N.H. gambling expansion enters current political process

Oct 16, 2012 3:08 AM

Concern that neighboring Massachusetts will get all the state’s gaming dollars has caused the possibility of expanding gambling in New Hampshire to enter into the current political process.

According to recent reports, both gubernatorial candidates – Republican Ovide Lamontagne and Democrat Maggie Hassan – have taken positions indicating they would favor the establishment of casinos in the Granite State.

This is a departure from the position of current governor, Democrat John Lynch. He has repeatedly warned that any bill coming to his desk that authorizes casino gambling would be vetoed.

Hearing from the current candidates of their penchant toward gambling has heartened the supporters of legislation that for years has failed to pass the legislature. And, despite the candidates’ positions, any expansion of gambling must begin in the legislative bodies.

Waiting hopefully are Las Vegas casino operators Bill Wortman and Bill Paulos who for several years have held an option to acquire the once-fabled horse racing facility, Rockingham Park. With its location on the border with the more-populated Massachusetts, and favored with an Interstate highway that passes by its doors, Rockingham Park for years has been considered an ideal location for a casino.

Since horse racing was terminated at The Rock, the facility has been home to charitable gambling. Now, even that activity is hurting.

Paul Kelley, director of the state Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission, reported that charities took in $11.5 million in gaming revenue during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. This was $1.5 million less than the previous year.

Kelley was quoted as saying the economy and competition “are key factors” for the slowdown, while Rockingham Park manager Ed Callahan complained that limited prizes and restrictions on smoking also contributed to the decline. 

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at Ray­[email protected].

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