Slots are wrong for so many reasons
I have been a restaurateur in New Hampshire for more than 25 years. Like many other small business owners, I work and live here because of three simple words: quality of life.New Hampshire is a great place to live and visit and is unparalleled in its beauty, peacefulness and an overall contentment envied by many: No sales or income tax, fine schools, quiet safe neighborhoods, solid, hardworking people and a feeling of New England pride found nowhere else in this country. To risk ruining the uniqueness New Hampshire has to offer by bringing casino gambling to New Hampshire is just wrong for so many reasons.On the surface, it’s easy to look at the proponents’ claim that slot casinos would bring millions of dollars in tax revenue to the state. But where do you suppose those dollars would come from? Most of it would come from local New Hampshire folks spending their hard-earned dollars hoping to win the big one.Sure, there would be some folks who live close enough in the surrounding states who would come and gamble their paychecks away, but the majority would be people who live right here in New Hampshire.Massachusetts will surely have bigger, flashier casinos, and the proposed New Hampshire casinos would not get the northbound Massachusetts gambler traffic that is being promised. New Hampshire casinos would drain local New Hampshire consumer spending that would otherwise go to New Hampshire businesses, many of which are locally owned, unlike the proposed Salem casino, which would be owned by a Las Vegas gambling company.Don’t be fooled and lured by the grandiose idea that casinos proposed for Salem and Hudson would solve state budget problems. Connecticut has doubled its spending in the past 10 years and recently instituted the largest tax increase in state history in spite of having two of the largest casinos in the world.Additional dollars sent to the state will always find a way to be spent. New Hampshire will become addicted to the revenue and surely allow the further expansion and proliferation of casinos throughout the state.Do your own research: Look at how badly misled people in other states have been by promises that casinos won’t continuously expand so that every community winds up being harmed by traffic, crime and school budget problems.Using revenue breakdown data from local market casinos as provided to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, existing New Hampshire restaurants, lodging and entertainment establishments will see their revenues decline by $100 million per year if even one of the two casinos permitted under House Bill 593 is built.As an example (and there are dozens around the country that mirror these staggering statistics), Atlantic City casinos decimated the restaurant and retail industry. The number of independent restaurants in Atlantic City dropped from 48 the year casinos opened to 16 in 1997. Within just four years of the casinos’ arrival, one-third of the city’s retail businesses had closed.Casino jobs claims are also just as bogus.The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that, for every $1 million diverted from household spending in New Hampshire, the state loses nine existing jobs. The New Hampshire Gaming Study Commission projects that a proposed Salem or Hudson casino would produce 2,215 permanent direct and indirect new jobs. But because up to half of casino revenue will be displaced from current consumer spending at existing New Hampshire businesses, nearly 2,500 existing jobs will be lost. Once the temporary casino construction jobs are gone, there are no net job gains.And finally, I will circle back to those three words again: quality of life. I’m not willing to risk losing what so many people have worked so hard to protect over the years. Why jeopardize losing something that has taken so long to build?Tom Boucher is CEO and owner of Great New Hampshire Restaurants Inc., Bedford.