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Nashua mayor opposes casino

Union Leader Correspondent

March 27. 2013 11:28PM

NASHUA - As the possibility of legalizing gambling in New Hampshire makes its way through the state Legislature, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said this week she does not support the idea of building a casino in the Granite State.

"I am opposed to gambling in the state of New Hampshire," Lozeau told the Board of Aldermen after being directly questioned by a board member about her stance on the controversial issue.

Previous gambling studies have shown that a casino could have a devastating impact on New Hampshire, Lozeau said.

"I am particularly opposed to one in Hudson," she said.

Alderman Daniel Moriarty, Ward 9, questioned the mayor about her view on a casino because he believes the Nashua Board of Aldermen should consider formally endorsing the concept of bringing a casino into the Greater Nashua area.

"If it is done right, I think it could be a benefit," said Moriarty, who has done some informal polling of his own on the topic.

"As an alderman, I am concerned about what is best for Nashua, not necessarily what is best for the whole state of New Hampshire," he said following Tuesday's meeting. "Still, I need to see the unbiased studies that show the pros and cons. I also need to talk to the police chief and the fire chief to hear their opinions."

Among the city residents that Moriarty has questioned, about 80 percent support the construction of a casino in Hudson, specifically because it could bring a lot of jobs to the area. It may be wise for a resolution to be submitted to the Board of Aldermen asking that the elected body make a formal stance on the idea of a casino, Moriarty said.

"What is important is that it has to be done soon," he said. "As a Republican, our party stance is typically not for casino gambling, but even Ovide (Lamontagne) supported one in the end. It comes down to whether this is economically wise for Nashua."

On Wednesday, Lozeau said she does not necessarily object to gambling, but stressed that since her time as a state legislator, she has never supported having a casino anywhere in the state.

"I've never thought gambling was a good thing to bet on," she said. "To me, I don't think it has a place in New Hampshire."

The state is not prepared to deal with the possible consequences associated with a casino, said the mayor, adding that studies indicate that the people who will be spending money at a newly built casino are most likely already "income challenged."

"I don't think we should make it easy for them to have that temptation," Lozeau said.

Although some political insiders say Rockingham Park in Salem may be at the top of the list for a casino location, others say the existing Green Meadows Golf Course in Hudson may be a better venue for a larger, convention center-type casino.

Chris Williams, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, said recently that if the chamber were to pursue a gaming venue to support, it would likely favor the Hudson site. Nearly three years ago, the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce formally endorsed a proposal to introduce gaming to the state, with the idea that there would be at least two casinos allowed.

Because the newest proposal being considered by elected officials in Concord only enables one casino, Williams said the chamber would have to revisit the issue before it made any formal endorsement again.

With casino proposals being floated in Hudson, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and at Rockingham Park in Salem, Moriarty said Nashua and its surrounding communities have a combined 40 state representatives that could be quite influential.

"We have more representation in Concord than any of them," said Moriarty, suggesting the Board of Aldermen should perhaps take a position on the issue.

He also hinted at the possibility of presenting a nonbinding referendum question to city voters asking them whether they support the construction of a casino in Greater Nashua. Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly said Wednesday she is opposed to casino gambling in New Hampshire and always has been.

"Our small state has a wonderful quality of wholesomeness and naturalness. Casino gambling directly contradicts the qualities that attracts tourists and encourages families and businesses to move and live here," said Pressly. "Any financial gain is short lived, and the indirect personal consequences for individuals can be harmful."

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