CONCORD, N.H. — A new gambling bill will get its first hearing at the New Hampshire Statehouse on Wednesday that would authorize two casinos anywhere in the state.
Filed by longtime gaming proponent, state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, SB 242 will be heard on 10 a.m. in Statehouse Room 100. According to D’Allesandro, two casinos would bring close to $195 million per year into state coffers.
“This bill is an economic recovery job-creation package,” D’Allesandro said in a press release. “Right now, we have gambling going on all around us and New Hampshire is seeing none of the benefits. With two casinos, we have an opportunity to create hundreds of jobs, bring in hundreds of millions of dollars into our state, and help our struggling communities.”
D’Allesandro urged the state Senate to approve the bill, stating the “majority of the people of New Hampshire are in favor of gaming and it’s time for the Legislature to listen.”
Previous New Hampshire casino bills focused on placing a gambling venue at the former Rockingham Park race track in Salem, a move many hoped would keep the fading race track alive. The failure of the New Hampshire House of Representatives to approve gaming always stymied efforts.
Last year, Rockingham’s owners sold the facility, ending its more than 100-year existence as a New England thoroughbred and harness horse racing mecca. At the time, Rockingham only offered charity gambling and simulcasting of horse racing conducted elsewhere.
SB 242 doesn’t pinpoint a specific location for the casinos, which leaves Seabrook Park, the former dog track, as a possible site. Right off I-95, the southern border community of Seabrook is within an hour’s drive of population hubs of Greater Boston and the Merrimack Valley cities.
Town zoning would not prevent Seabrook Park from being considered as a casino venue, should the bill pass, according to Seabrook Selectman Aboul Khan, who is a member of the Planning Board and is one of Seabrook’s four members of the House Representatives. The facility currently conducts charity gambling and simulcasts dog and horse races that take place all over the country, he said.
In past years, Seabrook’s Board of Selectmen openly endorsed casino bills, with the hope one could be located at Seabrook Park, bringing jobs and other economic benefits to towns.
Casino bills rose and fell at the Statehouse for decades, and although the Senate did pass casino bills, the House never did.
Feelings about gambling are passionate both pro and con, Khan said, and sentiments are divided and don’t fall along party lines.
“I’d like to see a casino in Seabrook,” Khan said. “I hope the bill has a chance, but I don’t know if there’s an appetite in the House (of Representatives) for casino legislation.”
The full text of SB 242 can be viewed here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_Status/billText.aspx?sy=2017&id=842&txtFormat=pdf&v=current.