowed two casinos to be built in the state while preserving another amid debate over the possibility of legalizing gambling in New Hampshire.

Last week the state Senate passed a casino bill that has the support of Gov. Maggie Hassan who included $80 million in revenue from casino license fees in her budget. That bill would allow one casino with 150 table games and 5,000 video slots. It’s widely believed that Rockingham Park in Salem would get that license.

Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, urged his colleagues to preserve one of the bills whether they support or oppose expanded gambling because it will increase the House’s options down the road. Legislative rules about bringing the proposal back for consideration make the vote largely symbolic, but it leaves the door open for House lawmakers to consider a gambling bill of their own.

The preserved bill would allow the same number of slots as the Senate bill, but spread over six locations and run via public-private partnership. It does not allow for table games. Opponents argued there wouldn’t be sufficient private interest in being the landlord for the state slots parlors and there wouldn’t be enough patrons to keep them operating.

Rep. Susan Almy, D-Lebonan, said similar systems have resulted in “large numbers of small sad places that cater only to the locals and don’t really make enough money to survive.”

The House voted 249-65 to reject a bill that would have allowed two casinos. Opponents argued it wouldn’t produce enough money for the state and didn’t have a competitive licensing process. Supporters said its passage would ensure the House has an official bargaining position when they consider the Senate gambling bill.

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