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April 26. 2013 12:29AM

Committee hears about gambling and ruin

CONCORD - A former Oregon restaurant owner who welcomed video slots machines in his establish saw firsthand how it ruined lives, he told a House subcommittee on Thursday that is studying the casino gambling bill for New Hampshire.

The Senate has already passed Senate Bill 152, backed by Gov. Maggie Hassan, which would establish one "high-end, highly regulated" casino along the state's southern border.

Hassan included $80 million in casino licensing fees in her budget and supporters say the casino would eventually provide about $130 million in state revenue a year.

The House now has the bill and has established three sub-committees to study it.

On Thursday, the community impact subcommittee heard from several people about problem gamblers.

Mell Brooks, who now lives in Littleton, said he made $100,000 a year from the five video slot machines in the bar of his restaurant in Oregon. The additional money allowed him to hire four to six additional people, he said.

But that many people or more who played his machines lost their jobs because of problem gambling, Brooks told the committee.

He told of people cashing their paychecks and leaving his bar with a dollar or of spouses forcing their husband or wives away from the machines.

"It's the difference between being told about an accident and another to see an accident," Brooks said. "I've felt the concussion, I have seen what it does. We don't need it here."

In Oregon, the machines are owned by the state. "These states are addicted to gambling revenue as much as the addicts are to gambling," Brooks told the committee.

An expert on problem gambling, Dr. Rachel Volberg, president of Gemini Research from in Northampton, Mass., told the subcommittee there is correlation between the availability and proximity of gambling and the prevalence of problem gamblers.

She did say that over time the number of problem gamblers tends to decrease for a number of reasons, including bankruptcies, intervention programs and loss of enthusiasm.

Volberg said video gambling is the most problematic, followed by quick turnover table games like blackjack.

There is a middle level that includes sports betting and card games, and the lowest level being lottery games, such as scratch tickets and Mega Millions and Powerball she said.

Volberg told the committee a single venue is better than widespread slot machines in every hotel, restaurant and bar for containing problem gamblers.

The availability of gambling and the increase in problem gamblers are related, she said, but said it is a complex relationship.

grayno@unionleader.com


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