New Hampshire budget includes gaming revenue

Feb 18, 2013 6:37 PM

Like so many other states, New Hampshire needs additional revenue to fund road repairs and other projects. That is developing into good news for a pair of Las Vegas casino entrepreneurs who have offered to generate more state revenues with a multi-million investment in a casino.

Reversing the attitude of her predecessor, Gov. Maggie Hassan is urging the state’s lawmakers to develop a plan that would expand gambling in New Hampshire to compete with casinos being licensed in Massachusetts.

“The question is: Will we allow Massachusetts to take revenue from New Hampshire’s residents to fund its needs or will we develop our own plan that will allow us to address social costs and invest in our priorities?” she asked in her budget address last week.

Hassan submitted a two-year budget that includes $80 million from gambling licensing fees. She supports a plan to legalize one high-end casino.

That’s exactly what Bill Wortman and Bill Paulos, the owners of Millennium Gaming, have in mind for the defunct horse track, Rockingham Park. Sitting on the proverbial table in front of New Hampshire lawmakers is a plan to both build a casino and restore “first-class” horse racing to the track that was built in 1906.

For more than two decades, moves to expand gambling in the Granite State have been rejected by the New Hampshire House, although at times, the Senate has favored such legislation. With the shortage of funds facing the state, casino sponsors feel the time is ripe for legislation.

Hassan’s budget points to the need for funding to pay for the Interstate 93 expansion and to repair the potholes that surface during the winter months.

“We must develop strategies for a long-term solution, for both operations and road construction, and we must do it together, working toward a consensus solution,” the governor said.

Massachusetts has established a gaming commission to review bids for the three casinos authorized by its lawmakers. The process is expected to delay the opening of a casino until 2016. One of the licenses is designated for the greater Boston area, which would place it in direct competition with a casino in Salem, N.H.

Rockingham Park sits in southern New Hampshire on the Massachusetts border and through an interstate can be reached from Boston in 35 minutes.

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at [email protected].

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