Legislation includes incentives for gaming in state

CONCORD – Supporters of a casino and convention center in Hudson have loaded a proposed bill with sweeteners to try and build political support for expanded gaming locally and across the state.

The complex 27-page amendment to the slot machines for racetracks bill (HB 593) offers money to restore commuter rail service from Boston to Nashua, to lower local taxes in neighboring towns and even to remove tollbooths in Merrimack.In turn, the plans include not only a $300 million investment for Greenmeadow Golf Club Inc. but would also legally permit horse and dog racetracks to share 6,000 video slot machines and build two other casinos in Grafton and Coos County to the north.

Former Hudson Republican Sen. Robert Clegg is a lobbyist for Greenmeadow principal Phil Friel and convinced Londonderry Republican State Rep. Frank Emiro to offer the Hudson casino plan to a House committee last week.

“I’ve felt for a long time that these moves for expanded gaming have never come to fruition because the parties that wanted it wouldn’t work with one another,” Clegg said.

“This year, I’m saying to everyone, it will take hard work to build consensus on this but together we can succeed, separately we will all fail.”

The amended bill puts all the power in the New Hampshire Lottery Commission to award licenses to three “destination resort convention centers” that would merge casino gaming with hotel rooms, boutique shops and other amenities like Hudson’s well-regarded, 36-hole golf course complex.

Read the Bill:

The bill identifies one of three destination resort centers the “southern tier facility” and it must be in a Hillsborough County town or city that borders Massachusetts.

The only communities fitting that description are Hudson, Nashua, Hollis, Brookline, Greenville, New Ipswich and Mason.

Each of the three casino resorts awarded state licenses have to have at least 150 hotel rooms and 150 acres of other amenities within a 20-mile radius.

The racetrack owners would have to make at least a $10 million investment in improvements. Millenium Gaming has committed to spend more than $400 million if it gets 3,000 slot machines at Rockingham Park in Salem.

Clegg has told key legislators the Hudson site developers could pay the state as much as a $50 million license fee. The bill does not specify license payments.

The legislation sets other charges including $100,000 to file each application, $50,000 for state prosecutors to check the backgrounds of all principal owners and $50,000 to verify the slot and other gaming technology to be used.

No legislator or lobbyist could have a financial interest in any gaming site or get a “credit or favor” not available to the general public, the amended bill states.

State government would get 40 percent of net profit from all gaming sites and the casino or slot racino owners would get to keep 51 percent, the bill states.

The remaining 9 percent of profit would be parceled out in a way dependent on its location.

The Hudson project would give 2 percent of net profit for the transportation needs of towns within a 10-mile radius to “include use of the funds to eliminate tollbooths in the town of Merrimack.”

Local and state officials who represent the town have for years failed to get lawmakers to take down ramp tolls at every F.E. Everett Turnpike exit in Merrimack.

Another 1 percent from the Greenmeadow profit would be to restore “commuter rail service from Nashua to Boston.”

In the North County, 1 percent would have to be spent on a transit system for that rural region.

All gaming sites would have to dedicate 2 percent each for a state-run program of assistance for addicted gamblers, 1 percent for the host community, 2 percent to be shared by all towns within a 10-mile radius and 1 percent to county government.