Lure of casino gambling remains fool’s gold

Anybody with even a basic knowledge of finance or the casino industry knows that gambling is the equivalent of financial strip mining

Yet another round of the apparent endless gambling game may be upon us. Even with the House’s recent rejection of a bill to allow a single casino in New Hampshire, it looks like the issue may again be resurrected in the Senate.

State-sponsored gambling is an issue of enormous proportions and considerable significance that deserves the understanding and participation of every citizen. Far from addressing our long-term fiscal challenges, the adverse financial, social and regulatory consequences of casino gambling would merely exacerbate them.

Anybody with even a basic knowledge of finance or the casino industry knows that gambling is the equivalent of financial strip mining – much is taken, but only deep scars are left behind. Much of the promised financial bonanza is never delivered because the partnership between the state and the gambling industry is a flimflam played on the public. Most of the real financial benefits will go to out-of-state casino interests who do not have our state’s interests at heart.

Despite the fact that a major, comprehensive gaming study was done only a few years before, a dark-of-the-night addition to the biennial budget bill spent $250,000 of taxpayer money to “study” this issue once more last year and created the New Hampshire Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority. This was a rigged game because it simply confirmed the standing recommendation for one casino, presented by the team of Gov. Maggie Hassan and Senate President Chuck Morse. How convenient.

It is curious that not one member of the lobbyist-enabled and taxpayer-funded “authority” met with or requested information from the blue ribbon and bipartisan commission set up under a prior administration – and equally curious why New Hampshire has become such a focus for the casino industry.

The gambling industry loves senior citizens with plenty of time on their hands and some additional disposable income. New Hampshire provides a proverbial jackpot, almost 15 percent of the state’s population being 65 years or older in a state with incomes above the national average. Why should the gambling industry subsidize buses to Connecticut, Rhode Island or Massachusetts when they can fleece the boomers and seniors closer to home in New Hampshire?

During her State of the State speech earlier this year, Governor Hassan warned lawmakers that “our state will begin to lose $75 million per year to new casinos right across our border in Massachusetts. Developing New Hampshire's own plan for one high-end destination casino will create jobs, boost our economy, and generate revenue to invest in critical priorities.”

That is one hopeful, but perverse, way to look at it. As The Economist magazine recently reported, the worldwide gaming industry had revenues of more than $440 billion, with our fellow citizens’ losses in the United States leading the pack at $119 billion.

Though there might have been a strategic revenue and gambling option along our southern border years ago, in the same way we once sold cheap cigarettes and liquor, that opportunity has long since evaporated. New Hampshire lawmakers should understand the significance of their actions before they take the gambling plunge and sanction a fleecing of our fellow citizens.

Tom Sedoric of Rye is a nationally recognized financial advisor and serves as chair of the advisory commission to the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development.

Categories: Opinion