Fix it now New Hampshire.

This is from the Manchester Union Leader. I think the strongest case for this legislation is the comment about "gaming revenue that is already leaving New Hampshire." This number has to be higher than the 2.5% stated previously by Mr. Marsh. It has to be higher because Connecticut has two major casinos not one. Bangor raceway and slots in Maine continues in business and the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York is yet another venue for New Hampshire residents to go to a casino.

Another interesting point: "Surveys show that New Hampshire residents would rather have expanded gaming over increased property taxes or sales, income taxes."

Interesting. Wonder how the Coalition against Expanded Gambling is going to respond to this one?

"New Hampshire residents would rather have expanded gaming over increased property taxes or sales, income taxes."

Are the policymakers in Concord listening?

By TOM FAHEY
State House Bureau Chief

A coalition of gambling interests, business owners and labor today called for video slot machines at Rockingham Park race track, saying they will bring the state treasury $200 million a year.

The “Fix It Now New Hampshire” group said that if the Legislature acts before June to allow what it called “limited gaming,” machines would be up and running within seven months at a temporary facility on track property in Salem.

Millennium Gaming, which holds the option to purchase the track on the Massachusetts border, plans to begin a two-year $450 million upgrade if slots are approved. The company operates three casinos in Las Vegas and one in western Pennsylvania.

Anti-gambling forces labeled the Rockingham plan as “the same tired and discredited arguments.”

Gambling measures have been offered as the solution to state budget problems for the past decade. Noting the state faces tough budget years through 2011, Rockingham Park president Ed Callahan said slots could be “a reliable and sustainable source of revenue and a critical part of a solution to the budget shortfall this year and in years go come.”

Callahan estimated that more than 70 percent of customers will come from outside the state.

The coalition said the boost in attendance and revenue would allow Rockingham to reintroduce thoroughbred racing, which it ended five years ago. The track would continue running a Texas Hold’em poker room that hosts games to benefit charities.

Chuck Rolecek, president and CEO of Premier Corp. in Bedford, is chair of Fix It Now. He said the group will leave it up to lawmakers to decide whether slots ought to be allowed at other facilities in the state.

Members of the coalition who spoke to reporters said gaming here would allow the state to recapture gambling revenues that now leave with gamblers headed to other states.

With Massachusetts facing serious budget pressure, it is bringing back plans to open state-run casinos, they said, making it more important for New Hampshire to act quickly and establish customer loyalty.

Bills introduced so far in the Legislature also call for casinos in the North Country, and legalized slots at dog tracks.

Rolecek noted that opinion surveys have shown New Hampshire voters would rather have expanded gambling than increases in property taxes or new taxes on sales or income.

Gov. John Lynch has not supported expanded gambling, but hasn’t closed the door. He said he needs to be convinced that expansion will not have a negative effect on the state’s quality of life.

The Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling chairman Jim Rubens said the gambling industry, “thinks that our Legislature is ready to trade our state's reputation, healthy quality of life, and lowest national crime rate, for a gambling tax that will make everyone in our state poorer, and a handful of casino and slot machine owners much richer.”

A labor council with 7,000 members backs Millennium. Ed Foley, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council, said his members also worry about rising property taxes, and see gaming as a way to keep taxes low and provide jobs. Foley said, adding that the use of union labor on construction has been part of his discussions with Millennium.

Sen. Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, who has sponsored gambling bills in the past, said the $200 million revenue estimate matches roughly what he has calculated slots would bring, but he’s not signing on with Fix It Now. He said control of video slot gaming should be in the hands of the state, not private interests.

“The state can do it without the race tracks, but the race tracks can’t do it without the state. So, I think the lion’s share of revenues should come to the people of New Hampshire,” he said.