New Hampshire builders push slots plans

May 19, 2009 5:02 PM
by Ray Poirier |

Budget woes in New Hampshire could work in favor of Millennium Gaming in its efforts to build a $450 million slots facility at Rockingham Park in Salem.

Millennium Gaming, the partnership of Las Vegas gaming executives Bill Wortman and Bill Paulos (pictured), operators of the Cannery Casinos, has an option to acquire the racetrack if state lawmakers approve its plan for slot machines.

The effort gained major support last week when a labor organization called Fix It Now New Hampshire Coalition held a news conference to announce its support for expanded gambling.

“Let’s face it,” said Ed Foley, president of the New Hampshire State Building and Construction Trades Council. “There aren’t many opportunities on the horizon. This project, we believe, will be our own little stimulus program in New Hampshire.”

He estimated Millennium Gaming’s project would create some 4,000 jobs. Support also was offered by the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, the N.H. Troopers Association and SEIU Local 1984.

According to the latest figures, the state faces a $650 million gap in a $3.1 billion general fund budget.

Speaking for the fire fighters, David Lang said, “We need revenue. This debate should not be about living within our means. This debate should be about what it means to live in New Hampshire.”

Long before expanded gambling became the norm around the country, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, largest single stockholder in MGM MIRAGE Inc (MGM), offered to build a multi-million dollar racino at Rockingham Park, in the wake of a devastating fire at the track.

With the support of the track owners in 1982, Kerkorian sent the late MGM Vice Chairman Fred Beninger to the Granite State to present his vision for a lavish casino and an ultra-modern horse track. However, the idea was scuttled by then Gov. Hugh Gallen and his successor, Gov. John H. Sununu.