New Hampshire casino bill defeated. After a lengthy study by regulatory authorities and a 90 minute debate in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, a bill to establish a Las Vegas style casino in the state was defeated by a vote of 173 to144. House Bill 1633 (HB 1633) proposed legalizing wagering at a single casino. The New Hampshire casino bill proposed a single building with up to 150 table games and 5,000 slot machines.
A casino developer would have agreed to pay the state 35 percent of slot machine profits. Three percent of those profits would go to the unnamed host town with two percent being distributed to neighboring communities. The state would have reserved one percent of the slot machine profits for a problem gamblers program. HR 1633 further proposed that the state would receive an 18 percent profit from table game drops. The defeated bill did not state where the casino profits collected by the state would be budgeted and suggested the legislature to settle that decision when it crafted its two year budget.
A special commission had studied a similar bill that failed last year to legalize casino gambling and attempted to create new legislation that would garner more votes. The House did pass a measure by 166 to 151 to consider a bill pending for two casinos in New Hampshire that is considered by the state senate.
Supporters of the defeated HB 1633 thought they had corrected the flaws of a previously defeated bill by appointing a five person commission running a robust regulatory structure to oversee the casino. Representative Richard Ames, D-Jaffrey, authored HR 1633 and believed he had constructed “a New Hampshire plan” that addressed concerns of his fellow state legislators.
Supporters of HR 1633 contended the state would annually collect $105 million in revenue from the casino. Local businesses would also benefit from the incoming tourists. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, believed a single casino would have been yet another reason to visit New Hampshire.
Representative Melanie Leveque, D-Brookline, who once opposed the bill voted in favor of its passage. The legislation would have created jobs and generated state tourism year around.
Majority Whip Gary Richardson, D-Hopkinton, voted against HR 1633. He preferred keeping the current dynamic of New Hampshire the same and found the entire concept of state approved gambling a mistake that could never be corrected once approved.
The New Hampshire casino bill defeat happened due to the costs of building such a structure and the adverse effects of gambling. Opponents to the plan found legalizing a casino had negative and irreversible affects to the state’s image. Patricia Lovejoy, D-Stratham, believed the allure of slot machines would bring too many problem gamblers to the state.
Representative Brian Wazlaw, D-Portsmouth, voted against the bill and said the New Hampshire House of Representatives should continue voting down any casinos in the state. Despite the fact that casinos exist in 40 other states across the country, people in New Hampshire should resist the seduction of legalizing table games and slots because they exist elsewhere. He wondered when people based their wants on what other states had.
New Hampshire has had a long history of going its own way. The state motto is “Live free or die.” The New Hampshire casino bill defeat signifies the state legislators prefer Las Vegas style casinos should remain in Nevada.
By Brian T. Yates