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GOP hopeful: Slots for charity

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 21. 2014 10:16PM

Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway will soon release a gaming expansion plan that allows for slot machines in charitable poker rooms and a bigger share of the take for the state, his campaign consultant said.The Hemingway plan would not allow for-profit casinos, campaign consultant Alicia Preston said.

Preston said Hemingway is preparing details of the plan, which she called a limited expansion of gaming.

She said Hemingway has advocated the plan recently on the stump, but not in detail. Details should be released within the next two weeks.“Andrew's program puts an emphasis on the more than 200 charities each year that benefit by increasing charitable revenue by at least 400 percent. In addition, the state will see a huge revenue increase and municipalities will also have a financial stake,” Preston said. “This is good for charities, local and state government and the free market.”While the state of New Hampshire has no casinos, there are 12 locations where charitable gaming takes place on a regular basis, said Paul Kelley, director of the New Hampshire Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission. No slot machines are permitted at such facilities.Charities receive about 35 percent of proceeds from the gambling, which includes table games such as black jack, roulette, poker and Texas Hold ‘Em. The state's take is smaller - 3 percent or 10 percent, based on whether the game uses chips with monetary value, such as black jack, or chips without monetary value, such as Texas Hold ‘Em.Preston said Hemingway's plan would increase the state split, add a cut for local government and lower the take for the facility operator.

Between charitable gaming, bingo and simulcast, the state took in $3.5 million in gaming-related revenues last year; charities took in $13.1 million, Kelley said.Jamie Timbas, partner at the Manchester-based Granite State Poker, said Hemingway's idea makes sense, but it won't go anywhere.

“There's a very well-heeled, moneyed machine put together that would never allow it to happen,” Timbas said. But he thinks it represents a possible compromise - allow a casino at Rockingham Park, but let the charitable gaming halls have slot machines.He said the casino bill under consideration in the New Hampshire House calls for using casino proceeds to make charities whole. But he said it won't work because charitable gaming halls will go out of business if a casino opens.“Charitable gaming has been a thorn in the side of passing casino gaming,” he said. “The (New Hampshire) House has always looked out for charities.”

One charity is the Palace Theatre in Manchester, which raised about $40,000 last year from 10 dates at Rockingham Park. Palace President Peter Ramsey said he hasn't heard about Hemingway's plan.Ramsey, a supporter of casino legislation, is a Democratic state representative.

He said Hemingway's plan would depend on whether the Legislature votes on casino legislation.

“If we don't get casinos,” he said, “it probably should be looked at.”

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