Revenue sharing offered in attempt to bring expanded gambling to NH
Proponents told the House Ways and Means Committee the money will help reduce property taxes and take some financial pressure off communities.
Bill opponents said there is nothing to stop the state from doing the same thing in the future if it needs money.
"It's like giving a dog a bone and then taking it away," Stewart said. "There is the legitimate concern that the next time the state experiences hard times, the money will be right there on the table and will be a target."
But several committee members and Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, said the state needs more money from gambling for enough House members to switch sides.
He suggests the state take less up front money through licensing fees but a higher percentage of gross revenue. He said that is the best scenario for the state in the long run.
He said if the committee considered changes to the bill he would help convince enough lawmakers to approve gambling, but would work to overturn the committee if it recommends the bill be killed as it did HB 1633.
Earlier in the hearing, Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, urged the committee to approve the bill and the Senate would be willing to work with the House on a compromise.
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, said his facility is interested in bidding on the smaller casino, which would be a perfect fit as it tries to become a year-round destination.
Gappens noted the speedway draws over 400,000 people for a six-month period, including two NASCAR races. Like a casino, "we're an entertainment facility. People can come and enjoy it but they don't have to come if they don't want to," he said.
Andrew Herrick said entertainment is a loss leader for casinos that pay 40 to 75 percent over market to attract top performers to entice customers to their facilities.
He said while the bill protects the Verizon Wireless Arena, venues like the Music Hall in Portsmouth, Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, Palace Theatre in Manchester and Colonial Theatre in Keene, would face the same issues as his facility.
"The fact is, New Hampshire will be experiencing the downside of casino gaming whether or not we build a new casino within our borders," said Mark MacKenzie, president of the AFL-CIO NH. "Our state already has a $75 million-per-year casino industry under the guise of charitable gaming and there will soon be several casinos just over the border in Massachusetts. Without SB 366, we'll leave thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars on the table," he said.
Last month, the committee voted 13-11 to kill HB 1633.