There’s a cost if N.H. doesn’t expand gambling
We are about to watch Massachusetts lawmakers dip into the wallets of Granite Staters and pull out tens of millions of dollars every year to fund their programs and take care of their citizens.Sometime this fall, the Bay State will pass casino gambling and begin the work to open a small number of casinos around the commonwealth. Massachusetts will become the 41st state to raise funds from expanded gambling.It is mind-blowing that New Hampshire, home of the first state lottery, trails almost all of the country in developing a regulated gambling plan that would raise millions of dollars, much of it from out-of-state visitors, while also bringing thousands of new jobs in both the construction area and operations. Massachusetts is about to beat us at our own approach.A small minority has said the decisions being made over the border makes the gambling debate in New Hampshire moot. That couldn’t be further from reality.A recent report by Gov. John Lynch’s Gaming Study Commission estimated our state would lose $70 million per year in revenue to Massachusetts’ casinos. The number is likely higher, considering Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun presently take in more than $80 million a year from New Hampshire residents.It went on to predict the state would also lose an additional $90 million each year in revenues that would have come to New Hampshire if we had passed a limited expanded gambling proposal.The report concluded if Massachusetts moves forward with gambling and New Hampshire does not, it would significantly impact our own lottery revenue and rooms and meals tax revenue. That is a very real threat to our economy.New Hampshire residents have already told us what to do. Poll after poll shows nearly two-thirds of residents support gaming. Not as a way to spend more money, but as a way to keep the current budget in balance and reduce taxes for residents and businesses of our state.They have already figured out if we pass a limited expansion of gambling in this state, we can create thousands of new jobs and generate tens of millions of dollars in nontax revenue. This is the New Hampshire way because it’s a choice.Critics love to paint a picture of gloom and doom, saying expanded gambling is an open invitation to crime and addiction at all levels. They ignore the fact that gambling is in place in 40 states, and none of their predictions are happening in other places.Societal pressures from gambling already exist and, quite frankly, there isn’t an invisible wall that will keep New Hampshire residents out of Massachusetts. Any problems some might develop will come home with them. We can responsibly treat them with appropriate state resources.Done the New Hampshire way, the state of New Hampshire would own about half of the profits without assuming any of the risk. Developers who have to follow the rules we put into place assume the costs. We can borrow from the successes of any of the 40 states that have legalized gambling, but still do it our way.We are a tourism state. Expanding gambling can generate real revenues that are sustainable over time, which will provide jobs to Granite Staters. That is what voters asked us to do last November.The only gamble is to sit back and do nothing while our money funds the Bay State economy.Rep. Kenneth Weyler, R-Kingston, is chairman of the House Finance Committee.