A responsible expansion of gaming
I will be supporting Senate Bill 489, the gaming bill, which I co-sponsored, when it comes to the House floor.Gaming is a business, a business in 40 other states. Our residents take their money to Maine, Connecticut and, soon, Massachusetts. This boosts their economy and helps their education needs. Now that is a good neighbor. How about helping New Hampshire – our economy and our education needs and our health and human services programs?SB 489 offers much-needed construction jobs, top management, middle management and minimum-wage jobs. The resort facilities that are part of this bill offer opportunities for a 300-room hotel, conventions, golf tourneys, entertainment events for families and concerts, as well as gaming.This is an economic development and jobs bill. Besides the jobs, the state will see an increase in the rooms and meals taxes. Established businesses will see an increase in foot traffic, thereby the ability for them to hire more people. What are the alternatives? More tax increases and more program cuts.Each facility must go through a vetting process and obtain a license, and there is not going to be a monopoly with one company owning or operating the entire state facilities. The first money the state receives will come within months through the purchase of a license.Statements that the money won’t come for years are false. Rockingham will generate $50 million in license fees and $10 million for tables by the end of 2010.The Hudson center will generate $50 million and $10 million for tables by 2011 or early 2012. The Seabrook location will generate $20 million and $10 million for tables by mid-2011.The winning location in central New Hampshire will generate $15 million and $10 million for tables by 2012 or early 2013. The winning North Country facility will generate $10 million in license fees and $10 million for tables by 2013 or early 2014.The first $50 million to be received in this current biennium will be distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services to replace funding that has been cut due to budget deficits.The bill provides regulatory oversight of the newly permissible activity, with the State Lottery Commission regulating the video lottery machines and the Pari-Mutuel and Charitable Gaming Commission regulating the table games.It also sets various other administrative and regulatory requirements for operators to follow.The usual warnings of increased crime and proliferation are old and untruthful. No expansion can happen without the approval of the Legislature. The regulations are tough and can be enhanced again if needed.The addiction argument is shameful, as we have gambling in every corner store, gas station and supermarket. We have bingo and poker parlors 24/7 in the name of “charity” all over this state. There is very little regulation or oversight.We already have addicted gamblers that take money out of state and bring their addiction back home with them. We offer no programs for the addicted gambler. This bill offers an addiction program.This bill is a responsible expansion of gaming, unlike the fantasy sports gaming the governor wants to offer.Our residents and our small businesses cannot endure any more tax increases, and parts of our population cannot endure any more cuts in programs they desperately need.When there is a viable opportunity available that would keep increases lower and keep some programs in place, it is not rational to reject that opportunity because of personal moral objections and then ask me to vote for said increases and cuts.For those of you against this bill, that’s OK. If it passes, just don’t go and gamble. If it fails, don’t expect a thank you note from Maine, Connecticut or Massachusetts.Rep. Jane Clemons is a Democratic state representative from Nashua.