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January 15. 2013 1:32PM

Salem to form casino referendum committee later this month

SALEM - Aimed at determining the future of Rockingham Park, Salem selectmen will form a casino advisory committee later this month.

During Monday night's meeting, the board heard from representatives of N.H. Casino Now, an advocacy group working toward legalized casino gambling in the Granite State. Project officials said a community forum would take place sometime in February, with representatives of Millennium Gaming, a group of developers hoping to bring Rockingham Park to its former glory, available to discuss casino possibilities in Salem.

Salem voters will also have the chance to offer their thoughts on the matter in March, when a nonbinding gaming referendum will appear on the 2013 warrant.

N.H. Casino Now chairman Daniel Norris said Monday night he felt "the time was now" to start conversations on a potential casino in Salem, with a committee to determine uses for any revenues coming in via localized casino gambling. As town officials await word on pending casino legislation in Concord, the board agreed to table a committee vote to the Jan. 28 meeting. But Norris said it's likely the committee would include town manager Keith Hickey and community development director William Scott, representatives from selectmen, budget committee and school board, citizen representatives and a local legislator.

Last month Rockingham Park president Edward Callahan appeared before the board to discuss the upcoming ballot question. According to Callahan, similar referendums were well received at the Salem polls in both 1994 and 2003. However, nothing progressed any further since casino gambling remains illegal in New Hampshire.


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