Monday, March 29, 2010

New Hampshire Considers Casinos

Feather News

This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a New York Times article on the possible expansion of gambling in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Budget Gap Fuels Fight Over Gambling
By Katharine Q. Seelye
New York Times
March 27, 2010

Like several other states, New Hampshire has been wrestling with ways to address its budget deficit and has been considering new forms of gambling to help fill its treasury and add jobs.

But on Thursday, Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, who had been keeping his cards close to the vest, dealt the effort a blow by saying he opposed a bill passed by the State Senate to expand gambling. Asked if he would veto it, he told reporters in Portsmouth, “I will do what it takes to have it not become law.”

At least 18 states are considering expanding gambling because of a drop of 5 percent to 14 percent in revenue they collect from lotteries, horse racing and casinos, according to The Lottery Post, an industry newsletter.

New York is putting 4,500 video lottery terminals at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, Gov. M. Jodi Rell in Connecticut wants to offer keno in restaurants, and Massachusetts is considering a proposal for resort casinos and slot machines at racetracks.

Gambling proponents have long sought to make further inroads in New Hampshire, the first state to introduce the lottery. They thought they might succeed this year because of the state’s budget gap and its historic aversion to an income tax.

State Senator Lou D’Allesandro, a Democrat who sponsored the bill that passed last week, said it would create thousands of jobs and bring in millions of dollars in revenue, and he blamed New England Puritanism for some of the opposition.

The Senate, which has approved gambling bills before, passed his bill on a 14-to-10 vote, allowing for video slot machines and table games at six sites. The House, scheduled to vote on the bill next month, has routinely rejected such measures. But this year the vote is expected to be closer.

Opponents say gambling is not a reliable source of revenue and would change the character of the state.

While gambling opponents said they were grateful for Mr. Lynch’s comments, they were not convinced that he would veto a bill if it passed both houses because he has also vowed not to raise taxes.

“It’s a stronger statement than he’s made to date,” said Jim Rubens, chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling. “But if the House passed it and made it part of the budget, he may have a different calculus.”

Mr. Lynch said the Senate should not have acted before a commission that he appointed last year to examine the matter had issued its report, due within a couple of months. Moreover, he said, once gambling is allowed, it is hard to get rid of.

“Once it’s here,” he said, “it’s here forever.”