A New Hampshire committee that has historically tabled or killed gambling legislation in the Granite State advanced Senate Bill 113 Tuesday by a margin of 11-10. The House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill as a way to create a revenue stream without additional taxation.
Several New England states have approved new casinos, with two full scale resorts already under construction in nearby Massachusetts, as well as a slots parlor at a Plainridge, Ma. harness racing track that will open in June. One more casino license is in the mix for Massachusetts and legislation is moving forward in Connecticut for three new casinos.
Many supporters of the New Hampshire measure view this bill and any actions next session as their final chance to get in on the game. Representative Joseph Lachance of Manchester said, “Whether it’s Salem or Gorham, I don’t care. It’s time,” he added, “It’s the last chance dance.”
Not everyone is as positive about the idea, with long time opponents such as Representative Mary Cooney of Plymouth saying, “This is a desperate attempt to get something for nothing,” and “There is a cost, there is pain.” Many in her camp believe that there are potential negative social consequences and that casino dividends do not represent a reliable revenue source for the state.
SB 113 would establish two casinos; one an integrated resort with a minimum $450 million investment, and the other a smaller venue with only $125 million required to be invested. Between the two casinos there would be 240 table games and 5,000 slot machines. The bill would also establish a gaming commission and add divisions to the Lottery Commission and the Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission.
The bill is due out of committee on April 30th. No date for a floor hearing has been set yet.