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June 13. 2014 7:43PM

Charity bingo leaving Rockingham Park for new home

SALEM — The Salem Planning Board’s approval earlier this week of a 250-seat bingo hall on Garabedian Drive means charity bingo games will be leaving Rockingham Park.

Over the past several years, Rockingham Park has been the most mentioned possibility of a casino site in New Hampshire if the state allows for expanded gaming.

However, year after year, the Rock has been left with waiting for next year as gaming bills have been defeated, sometimes by the narrowest of margins.

As Rockingham Park has faced a waiting game on expanded gaming, its main source of business has been through simulcast racing and charity bingo and other games of chance.

Park president and general manager Ed Callahan said the loss of charity bingo at the Rock won’t affect operations.

“We’ve known for a couple of months that they were planning on moving,” said Callahan. “We will carry on with other games of chance and simulcast racing.”

The Lucky 13 Bingo Hall site plan first came before the planning board last month. At the time, some board members had questions about parking, traffic, and handicap accessibility at the former industrial building.

The developers of the bingo hall, Garabedian Properties, came back before the planning board with many of those issues satisfied.

The revised plan includes patching holes in the parking lot, relining the parking spots, and improving handicap accessibility, said Ross Moldoff, town planning director.

Between the May and June public hearings, Moldoff said he visited a charity bingo hall run out of a Kiwanis Club in Hudson to get a feel for the operation.

“I wanted to get a feel for the parking and the number of employees,” said Moldoff. “I felt comfortable after seeing that.”

Moldoff also noted that the bingo hall will need to submit a license from the state’s racing and charitable gaming committee before it can open.

“This approval is for bingo only,” said Moldoff. “Any other gaming requires additional approval from the planning board.”

At Rockingham Park, Callahan said it is a waiting game for another year to see if the Legislature will approve expanded gaming in the state, which could lead to the park becoming the site of a resort casino.

“We’ll see what happens,” said Callahan. “We’ve seen a lot of legislation over the year, and we’ve seen different changes in the House of Representatives.”

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