To The Daily Sun,
This maybe hashing over old news, but this subject has bothered me for some time. In early April, the New Hampshire House of Representatives rejected expanded gambling — AGAIN!
A substantial majority of our stalwart "Citizen Lawmakers" denied the establishment of at least one casino-style gambling emporium in New Hampshire. I hope those in favor of black jack tables, roulette wheels and thousands of electronic slot machines in Dixville Notch, Breton Woods or Rockingham Park didn't bet the farm on the outcome at the vote. How could they have imagined a state as "politically correct" as New Hampshire would allow such tawdry doings? There are unsubstantiated rumors that in celebration after the vote, a number on the winning side boarded a chartered bus to Foxwoods, but I'm sure that's just sour-grapes from the losing side.
The oddity in this vote is New Hampshire is one of many states which allow consenting adults to participate in a wide array of gaming and gambling options. New Hampshire all ready allows charitable games of chance, pari-mutual betting (off-track betting) and runs a pioneering and successful state lottery. We just won't allow commercial gambling at a casino, a tribal casino on Indian land (we don't have any) and racetrack betting.
Nineteen states allow commercial casinos in some form. Forty-six states, including New Hampshire, allow charitable gambling, which is casino style-gambling that profits a charity. New Hampshire and 38 other states allow pari-mutual betting. Forty-five states allow lotteries, New Hampshire among them. Twenty-seven states have approved tribal casinos. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut are examples. Maine wants you to visit a tribal casino in Oxford for a "wicked good time!"
Sooner and not later a commercial casino in Everett or elsewhere in Massachusetts run by Vegas billionaire Steve Wynn or someone like him, will try to lure New Hampshire "lambs" down for a thorough fleecing. But, apparently a commercial casino or two here would sully the New Hampshire way of life as depicted by "Currier and Ives".
The type of expanded gambling approved earlier this year by the New Hampshire Senate but rejected by the New Hampshire House of Representatives was to allow at least one commercial casino, similar to those in Las Vegas and run by a private company, to operate in New Hampshire.
The casino operators would have paid the state a license fee and a percentage of the house for setting up shop here. There was ample evidence a casino up north or on our southern border would have generated millions in tourism taxes on meals, hotel rooms, and real estate taxes; and produced hundreds of much need jobs. The impact of a casino would have rippled through the state economy boosting tax revenue from alcohol sales, increasing tax revenue from the tax on gasoline and tolls from motorists using our turnpikes.
The winning anti-casino faction apparently sold enough lawmakers to believe that one or two casinos would be the downfall of the New Hampshire way of life. One or two casinos would soon be three or four, maybe more. The thousands of slot machines, video poker or blackjack terminals on display in these emporiums were referred to as "the crack cocaine of gambling".
Is there a downside to bringing a casino here? I believe it's about as much as allowing Rockingham Park to set up shop in Salem more than 100 years ago. Once upon a time in New Hampshire you could wager on what was called "the Sport of Kings".
Putting a thoroughbred race track in Salem was not a snap judgment. Salem sits right on the border with Massachusetts, then an easy train ride and now a dash up I-93 for Bostonians with spare cash. For decades Rockingham Park was competitive with Suffolk Downs, a thoroughbred race track close to Boston near Revere Beach.
A changing economy and culture, not a law passed by the Legislature finished off racetrack betting Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
No doubt a casino would attract more people to the state. So does NASCAR Racing in Loudon, Motorcycle Week in Weirs Beach and The Great Pumpkin Fest, recently expelled from Keene but coming to Laconia this fall.
Some visitors ,even our own citizens, maybe law breakers. Despite the best efforts of society some poor and yes wealthy people don't believe laws apply to them.
We spend a lot of money encouraging visitors to enjoy our quaint seacoast, pristine lakes and stunning mountain vistas. I've been a New Hampshire resident the better part of 50 years and frequent visitor before that. My wife and I have raised our family here. I am very proud of my New Hampshire roots and our state's virtues. However, in fairness we have our shortcomings, too.
We are not shy about encouraging our own and visiting motorists to pull off the interstate in Hooksett or Hampton or any highway near the state line and take home a case or two of booze. It's cheaper here because the state Liquor Commission discounts the price and is the local retailer. Our tobacco tax is set dollars per carton less then surrounding states so tourists can fill up the trunk and come back soon!
In 1964 we became first state to legalize a modern state lottery. To avoid even a whiff of skullduggery in the operation of the lottery, the first three members on the Sweepstakes Commission hired a retired FBI agent to run the operation. I think actor Effram Zimbalist Jr. was their first choice for the job, but he all ready been picked up by Quinn Martin and J. Edgar Hoover to be FBI Inspector Lewis Erskine on the weekly ABC TV Show which ran from 1965 to 1974.
I recall the Sweepstakes was based on a thoroughbred horse race, appropriately called the New Hampshire Sweepstakes at Rockingham Park. The sweepstakes winner was determined by the winning post position rather than drawing numbers from a barrel or using ping-pong balls. Apparently it was set up this way to avoid violating U.S. anti-lottery statutes. Tickets were sold primarily at New Hampshire's liquor stores. It wasn't long before we could Pick Three and Pick Four. Or dream of big bucks by winning Megabucks and PowerBall. My family has numbers we play weekly.
So will allowing casino gambling be the economic boon supporters have argued? I don't know. I'm not much of a gambling man. But the casino operators are professional gamblers. They're betting multi-millions of dollars it will be a winner, but they know there is no sure thing
There are two sides to the issue. Like smoking or chewing tobacco and drinking alcohol, some adults overdo it and develop addictions. Yet, the state hasn't prohibited their use or sale.
Casino operators and the state have agreed to fund programs for problem gamblers. Meanwhile the crowd against gambling practices selective outrage. They aren't advocating for additional funds for people with alcoholism, emphysema or worse caused by our addiction to liquor revenue or the tobacco tax.
The state has rejected casino gambling, AGAIN! Which means lawmakers will have to filch funds from this pocket or that pocket to pay the bills or lay off state employees or simply cut services. And the really needy will suffer because it.
After all, for those who can afford it, New Hampshire is a great place to live — practically tax free. This is after all, the real New Hampshire Advantage.
David E. Bodge
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