Reporting Michael Rosenfield
MANCHESTER, NH (CBS) – Testimony to consider casino gambling in New Hampshire got underway Tuesday with Governor Maggie Hassan the first to speak about the bill to a Senate committee.
“We can no longer pretend that gambling isn’t coming to our communities,” said Hassan. “It is already here. Failure to act will allow Massachusetts to capture the revenue from New Hampshire’s residents while our communities bear the costs without the benefits.”
Calling it “an ongoing and difficult debate,” the governor said a casino will create 2000 construction jobs and more than a thousand permanent jobs, while resulting in tens of millions of dollars each year to fund priority issues like education and roads.
But critics have a list of concerns.
“This is not the New Hampshire that I love,” said State Senator Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth).
Clark worries about other entertainment venues like bars and restaurants losing business to the casino.
“Individuals only have so much money to spend,” said Clark.
If a casino bill gets through the Senate and the House of Representatives, a site still has to be determined.
State Senator Lou D’Allesandro, (D-Goffstown), supports the bill and says the casino could have a maximum of 5000 slot machines and 150 table games. The bill calls for one casino, but a commission would study whether to allow for more casinos.
Hassan is counting on the $80 million licensing fee for the new casino operator to help balance the budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
But at the press conference Tuesday, many republicans raised red flags.
“When the governor uses unreliable revenue growth assumptions and money from a casino that may never exist, she creates a real climate of uncertainty”, said State Representative Laurie Sanborn, (R-Bedford).
State Senator Jeanie Forrester, (R-Meredith), called Hassan’s reliance on the licensing fee ‘misguided’.