New Hampshire should not gamble on casinos
Casino operators will once again, in 2014, attempt to bamboozle the New Hampshire Legislature into approving expanding gaming.
Introducing Las Vegas-style casino gambling has been on the legislative docket for as long as we can remember, and each time the one-armed bandits come close. During the last session, the Senate passed Sen. Lou D'Allesandro's bill, SB 152, 16-8. That bill would have authorized a single casino with up to 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games at Rockingham Park. A House subcommittee rejected the casino bill by a single vote (thank you, Patti Lovejoy, D-Stratham) and the full House went on to defeat the bill 199-164.
Casino pushers were defeated despite the economic uncertainty caused by the lingering Great Recession. The bill's supporters promised money to every person and program in need and warned of dire consequences if we did not allow a casino. But common sense prevailed, the Legislature rejected gambling and New Hampshire has continued to provide essential services within a balanced budget and without selling our souls to outside casino interests.
And yet, like the proverbial bad penny, Sen. D'Allesandro promises to file another casino bill in 2014 that is pretty much the same as the bill defeated in 2013. It is expected to call for 5,000 slot machines and 150 gaming tables at a large single casino.
Slot machine champions think they have a hot hand this time because the Gambling Regulatory
Oversight Authority, which was created by pro-casino Gov. Maggie Hassan to address the state's lack of gambling regulations and oversight, has endorsed the D'Allesandro bill.
Objective observers might conclude that the fix was in from the start with this study group, and the fact it specifically endorsed a plan for 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games, the exact number requested in D'Allesandro's bill, undermines its credibility.
But the fact is, whether the Gambling Regulatory Oversight Authority acted in good or bad faith is irrelevant to the central question of whether New Hampshire should get into the casino business. The answer to that question remains a resounding "no."
To be clear, our opposition is not to gambling itself, but to New Hampshire linking its fortunes to the ups and downs of the casino industry. The facts clearly argue in favor of New Hampshire remaining independent and continuing on the successful and healthy path it has traveled for decades.
In the name of fiscal responsibility, we urge lawmakers to once again reject the fool's gold offered by casino operators and their supporters.
The numbers, which are the same as they were with last year's defeated bill, still don't add up to a substantial net gain for New Hampshire. Casinos have proliferated in every state where they are licensed to operate, so we are fooling ourselves if we think New Hampshire will be the exception to that well-documented story. Across the country, casino revenues have often not met expectations and have caused tax receipts to also fall short. This leads to proliferation as states feel pressured to allow more casinos to fund programs that expanded on promised casino money. Once the state gets hooked on casino money, the casino industry gains outsized influence on public policy. Once operating, casinos have been shown to hurt existing restaurant and hospitality businesses by using gambling money to subsidize meals and overpay for talent.
In our view, tying New Hampshire's fortunes to the gambling industry still remains a bad bet.
Gaming Final Report Calls for New, Three-Division System
Charitable gaming reform and two bills are also among the final recommendations issued by the state's Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority.
Other findings include the fact that the state needs to reform charitable gaming in order to ensure the nonprofits those establishments benefit are getting their full 35 percent of the gross revenues.
The state, according to the authority, also doesn't have enough resources to "ensure the integrity of charitable gaming," due in part to the fact that surveillance and supervision of games at these locations "is plainly insufficient."
The final report is posted as a PDF above. The two bills proposed by the authority as well as the report of the authority’s consultant, WhiteSands Gaming LLC, are posted on the authority’s website at www.nh.gov/groa/index.htm.