Santa Claus Ain't Coming.

Santa Claus aint coming this year. The economy is bad in New Hampshire. This is a reality. Notice the people that are opposed to casino gaming have not provided any statistical analysis of why increased gaming would not work in New Hampshire.

This legislation could work.

It will help tourism, jobs and build the economy. It is that simple.

If there are concerns about what will happen if this legislation passes then fine. Study the issue(s). But do it from an objective sense. New Hampshire isn't CT. New Hampshire isn't RI. And believe it or not NH isn't Massachusetts.

But before this can happen the Legislature and Governor Lynch need to do more with respect to the very idea of this legislation. They need to investigate other states and their experiences with increased gaming and find these results, real results not emotions or crime statistics but statistics that lead to tax base expansion and jobs.

It can be done. Its been done in Biloxi, Mississippi. Its being done in Iowa and Kansas and very well could be done in Kentucky. States with similar demographics to New Hampshire.

Please contact your State Senator and State Representative.

Source: Concord Monitor Newspaper

New Hampshire's weakening economy is bad for business and hard on state government. But it may be good for the gambling industry, where hopes are high that a desperate need for new revenue this year will inspire legislators to allow slot machines at the state's racetracks and beyond.

In the meantime, both pro- and anti-gambling forces are girding for a tough fight at the State House. "This is going to be our hardest fight ever," said Jim Rubens, a former state senator who chairs the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling.

The pro-gambling case has made inroads in the House and Senate over the past year. Last spring, a slot machine bill narrowly failed in the Senate; this fall, the House Ways and Means Committee voted 9-8 to recommend a bill to expand gambling. That's a tremendous change, said Jim Demers, a lobbyist who represents Millennium Gaming, the Las Vegas-based company that wants to install slot machines at Salem's Rockingham Park, a horse and dog racetrack.

"I think the actions of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is not considered an extremely pro-gambling committee, speaks volumes to the concerns legislators have as to how to deal with the budgetary process," Demers said.

"It's the state's call, but in these very challenging times, there's going to be cuts," said Rich Killion, a lobbyist for the Rock. "But there's only so far you can go before you start impacting our quality of life."

Always hard, New Hampshire's budget process this year may be the most difficult in a generation. This year's budget, which ends in June, is now projected to fall short $250 million. Think-tanks have calculated that the next two-year budget could have a starting-point shortfall - assuming current services are maintained and commitments like contractual wage increases are honored - of a half-billion dollars.

Both fans and foes of casino operators say the budget climate may make the political climate ripe for expanded gambling. Plans generally involve permitting high-tech slot machines, or "video lottery terminals" at the state's four horse or greyhound racing tracks, turning them into so-called "racinos," plus potentially allowing one or more of the North Country's grand hotels a permit for slots.

Gambling proponents say the state could reap $150 million a year or more from slots, some of which, they argue, is money residents are already spending in one of the other states that do allow casino-style gambling, including Maine and Connecticut. Opponents question those estimates, saying that the cost of affiliated social problems like addiction and crime would wipe out much or all of the state's take.

Pro-gambling legislators say slots are the only viable way for the state to bring in big money. Other major potential revenue streams - either an income or sales tax - are widely seen as doomed because Gov. John Lynch has always said he would veto either. Over the past four years, Lynch, a Democrat, has had a consistent, if oblique, stance on gambling: He's always said that before he can support it, he'll need evidence that it won't harm New Hampshire's quality of life. Pro-gambling forces see that as an open door.

Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said last week that the governor will need to hear more about gambling's impact on the economy, jobs, and social concerns. "Those are questions that still need to be answered if and when a plan is brought forward," Manning said.

Longtime gambling proponent Sen. Lou D'Allesandro of Manchester worked for most of last year to rally support in the Senate, and he wound up two votes shy of a majority. "We had 11 votes in the Senate last year, and we thought we had the 12th," he said. "I think the situation now is graver, and that may give us what we need."

Even if Lynch and the Senate get behind expanded gambling, the fight is far from over. There's long been a wide anti-gambling feeling in the 400-member, difficult-to-lobby House from both political parties.

"The House has never even come close to supporting gambling," said House Speaker Terie Norelli, who has said she personally opposed gambling in the past because she believed "that the kind of money that we would get would not be worth the change in our quality of life."

However, Norelli said, she had heard some folks who've long opposed gambling wondering aloud whether they could be convinced this year. "When times get tough, and they are certainly tough, we tend to reconsider some things that we had dismissed before," she said.

In the Senate



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