Ads to highlight benefits of resort

HUDSON – The development group proposing a large-scale destination resort for the Green Meadow Golf Club property has launched an advertising campaign aimed at getting legislators to pass a bill to legalize expanded gambling in the state.

One such ad, on Page 4 of today’s Telegraph, lists a series of economic benefits owners say will come to the area if HB 593 passes and the proposed Sagamore Crossing Golf Resort & Convention Center becomes a reality.

Officials of Greenmeadow Golf Club Inc., the firm that owns the property, said the construction phase would bring nearly 2,000 jobs for roughly 18 months. Then, 5,000 permanent jobs would be created when the facility opens.

In addition, they said the resort could generate from $150 million to $200 million in annual revenue for the state, Hudson and the region, as well as fund commuter rail service from Boston to Nashua, eliminate the need for the Merrimack toll booths and preserve 5,000 feet of Merrimack River waterfront for recreation and public access.

But achieving such a goal, said Jay Leonard, Greenmeadow vice president of development, on Monday, hinges on the fate of HB 593 and a related Senate bill also coming up for vote in the near future. Last month, Leonard estimated the votes would take place in April.

“Right now, the economics probably don’t support that,” Leonard said in answer to whether the firm would build the facility if the expanded-gambling bills don’t pass. “That’s pretty much an unknown at this point.”

The gambling bill, sponsored by Republican state Reps. Frank R. Emiro, of Londonderry, and Randolph “Rip” Holden, of Goffstown, asks legislators to legalize full gaming facilities and video lottery terminals (slot machines). Presently, state law limits gambling to so-called “table gaming,” such as poker halls and gaming nights and requires that roughly 35 percent of the proceeds go to a specified charity and 10 percent to the state.

Leonard, who also serves as Greenmeadow’s general counsel, said the purpose of the ad campaign is to inform the public of the firm’s intentions and the ways in which expanded gambling would positively impact the economy.

“Our efforts right now are focused on making sure destination resorts are part of the whole discussion on gaming,” he said. “The state is doing all this because it needs revenue . . . Our position is, it makes so much more sense to have a large-scale resort that has (expanded gambling).

“That brings much more money, more jobs,” Leonard said, adding that his firm believes the larger facility could easily withstand competition should a similar resort be built in neighboring Massachusetts.

He also said that while slot machines provide an economic benefit for the state, large-scale resorts typically provide a much larger, and more dependable, revenue stream.

“Slots will offer revenue sooner, but they’re not as stable a source,” Leonard said. “The state wants to make sure it can count on (gaming revenue) for the long run. That’s what a destination resort can do.”

As proposed, Sagamore Crossing would cost about $300 million to build. A study prepared for Greenmeadow by Clyde W. Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, reported that destination resorts typically draw visitors from a significantly wider radius than do racetrack facilities, or “racinos.”

Traffic isn’t a major concern at resorts, Barrow stated, because guests usually stay for days rather than a few hours, as racino customers do. He estimated that as much as 80 percent of the proposed visitors to Sagamore Crossing would come from out of state.

For years, the 375-acre property, which lies south of the Sagamore Bridge between Lowell Road and the Merrimack River, has housed two 18-hole golf courses built by the property’s late owner, golf pro Phil Friel. Presently, a golf and ski retail store, the World Cup driving range and company offices are on the site.