Anti-gambling group returns to fight latest casino bill
CONCORD — In what has become a rite of spring in New Hampshire, opponents of casino gambling mobilized again at the State House to thwart another attempt by state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, to bring casino gambling to the state.
As a hearing on D’Allesandro’s latest casino bill, SB 242, got underway at the Legislative Office Building on Tuesday, the Casino Free New Hampshire group hosted an anti-gambling news conference in the lobby.
The bill, which would authorize two casinos with gaming tables and slot machines, cleared the Senate with a bipartisan vote, 13-10, on March 23, but its prospects in the House are uncertain. D’Allesandro admitted, “It’s an uphill battle.”
Opponents to the legislation included representatives of law enforcement, business, the arts, religious leaders, private citizens and legislators.
“Debating another casino bill is nothing but a waste of time,” said Patricia Lovejoy, D-Stratham, a member of the House Finance Committee, claiming that estimates of potential casino revenue have been overstated, given the advent of casinos in neighboring Maine and Massachusetts, and the loss of Rockingham Park as a possible casino venue.
Others speaking against the bill included tourism industry leader Rusty McLear, co-owner and president of Mill Falls at the Lake in Meredith; Nicolette Clarke, executive director of Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts; and Franklin Police Chief David Goldstein.
They argued that the state Legislature has thoroughly reviewed, debated and voted down a series of similar bills over the years, and that conditions for a casino in New Hampshire now are worse than when the bill was defeated in the past.
D’Allesandro said he is not giving up the fight.
“We have a good bill, a strong bill, that provides economic opportunity and job creation to the people of New Hampshire,” he said. “The wealthiest people in the state are opposed to this bill, and I give them a great deal of credit for the fight. We’ve been battling for the last two decades, and we’ll continue to battle.”