February 04. 2013 5:30PM

Casino games: They're about revenues, not jobs

If legislators proposed a bill that would allow two New Hampshire communities to build new hospitals, few people would consider that a statewide job-creation plan. The same common-sense skepticisim should greet any piffle that portrays casinos the same way. A big casino would employ about as many people as a big hospital would.

The first casino bill to make its way in the Legislature this year is House Bill 665, introduced by Rep. Edmond Gionet, R-Lincoln. It would allow the creation of two casinos, "one in the White Mountains and one in a county bordering Massachusetts." Gionet says his bill is all about job-creation.

"This is not a budget bill, and I don't intend it to be one. It's a jobs bill."

No, it's a budget bill. Last year the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies issued a report on expanded gambling in the state. Based on data from other casinos, it estimated that a $500 million destination resort casino in New Hampshire would employ 2,400 people. For some perspective, Elliot Hospital in Manchester employs about 2,800 people.

Casinos would employ a few thousand people, but the direct economic impact would be concentrated in the immediate community. What about the rest of the state? Rep. Gionet says "We've got highways and bridges in really bad shape, and some folks want surcharges on registrations and a gas tax increase to fund that. I don't think so."

The statewide economic impact would come through the use of casino revenues on highway repair and construction. So it is a budget bill after all, not a jobs bill.

Make no mistake, if casinos are allowed in New Hampshire, some jobs would come with them. However, even more jobs would come from reforming our business taxes in ways that encourage more start-ups and relocations. Fidelity Investments' Merrimack campus employs about 5,300 people, more than would be employed by both of Rep. Gionet's casinos combined. When Fidelity closed its Marlborough, Mass., offices last year, it moved those jobs to Merrimack. If New Hampshire concentrated on recruiting more facilities like that, and on making the conditions better for entrepreneurs, we would be far better off than if we pursued a few casinos.

The real reason politicians want casinos is so they can take half of the gaming revenues, vs 8.5 percent of any other business's profits. It's about money, not jobs.