Senators table two gambling proposals

CONCORD – Supporters for legalizing slot machine betting came up short in the state Senate on Wednesday, opting to wait and see how much revenue would be needed to balance the next two-year state budget.

At the close of a six-hour session, the Senate on a voice vote tabled two slot machine bills, one to let private racetracks and two resorts have them (SB 169) and the other for state-run, slot machine parlors (SB 179).

The privately run gambling bill stood a better chance of passage but its sponsor, Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, admitted he was a few votes shy of a majority.”I’d like to bring it back as quickly as it can,” D’Allesandro said.

After April 9, it will take a two-thirds majority to act on either bill, so this maneuver was cause for celebration for gambling opponents.

Supporters could also try to tack expanded gambling onto the Senate’s proposed state budget two months from now.

“This is a huge setback for their side,” said Jim Rubens, chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling.

“Never will we have a false sense of security. They will not give up.”

Millennium Gaming is leading the privately run gaming campaign and has hired a bevy of lobbyists. If successful, the company has committed to spending $450 million for slot machines and other amenities at Rockingham Park in Salem.

Senate Republican Leader Peter Bragdon of Milford emerged Wednesday as one of a handful of key senators on the fence.

In the past, Bragdon opposed these bills but said Wednesday he would not rule out supporting one in the future.

“People wanted some more time to look at it,” Bragdon said. “This buys us more time.”


Sen. Michael Downing, R-Salem, said several senators didn’t want to cast a critical vote this week without knowing what the state budget will look like.

“I do not believe this is the solution to all of our problems. This option has never been offered as a panacea,” Downing said.

“But as a supporter of expanded gaming in New Hampshire, I believe we need to bring our spending priorities and our revenue priorities together into one coherent conversation.”

Advocates for a resort casino at Green Meadow Golf Club in Hudson have been unable to get their project into either Senate bill.

Sen. Harold Janeway, D-Webster, said D’Allesandro’s bill was excessive, allowing at least 15,000 slot machines, more than the number in the two casinos in Connecticut.

“I would just say this is not a good bet for New Hampshire,” Janeway said.

Sen. Robert Letourneau, R-Derry, spoke of gambling addiction ruining the life of one prominent businessman in his district.

“Gambling is addictive, it’s dangerous, it brings bad things to our state, it brings bad things to our families,” Letourneau said.

The House overwhelmingly killed two other gambling bills last week. Over the past 15 years, the House has been a consistent roadblock to legalizing slot machines.