Sensing progress being made by casino supporters among New Hampshire lawmakers, a new group of opponents has formed the Casino Free NH to more strongly resist the expansion of gambling through one or more casinos.
The group is headed by Lew Feldstein, who for 24 years has led the New Hampshire Charitable Association.
In a news conference, held at the Concord State House, Feldstein said that promises raised by gambling supporters is not worth the damage gambling will do to New Hampshire families and its quality of life.
His group, he said, involved “a broad coalition of people who love New Hampshire and are appalled at the damage a casino would do to the families of New Hampshire.” He added that once the gambling doors are opened, video slots will spread across the state.
At issue is a Senate-approved bill that authorizes one casino with 5,000 slots machines and 150 table games. Although not specifically mentioned in the legislation, supporters have indicated the casino could be located at the former racetrack, Rockingham Park in Salem. Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas has offered to build a multi-million casino on that site should the state approve a license.
The Senate bill is supported by Gov. Maggie Hassan, who included an $80 million casino license fee in her two-year budget.
More urgency has been given to the legislation because of gaming activity in nearby Massachusetts. At least one casino license has been designated for the northeastern part of the state, practically placing it on the New Hampshire border.
Still to be determined Is the mood of the New Hampshire House. In the past all such casino bills have been defeated in the House but last week House Speaker Terie Norelli announced that she wanted her budget and tax writing committees to work together on a Senate casino bill,
The joint panel, Norelli said, would he chaired by Mary Jane Wallner, a Concord Democrat.
Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.
Contact Ray at [email protected].