House spikes gaming bills
CONCORD – Supporters and opponents of slot machine parlors and casinos agreed Wednesday to kill two House bills for expanded gambling and let the fight shift to the state Senate.
Former state Sen. Robert Clegg, now a lobbyist for a casino and convention center in Hudson, said there was broad agreement from expanded gambling advocates this strategy made sense and didn’t doom the issue for 2009.
“We’re trying to do this in a way that amounts to fairness to everyone and that it’s better off to have the one bill coming from the Senate,” said Clegg of Hudson.Clegg also said his clients decided to drop the idea of destination resorts in the northern part of the state from their proposal, instead solely presenting their own project to be included in any Senate-passed measure.
“The North Country isn’t interested in having a casino,” Clegg said.
Rep. Mary Beth Walz, D-Bow, said the issue did not go away as a result of Wednesday’s actions.
“I expect we will see gambling bills from the Senate we will have other occasions to consider these. This bill is not ready,” Walz said.
The House voted, 295-72, to kill the measure (HB 593) that included three destination resort casinos and slot machines at the racetracks.
BILLS AT A GLANCE
By an even more lopsided margin, the House killed a measure for state-owned casinos, 334-35.
No legislator got up to advocate for either bill.
Millennium Gaming has an option to purchase Rockingham Park in Salem and supports the plan of Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, to give slot machines to the state’s racetracks (SB 179).
Sen. Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, has an alternative plan (SB 169) to have the state run slots and video poker sites.
Rich Killion, a media consultant for Millennium Gaming, said his client has taken no position on the Hudson casino proposal and wants the D’Allesandro measure to pass.
“We are focusing on Rockingham Park. We feel we can compete with anybody in Massachusetts or here in New Hampshire. That proposal in Hudson would not affect us,” Killion said.
The owners of the Greenmeadow Golf Club Inc. have said they would invest $300 million to build a resort hotel, convention center and casino on the Hudson property.
Their consultant concludes it would include $140 million in construction that over an 18-month period would create 1,200 jobs and offer 800 permanent jobs.
The plan offers money to help restore commuter rail service from Boston to Nashua, to lower local taxes in neighboring towns and to remove turnpike tollbooths in Merrimack.
“This is a matter of boosting the economy in this state,” Clegg said.
Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, opposed both measures.
“My personal feeling is this may be the last chance you get,” Vaillancourt told the House. “You cannot say for sure something will come over from the Senate.”