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Does casino bill have a chance?

Mar 28, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

Last Thursday, March 23 the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill to allow two casinos in New Hampshire. 

The bill, SB 242, differs from last year’s casino bill in that it does not require a casino location at Rockingham Park in Salem.  Instead, there is an open application process for one larger casino and one smaller casino at any location in the state, subject to local approval.

Other aspects of the bill are similar to previous casino bills.  In addition to multi-million dollar license fees, the casinos would pay a tax of 35% of slot machine revenue and 18% on table game revenue.

The communities hosting casinos and the neighboring towns would get a percentage of the revenue from casino gambling.  SB 242 would also fund the state’s “revenue sharing” program, which gives every town in the state a portion of statewide tax revenue.  The Department of Health and Human Services would also get a percentage of revenue to treat and prevent problem gambling.  The Legislature would have the power to spend most of the remaining revenue however it chooses.

The Lottery Commission estimates that the first year the casinos opened the state would get about $194 million.  To put that in perspective, that’s roughly half of what the state is expected to collect in property tax this year, or about 8% of total unrestricted revenue.  (Unrestricted revenue excludes federal funds and revenue earmarked for a specific purpose, like turnpike tolls, which have to go to transportation projects.) 

That $194 million may be particularly tempting for legislators faced with this year’s many competing funding priorities, from new police officers for drug enforcement to full-day kindergarten programs.

Supporters of SB 242 dismiss arguments that casino gambling would increase crime and addiction by pointing out that New Hampshire already allows table games at many charitable gaming locations.  Anyone interested in slot machines only has to hop over the border to Maine or Massachusetts.

Other casino supporters argue that gambling is a matter of personal liberty: residents should be allowed to spend their money how they choose.

Casino opponents argue that the revenue from casinos is declining, especially as more casinos open in more states.  A recent Concord Monitor editorial stated that “casinos are a budget Band-Aid with the possibility of becoming an albatross.” 

The fiscally conservative nonprofit Granite State Taxpayers made a similar argument against casinos in New Hampshire.  According to a post on their website, SB 242 would only benefit the towns hosting casinos, at the cost of expanded government bureaucracy.   

Other casino opponents argue that the people most likely to gamble are those with the least money, such as senior citizens.  That makes casino gambling a tax on the poor.

SB 242 faces an uncertain future in the House.  The last casino bill to face the House, in 2015, failed by fifty-two votes.  The House has not yet scheduled a hearing on the SB 242.

Read our Citizen Voices℠ report on this issue and find out where New Hampshire stands on this issue.

Do you support SB 242 or another form of casino gambling in New Hampshire?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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Gambling | 3 comment(s)
Should NH authorize one or more casinos?


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