Key House Committee Considers Expanded Gambling Bill

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The discussion over whether to expand gaming in New Hampshire could last well beyond this legislative session.

The debate over the economic impacts of HB 593 (or “The Casino Bill,” if you will) continues.  As Kevin Landrigan of the Nashua Telegraph reports, discussion of the bill continued Monday, when the House Ways and Means committee listened to about three hours of public testimony:

“The state stands to lose $150 million of existing tax receipts to Massachusetts casinos if efforts to expand gambling in New Hampshire sit idle.

That was the warning from the state Senate’s chief budget writer Monday, a message that was countered by the leader of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, who argued new casinos would decimate gaming profit for local charities…

The most active company pursuing a casino here, The Millennium Group, wants it located at a $450 million, renovated Rockingham Park in Salem.

That’s the hometown of Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Morse, R-Salem, who said the state’s existing tax structure is at stake.

‘Our taxpayers and small businesses carry too great of a tax burden,’ Morse said. ‘In doing nothing and not passing HB 593, New Hampshire is at the risk of losing revenue that we have already, losing $150 million in revenue from the state.’

Morse presided over helping to write the existing state budget that pared 12 percent in state spending.”

Landrigan quotes Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Stephen Stepanek as saying the group will hold another vote on the bill February 21.  Meanwhile, Governor John Lynch has promised to veto it if it passes.  Landrigan notes the impasse means the debate over opening New Hampshire to casinos could extend past December, when Lynch is due to leave office.


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