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February 08. 2014 12:13AM

Charity gambling? Penny ante compared to the big guys

Some readers may be surprised to learn this weekend that New Hampshire has nine legally operating gambling casinos.

No doubt helped by rules changes, some enterprising businessmen have figured out that there is money to be made by signing up charities, each of which can sponsor 10 nights a year of so-called Monte Carlo gambling. With no heavy lifting, and no legal hoops to jump through for themselves, the charities get a cut of the take from poker, roulette, blackjack, but not slot machines.

Just how much that take may be is open to question.

Once overseen by the Attorney General's Office, the current state regulation of and accounting for this charity gaming, which also includes Bingo and Lucky 7 games, appears less than rigorous.

So why not let in the big, Las Vegas-style, slot-machine casinos that pro-gambling politicians have been pushing for decades and are pushing even harder this year? Because.

Because it would turn a penny ante problem into a big one for New Hampshire. As Attorney General Joseph Foster testified last week, "The gambling we have in New Hampshire now is the minor leagues - maybe even the little leagues - compared to what we have in this bill.''

Because it would have our small state government expecting more and more money to spend on more and grander projects.

Because its promise has public employee unions thirsting after the money. Note that even though police chiefs and the attorney general adamantly oppose big gambling, the state police UNION wants it.

Because big-spending Maggie Hassan, unlike governors dating back to John Sununu and right up to John Lynch, is all in favor of it.

Because little New Hampshire has not seen (since the railroads were king a century ago) the kind of concentrated wealth and power that big gambling brings with it. Start with one or two such casinos and within no time that special interest will be calling the tune in Concord.

Who there will resist when told by casino owners that, if they can't expand, thousands of jobs and millions in state revenue will be lost?

Big gambling wants in. With each new concern raised, it promises a new fix. Nothing for the North Country? The legislation sends money that way. Charities? Money will be sent to them, too.

Community entertainment centers hurt by casino theaters? Not to worry, seating will be limited.

The charity gambling already here needs more attention paid it. But swapping it for big casinos is not a good bet for New Hampshire.


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