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State gambling oversight panel to meet with consultant, RI regulator on Thursday

Senior Political Reporter

September 25. 2013 4:09PM

CONCORD -- A state gambling oversight panel on Thursday will hear from its newly hired consultant as it begins planning a report on how best to regulate existing legal gambling in the state and casino gambling, should it be legalized.

Rep. Richard Ames, D-Jaffrey, chairman of the Gambling Regulatory Oversight Authority, said Wednesday the authority will also confer with the director of the Rhode Island Lottery, which, he said, regulates not only that state’s lottery, but also its casinos.

New Hampshire House lawmakers earlier this year rejected a bill backed by Gov. Maggie Hassan and the state Senate to legalize casino gambling at a single location in southern New Hampshire.

One of the reasons cited by opponents was a concern that the state was not properly prepared to regulate an major expansion of gambling.

As a result, lawmakers at the end of the session in June revived the oversight authority, whose nine members began meeting in August.

The authority is required by law to address whether there is a more effective way to regulate existing gambling in the state than the current system of having the state Lottery Commission and the Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission working separately. According to the law, the authority must consider whether there should instead be a “unified and central and centralized gaming control authority.”

The panel is also charged with reviewing legislative proposals for legalizing casino gambling and recommending and drafting legislation that would provide adequate oversight to casino gambling, should it become law.

Last week, the panel announced it had contracted with White Sand Gaming LLC of Las Vegas to aid its effort. The company calls itself “is a leading global gaming services firm providing casino and resort management as well as consulting services to a substantial and diversified client base that includes gaming corporations, regulatory agencies, tribal governments, lotteries, racetracks, and resort hotels.”

Ames said that on Thursday, the authority will hear from attorney Maureen D. Williamson, who was appointed in November 2012 to “ lead the company’s new regulatory advisory services,” according to an announcement at the time.

Williamson is a former Deputy Attorney General in the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and Senior Counsel for Rules and Regulations for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

“This will be the first opportunity for the authority members to think through with her how we’re going to get this job done,” Ames said, including “what a best-practices regulatory system would look like, if the state should choose to go down that road” to casino gambling.

“Our job is not to say whether (casino gambling) is a good thing to do or a bad thing,” Ames said. “It’s how best to do it if the choice is made to do it.”

Ames said the authority will also meet with Rhode Island Lottery Commission Director Gerald Aubin.

“In Rhode Island,” said Ames,” the structure is thus that the Lottery director oversees all gaming. He looks at the lottery and also the casino gambling that occurs at Twin Rivers Casino, which includes table games and is a large commercial casino.

“It’s a good source of information on how one relatively small state has chosen to deal with this,” Ames said.

Ames said the panel has a Dec. 15 deadline for its report, and, “We’re committed to getting it done.”

He said White Sands has been asked to provide information on the two issues the authority is addressing by mid-October and issue its own report by mid-November.

The authority will then consider that report in drafting its own recommendation in the final month leading up to its deadline, Ames said.

New legislation to legalize casino gambling is expected to be filed in time for consideration by lawmakers when they meet in January.

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