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February 19. 2013 10:31PM

Deputy Attorney General Rice, Senate Finance chair mix it up over bill

CONCORD - As long as New Hampshire lawmakers have proposed expanding gambling to help make ends meet, the state attorney general has opposed it.

This year is no different. While key senators such as Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, and Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Morse, R-Salem, sponsor a bill they say will produce more than $100 million in new revenues for the state, current Attorney General Michael Delaney opposed it, sending Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice to testify against Senate Bill 152.

She was joined in opposition by the New Hampshire Association of Police Chiefs.

Rice told the Senate Ways and Means Committee once the door is open to one casino, there will be significant pressure on lawmakers to approve additional casinos.

In other states, she said, that pressure has led to corruption - a significant concern in New Hampshire as well.

Rice also had issues with the application process, saying it would be completed before the administrative rules would be written.

"You've got the cart before the horse," she said.

Morse asked when the attorney general "weighed in" on the fairness of the selection process.

"I'd like to hear from him," Morse said, adding "did the attorney general weigh in when Massachusetts put casinos in and we're getting the brunt of it."

Rice said he did not.

For the last eight years, former Gov. John Lynch took a wait-and-see stance on gambling, eventually opposing it after a commission he appointed voiced concerns about regulating the industry and changing the state's quality of life.

Gov. Maggie Hassan backed "one high-end, highly regulated casino" along the southern border of the state during her campaign and included $80 million in revenue from a license in her proposed budget.

She is the first governor to back expanded gambling, although former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen supported video lottery machines at the state's racetracks.

Lynch named Delaney to be attorney general when Kelly Ayotte resigned to run for U.S. Senate.

Delaney's term expires March 31. Hassan has not said whether she will re-nominate Delaney.

grayno@unionleader.com

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