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April 30. 2013 5:30PM

Economist warns that casino brings crime, heavy political influence

CONCORD -- A Baylor University economist warned House lawmakers that legalizing a casino in New Hampshire will increase both crime and the influence of the powerful gambling lobby.

Earl Grinols told a House subcommittee studying the community impact of legalizing a casino in the state that there is no way to reverse a decision to legalize casino gambling.

“Once you introduce it into New Hampshire, you’re done,” he said via Skype. “You’re not going to ever reverse it and it will be a continual presence for expanded gambling.

“In New Hampshire it will become the largest lobbying presence in your state. The gambling industry will become the biggest lobbying presence very quickly.”

Grinols said that although he has been accused of working on behalf of anti-gambling interests, he has no agenda and has not ever been paid by any group.

He said he conducted what he views as objective research to counter what he views as slanted research put forward by the gambling industry.

“I have no moral objection to gambling,” said Grinols. “If an individual likes to gamble and plans how much he can lose, fine.

“But I think it does cause social consequences that are paid for by people who don’t gamble, and these numbers are quite significant.”

Grinols said research shows that gambling brings to a community increases in crime, serious industry serious accidents, job loss, sickness, welfare recipients, divorce and bankruptcy.

He said each problem gambler costs a society $3,700 annually, while a pathological gambler can cost a society $13,000-a-year.

“Out of every 100 people, it’s likely you’ll create one pathological gambler and one to two problem gamblers,” Grinols said. “In a group of 100, the group will have to come up with about $20,000 in social costs.

“There is,” he said, “a connection between gambling and crime.”

Senate Bill 152 would allow a single casino with as many as 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games. Gov. Maggie Hassan supports a “high-end, highly-regulated” casino in the southern part of the state.

Three House sub-panels are investigating the revenue impact, community impact and regulatory requirements and challenges of legalizing a casino and are expected to report their findings shortly. A final House vote on Senate Bill 152 is slated for late May.

The bill has already passed the state Senate.


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