UPDATED. The New Hampshire House of Representatives will be looking at gambling measures this month, with many legislators eager to keep consumer spending in the state after Massachusetts legalized casinos last year. They have to build enough votes to override a promised veto by Gov. John Lynch, a four-term Governor in his final year of office.
HB 1678 continues to be discussed by the House Ways and Means Committee. This bill allows up to three video lottery gaming locations, one each in the north country, the southern tier, and on a riverboat near Portsmouth, as selected by the lottery commission. Municipalities may accept VLTs through either the referendum process or by approval at town meetings.
The House floor was expected to vote on HB593 on February 8, but the action was delayed so lawmakers could consider the bill's amendments. However, it is likely that the tactic simply buys proponents more time to find enough votes to override the Governor's veto. The bill has been sent back to the Ways and Means Committee, and a hearing on the amendments will be held on Monday. HB593 proposes two video lottery facilities in the state that must be at least 100 miles apart; one of the amendments doubles that number to four. The gaming facilities would have both video lottery terminals and table games. Revenues from VLTs would be a direct offset to the state education property tax and to the highway fund for highway and bridge construction and repair, while table game proceeds would go to the highway fund.
Other gaming bills to be discussed address charitable gaming and electronic keno. If the vote on any of these measures is strong, but not quite enough to override a veto, expect to see gaming play a huge role in the race for a new governor.
Unlike most other recent casino bills around the country, HB593 is not focused on resort casinos, those typically requiring investments of $500 million and more. Some have referred to the measure as allowing “convenience” casinos, requiring only a $10 million investment in construction or renovation, and as a result there will be much discussion about their overall economic impact.
That’s of no concern to Millennium Gaming and Rockingham Park, which still plan on developing a $500 million casino at the racetrack in Salem. The two companies joined forces years ago in the hopes of eventually bringing a casino to Rockingham, which last hosted live racing in 2009; the track continues to offer simulcasting and a charitable gaming card room.
Another proposal has been made by Green Meadow Golf Club, which wants to build a $300 million casino and resort on the edge of the Merrimack River in Hudson.