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March 22. 2014 9:36PM

Cities and towns would get $25m sweetner in new casino bill

CONCORD - State Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, will try to resurrect his version of a casino gambling bill that was tabled earlier this year.

His move was met with swift reaction from gambling opponents who vowed to try to kill casino gaming for good.

D'Allesandro's bill, Senate Bill 366, would allow for two casinos in the state, one resort destination facility and a smaller one about half the size of the first.

The two casinos would share 5,000 video slot machines and 240 gaming tables and would produce an estimated $168 million for the state. However, some opponents say the money would be far less.

D'Allesandro, a longtime casino gaming advocate, acknowledged he has an uphill climb, given that the House killed its version, which called for just one casino in the state, but he said senators had to work on the proposal given the potential revenue.

"We need the money," he said.

Steve Duprey, spokesman for The Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling and Casino Free NH, said his group will work to kill D'Allesandro's bill, as well.

"It was a bad idea before. It's still a bad idea. It's been a bad idea since Senator D'Allesandro started introducing it 15 years ago," he said. "Casino gambling is the crack cocaine of revenue. It's addictive, it's erratic, and once you're hooked, it's hard to stop."

D'Allesandro said he wants to add to his bill the regulatory structure and regulations contained in HB 1633, developed by the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority, and sweeten the pot for the House by adding $25.2 million in annual revenue sharing for cities and towns that was proposed as an amendment in the House but never came up after the bill was killed.

Revenue sharing means a lot to towns and cities, he said, noting Manchester would receive about $4 million a year.

"This is a critical amendment," he said.

While House casino supporters never had the opportunity to discuss revenue sharing, they believed it could have made a difference and overcome some of the opposition.

Opposition vows fight

But a significant number of House members and groups such as Duprey's still see little reason to support a casino they believe would indelibly change the state, be irreversible and create more social ills than benefits for the state.

"The House has spoken fairly decisively" in killing the House version, Duprey said. "The bill offered by Senator D'Allesandro is an even worse reincarnation of casino gaming.

"We hope that the Legislature will kill it and that this will be its final death," he said.

But D'Allesandro, Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and other supporters along with Gov. Maggie Hassan believe the state needs a casino or it will lose upward of $75 million a year in state revenue once Massachusetts opens its casinos.

"This is the year," D'Allesandro said. "We've had 16 years of study, two commissions and two big votes in the House."

He noted the House rejected an attempt to end any further discussion of casino gambling this year, saying the base is there to build more support.

But Duprey said Hassan has said in the past that she would support only one well-regulated casino in the state.

"We hope she will come out against this bill," he said.

Meanwhile, the charitable gaming company World Poker Store announced Friday that it intends to open up to four charitable gaming facilities in New Hampshire, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch website.

Should the company receive licenses, it reportedly plans to offer poker, table games, bingo and electronic pull tab machines at each facility.


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