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Gambling panel members differ on what role is

State House Bureau

August 15. 2013 8:22PM

CONCORD — Members of the Gambling Regulatory Oversight Authority, meeting for the first time Thursday, disagreed over the scope of the board’s work.

Committee chair Rep. Richard Ames, D-Jaffrey, outlined what he believes the committee needs to accomplish: legislation covering the number of slots and table games, licensing fees, tax rates and investment requirements.

But Attorney General Joseph Foster, also a member, said he believes the committee should be looking more at the structure of state regulation. Tax rates and license fees, he said, are the purview of lawmakers.

“I see those as two different bundles of issues,” Foster said. He said it would be hard to build consensus around some areas raised by the chairman.

“How a casino should run is different than if we should have a casino,” he said.

Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, who was a sponsor of Senate Bill 152, which would have established one casino with up to 5,000 video slot machines and 150 table games, said the important work of the commission is to establish a regulatory basis so lawmakers will feel comfortable the state is protected and the process has integrity.

Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, said the authority faces a difficult task to write regulation for something that doesn’t exist, yet lawmakers need to believe sufficient regulations is there to protect the state before voting for a casino.

“Politically, this has always been a chicken-and-egg problem,” she said.

The group did agree on a request for proposals for two consultants to help the group do its work and develop its recommendations.

One consultant would be a national industry expert familiar with regulations throughout the country and the other a New Hampshire lawyer familiar with state requirements.

The group has $250,000 to hire the consultants. Proposals are due Sept. 6 and the authority will select the consultants at its Sept. 13 meeting.

Re-establishing the authority was included in the budget package approved by lawmakers in June.

The prime sponsor of SB 152, Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, has said he intends to introduce a similar bill during the 2014 session.

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