Ovide Lamontagne has had difficulty expressing his opinion regarding expanded gambling in New Hampshire. His statements throughout this campaign, and campaigns of the past, have indicated several, conflicting positions on theissue of gambling, including casinos.
In both his 1996 and 2012 campaigns for Governor, Ovide Lamontagne has opposed and supported expanded gambling. At times, he has opposed only casinos, but expressed an openness to other forms of gambling. Sometimes he’s opposed both. And, at times, he has expressed support just for casino gambling, and nothing else. Today, he is seemingly open to a single casino license only at Rockingham Park.
If you’re looking for clarity in his position, it won’t be easy to find.
On Wednesday, August 29, during a debate in Hooksett for Republican candidatesrunning for Governor, Ovide Lamontagne was asked why he has changed his position on casino gambling since first opposing it in his 1996 run for Governor. In responding to the question, Lamontagne denied having opposed casino gambling before. [Click for video]
“Let me make it very clear, I have not been consistently opposed to expanded gaming.”
Lamontagne added, “I wasn’t part of the anti-gambling movement in the last 16 years. “
It’s hard to take Ovide Lamontagne seriously on the issue, because his position on gambling has changed so many times over the years, and it’s still changing today. What was his position in 1996?
HAVING IT BOTH WAYS
Finally, for better or for worse, Lamontagne made his position clear on the expansion of legalized gambling. He’s against casinos now and forever; and he’s against expansion of gambling in racetracks at this time. But, like Merrill, he didn’t close the door on the latter forever. (DiStefano Decision on Fish and Game Agenda, Manchester Union Leader, May 30, 1996, p. A6)
ADAMANTLY AGAINST CASINOS ONLY
He is open to expanding gambling in the statewith video poker machines and other electronic games. But Lamontagne is adamantly against casinos, saying it would change the state’s character. (Governor hopefuls target taxes, The Boston Sunday Globe, June 30, 1996)
Ovide Lamontagne has flip-flopped on the issue of expanded gambling. Lamontagne issued a release later in the day saying he opposes casino gambling and favors tough video-poker gambling penalties, but believes in trying new and innovative sweepstakes games. (End Tax Breaks. Gambling Stand. Candidates Rate Road, Bridges. Tougher Campaign Reforms, Manchester Union Leader, July 18, 1996, p. A6)
AGAINST ALL FORMS OF GAMBLING
“Lamontagne said that he has always spoken out against casino gambling and other gaming expansion.” (Zeliff Gambling Stand Praised, Manchester Union Leader,July 25, 1996, p. C7)
Ms. Parker said she was concerned about the future of Rockingham's employees and the affect on local businesses if the track is not allowed to compete with expanded gambling. “Will you give it some outlet for survival?” she asked. 'Some of those employees are members of my business.'
“We're going to work with them to find other things that will help them support their operations,” said Mr. Lamontagne. “But they will not include casino gambling or video poker slot machines.” (Lamontagne might ‘ ratchet up a tax’, Sunday Eagle Tribune, Oct. 20, 1996, p. C7)
And, what about Lamontagne’s positions on gambling today? Well, he continues to blur the issue and try and have it both ways. During an interview with WMUR-TV’s Josh McElveen on March 18, 2012, Ovide said: [Click for video]
“But still, bringing in casino gambling…gaming…into New Hampshire is changing our…gaming…our gaming climate substantially. So, we need to look at whether it makes sense to do that. Like I said, I’m not going to close the door absolutely to it, but I want people to know – don’t assume that I’m going to be with it.”
And, at an appearance in Hudson on March 28, 2012, Lamontagne made the followingstatements: [Click or video]
“My position is…I am…I presume…um…my presumption is to oppose casino gambling.”
“We should be casino free as far as I’m concerned.”
“If gambling is your issue, and you want a pro-gambling person, you’ll have to look to somebody else.”
“Please don’t consider me an advocate for gambling, because I’m not.”
That would seem like a position of opposition. But, then on June 9, 2012 in Salem – just two months later – Lamontagne reversed his position and declared support for a casino. [Click for video]
“If you were the person who was the CEO of New Hampshire, where would you put expanded gaming? At Rockingham, why are we hiding from that?”
“Let’s stop hiding…walking around the issue. There is only one place to start and it’s here at Rockingham.”
What was more confusing is that just the week before, on June 1, 2012 in Belknap County, Lamontagne took both sides of the issue. In a single response to a question on gambling, Lamontagne claimed to both oppose and support expanded gambling. He made these four contradictory statements: [Click for video]
“I am generally opposed to expanded gambling.”
“If the legislature comes forward with a proposal for one place, one time, and that’s Rockingham, I’d entertain it.”
“And, if that works, if that comes forward and works, we’d look at another place.”
“I am generally opposed, however. I’m not going to be an advocate for expanded gambling.”
Finally, again this week in Hooksett, Lamontagne could not clearly explain his position, stating: [Click for video]
“I’ll be a leader on this issue…I’m not a proponent of expanded gaming.”
Conversely, Kevin Smith has been clear in his campaign for Governor on his support for expanded casino gambling. Smith supports two licenses for casinos in two locations to be determined through a fair and open bidding process. Smithwould require, however, that any legislation include:
First, a strong regulatory infrastructure in place to oversee any casino operations before a single casino is constructed;
Second, that any revenues derived from expanded gambling not be placed in the general fund (which would only be used to grow the size of government). Rather new gambling revenue should be used to offset business or property taxes, or be used to improve infrastructure, such as the completion of Interstate-93.
Unlike Lamontagne, Smith does not believe the government should pick and choose winners and losers in the process, and that steering a casino contract to aspecific company is inappropriate and bad public policy that establishes a dangerous precedent. Those wishing to establish a casino in New Hampshire should compete.
What’s more, from his experience working with the legislature, Smith knows – like the many advocates for expanded gambling know – that a single license bill, without an open-bid process will not pass the legislature. Therefore, the only way to expand gambling to include casinos is to provide two licenses through a transparent, competitive process.