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February 04. 2014 7:40PM

NH casino gambling supporters ready for another try

CONCORD — More than 100 House members are backing a bill that would establish casino gambling and proposes a regulatory framework for overseeing all gambling activities in the state.

House Bill 1633 is the work of three members of the Gaming Regulatory Authority, which worked this summer and fall to establish a regulatory framework and structure to oversee casino gambling.

At a news conference Tuesday on the bill, which has a public hearing Thursday beginning at 9 a.m. in rooms 202-204 of the Legislative Office Building, proponents said support is growing for the plan.

"This bill is different. It is a compromise." said Rep. Katherine Rogers, D-Concord, who helped rewrite a casino gambling bill last year that passed the Senate but died in the House. "It is the House position on gambling: one license, a high-end casino, strictly regulated with all new oversight, but woven into the existing fabric of our state's law enforcement."

The Senate is expected to approve Senate Bill 366 Thursday, which would allow two casinos, but table the bill until the House acts on HB 1633.

Several representatives who opposed the casino bill last year said at the press conference they will support HB 1633.

Rep. Jeremy Dobson, D-Manchester, voted against the casino bill last year, believing there was not enough regulation and not enough revenue or jobs for New Hampshire.

"By including comprehensive regulations and other significant improvements, HB 1633 answers the concerns I had with last year's expanded gaming bill," he said.
Rep. Richard Hinch, R-Merrimack, said bill sponsors listened to the concerns of fellow House members.

Now is the time for lawmakers to listen to the people, who overwhelmingly support casino gambling, according to many polls, including a recent University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll showing 60 percent support for gaming, he said.

"The people of New Hampshire understand once Massachusetts casinos are up and running, they will drain our state of revenues that we could be keeping right here," Hinch said.

"That is hundreds of millions of dollars of tax free revenue that will help us fund our most important programs."

Although the Senate has passed casino gambling on a number of occasions, the House has never approved it and voted it down last year even with the backing of Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Hassan is focusing on HB 1633 instead of the Senate bill. She intends to send a letter in support of HB 1633 for the public hearing Thursday.

Opponents of casino gambling are also about to begin their push against the legislation saying the revenues are not worth the damage it causes the state both in personal terms and for the state's brand.


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