New Hampshire House panel passes casino bill

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 27, 2011 7:04 PM
New Hampshire House panel passes casino bill

By Jason McLure

LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - A bill that would allow for the construction of two casinos in New Hampshire was approved by a House legislative panel on Thursday.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 14-7 to advance the bill, which would allow the state lottery commission to issue two licenses for video gambling and table games such as craps and roulette, according to Shannon Stutts, a spokeswoman for House Speaker William O'Brien, a Republican.

The move comes after the Massachusetts House and Senate passed bills expanding casino gambling in the Bay State, which now must be reconciled before being sent to Governor Deval Patrick for approval.

In another New England state, Maine, voters face two ballot questions November 8 on whether to allow a casino in the city of Lewiston and slot machines at two harness racing tracks.

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, has "very serious concerns about a possible expansion of gambling," said his spokesman, Colin Manning, who stopped short of saying Lynch would veto the bill.

"He's concerned that we don't have a regulatory structure in place. He's concerned about proliferation and what expanded gambling would mean for our quality of life in New Hampshire."

Nevada-based Millennium Gaming Inc. has plans to spend up to $450 million to build a casino at a horse-racing track in the town of Salem, New Hampshire, near the Massachusetts border should the bill go through.

Opponents of the bill have vowed to block it in New Hampshire's 400-member House, where Republicans have a majority.

"This bill is a massive giveaway to an out-of-state interest," said Jim Rubens, chairman of Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, an alliance of church, anti-tax and police groups.

"This is big new tax on consumer spending that will suck jobs and revenues away from existing businesses and send them to a Las Vegas monopoly."

(Editing by Jerry Norton)