SB 489 is really not a gamble
I have been a member of the New Hampshire House for nearly 20 years. I have cast literally thousands of votes on issues large and small during that time. They share one common bond. Whether I voted yes or no, I have tried to listen to my constituents.It is for that reason that I am now a supporter of expanded gambling in New Hampshire. I have long voted no on gambling bills, but recently my constituents have been voicing louder and stronger support for this idea. Many of them have asked me to support Senate Bill 489. I have been asked by seniors, by law enforcement, by Republicans and Democrats, by business owners. Their reasons vary widely, but their request is the same.Based on this groundswell of support for gambling, I sat down and read all of SB 489, which calls for allowing slots and table games at the state’s three racetracks and at two locations in the North Country. It also calls for a resort casino in Hudson.I examined the regulatory structure, which is designed to ensure the state will have tough oversight and full control of the gaming industry. I read through the requirements calling for local approval in each of the communities where gambling would be expanded. I closely reviewed the estimates for revenues and job creation. I scanned the provision that maintains charity gaming for the many groups and nonprofits that rely on this funding for essential services. And I followed the division of revenues that send money to law enforcement training, to the counties, to neighboring towns where gaming is expanded, and to fund a new program which will treat gambling addiction in New Hampshire.I came away with two simple conclusions: The bill is complete and it is impressive.As a fiscal conservative, I believe government must do what families do during tough times — tighten their belts and do without some things until times improve. But cuts can only go so deep before the pain becomes too much for our needy citizens to bear.As a member of the House Finance Committee, I have seen our financial picture up close. We are already cutting spending. And given the serious shortfalls we have today, we are going to have to cut much more to try and keep a balanced budget. Many essential services are about to be cut.When our most important programs are being sacrificed and needy families are being turned away, it’s time to start the search for revenues. We can’t afford a new tax or a tax hike. We need a non-tax solution.SB 489 organizes and regulates a limited expansion of gambling. It will provide an estimated $265 million in non-tax revenue each year. Funds can be collected immediately in the form of millions in licensing fees. The first $50 million will go to protecting and restoring essential social services that are being cut or in jeopardy of losing funds because of our serious budget shortfall.I have long been an opponent of gambling, listening to those who believe they know best and who predict terrible things will come to New Hampshire. Turns out they are the same arguments we heard 40 years ago, when the state decided to create sweepstakes games. I’m listening to the people.Republican state Rep. Beverly Rodeschin lives in Newport.