On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on a bill that proposes to legalize casino gambling and slot machines in New Hampshire. This bill will set up a large state bureaucracy to regulate expanded gaming and establish a slots casino in Salem.
While proponents will claim that the state desperately needs the tax revenue that a casino will bring in to fund human services, highway expansion or whatever cause is being showcased to rationalize expanded gambling this year, it's important to remember this fact: For any casino to be successful, citizens have to lose.
House Bill 1633, like slot machine gambling itself, is a cleverly designed proposal to entertain citizens while taking their money. If gambling is the only way for elected officials to move New Hampshire's economy forward, then we have already lost a more important bet — the bet that New Hampshire government's responsibility is to protect quality of life, public safety and health.
New Hampshire leaders do not have a strong track record of keeping their word regarding drug and alcohol prevention and treatment funding. Just ask the addicted citizens and those tasked with providing these services.
What happened to the tobacco settlement funding that was supposed to be used for prevention and treatment? We've heard the excuses after the fact, which is that the money is needed more elsewhere.
We should learn from this and not excuse an intentional act — knowingly crafting, supporting and promoting a public policy that increases crime and addiction.
In addition, have you ever heard of an economic plan that requires such an enormous, unrestricted, bureaucratic oversight structure to ensure that a private monopoly succeeds?
Legislators who support this bill and others like it are in essence telling the citizens of New Hampshire, "We can live with an increase in crime. We can tolerate one more addiction. It's OK if citizens lose their disposable or essential income."
"As long as the slots casino is bringing in money," gambling supporters rationalize, "we're going to be just fine."
Like state government, all citizens need a little more income. However, unlike the state, we cannot legally play a game of tricks on others to take their money. That would be called a con game.
House Bill 1633 is simply a wager against New Hampshire. It's a bad bet. And like any bad bet, it should never be made.
South Hampton Police Chief Eddie Edwards has more than 23 years of law enforcement experience. He formerly served as director of the New Hampshire Liquor Enforcement Division. He serves on the legislative committee of the NH Association Chiefs of Police, which opposes the expansion of gambling in New Hampshire.