Casino Expansion Still on the Table in New Hampshire

Seal_of_New_Hampshire.svgAs the returning and newly elected members of the New Hampshire legislature head to Nashua for the 2015 legislative session word around the campfire has intimated that casino expansion will be a hot topic in 2015.

New Hampshire has been grappling with potential expansion for several years, and nearly managed to pass a bill last year.

In 2014 the legislature failed to pass two separate casino bills. the most recent of the two was vote down by the narrowest of margins, with the measure failing by a single vote in the House after passing through the State Senate. The Bill would have allowed the state to award two casino licenses, but it’s unclear if the bill would have garnered the support of the Governor or initiated the use of her veto pen.

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan has been loud and clear that she supports casino expansion, but with an important caveat. Hassan is in favor of the state approving a single, resort casino. Earlier in 2014 the legislature nixed Hassan’s single casino proposal as well.

2015 brings change to the state house

With plenty of legislative seats changing hands it’s anyone’s guess how casino bills will fare in 2015, and there are still plenty of casino naysayers lobbying in public and behind the scenes.

Fortunately, we are likely to find out if the state has the appetite for casino expansion very soon. Several New Hampshire news sites are gearing up for the debate, and State Senator Lou D’Allessandro is already whipping votes for another two-casino bill similar to the one he pushed for in 2015 according to the AP.

Potential holdup

New faces aside, the biggest issue holding back casino expansion is politics, and political ideology.

If Republicans and Democrats can come to terms on how to spend the money generated by casino(s), the bill would be a fairly noncontroversial vote (as noncontroversial as a gambling expansion bill can be) for the New Hampshire legislature.

The problem is, as the Associated Press reports, Democrats would like to add the additional revenue gained from casinos to state spending, particularly in education. On the other hand, Republicans would like to use the revenue from casinos to offset tax cuts for businesses – making the revenue gains from casinos revenue neutral.

Regional competition may complicate things

Despite support from Governor Maggie Hassan, and near passage in 2014, current circumstances in the region may have some lawmakers reconsidering their support for expanded gaming. In addition to the new faces and how to use the revenue, casino expansion in New Hampshire faces another hurdle: Competition.

With Casinos breaking ground in New York and Massachusetts, it’s unclear how attractive New Hampshire would be to a major casino corporation, which would likely leave the Granite State with a pair of smaller regional casinos, or perhaps a singled resort casino if the Governor gets her way, competing against multiple billion-dollar mega-resort-casinos in some cases just an hour’s drive away.

New Hampshire already has several racetracks where gaming options beyond the track are available., as these racetracks are allowed to spread poker games that would fall into the charity gaming category Р with their exorbitant house fees, and oddball rules.

That being said, according to the AP, Governor Hassan still sees potential for a destination style casino despite the nearby competition. “Gov. Hassan continues to believe that moving forward with New Hampshire’s own plan for one highly regulated destination casino is the right step for keeping revenue in New Hampshire that we can use to invest in the priorities that are critical for long-term economic success,” her spokesman William Hinkle told the AP.

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