Town seeks more info on gambling site

HUDSON – News that a large-scale gambling and recreational complex could be coming to the 375-acre Green Meadow Golf Club property in the foreseeable future drew plenty of reaction from Telegraph readers, but town officials said they’d like to see more information about the plan.

State Rep. Shawn Jasper has an interesting position in that he lives in Hudson, is on the board of selectmen and will have a chance to vote on the bill as a member of the House of Representatives.

He said he’s always been against expanded gambling at the racetracks because he sees them as a place for New Hampshire residents to lose their paychecks. But a “destination resort” that is properly regulated could be a boon to the region and the state, he said.

“I think it’s something worth exploring,” Jasper said. “If there’s going to be a destination and it’s well regulated and run, there’s a great benefit to taxpayers if it’s sited in southern New Hampshire.”

He wasn’t ready to declare Green Meadows a prime location for such a resort, but said the area seems a likely spot for several reasons.

“Certainly it’s something that needs to be studied very carefully,” Jasper said. “It’s not something that should be jumped into headfirst.”

Meanwhile, selectmen’s chairman Ben Nadeau and Town Administrator Steve Malizia both said they haven’t seen a formal proposal come across their desks for the proposed casino complex, which would be an upscale destination resort called Sagamore Crossing Golf Resort & Convention Center.

Still, “The prospect of revenue and a lot of jobs is also very attractive,” Nadeau said. “Of course, it’s still early in the process, we haven’t seen any hard numbers yet, but I’m sure we’ll have time to sit down with them after the (town) elections (on March 10).

No final plans for the complex have been drafted yet, said Jay Leonard, the lawyer and vice president of development for Greenmeadow. That step will come, he said, if and when the proposal clears its initial hurdle – passage of a legislative bill to legalize expanded gambling in New Hampshire.

Known as HB 593, the highly comprehensive bill would allow for three such “destination resorts” – places like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun – to be built in New Hampshire. Besides Hudson, the others would be in Berlin and Lincoln.

Leonard and Green Meadow’s legislative lobbyist, former State Sen. Bob Clegg of Hudson, said this week that whether the project goes forward depends on the fate of HB 593.

“We couldn’t realize our revenue projections without being able to offer expanded gambling,” Clegg said. The company estimates that it could return $200 million per year in revenue for the state and local governments.

If HB 593 were to pass, Leonard said, the company would present their proposal to town boards; then, as is stipulated in the bill, voters would decide whether the project could proceed.

Nadeau said Friday that while it’s too early for the board to take a stand, he is pleased, on a personal level, to see a golf course in the proposal. “At first glance, it appears to me (the site) won’t be overdeveloped . . . I think it’s a very good use of the Green Meadow property,” he said.

Malizia, meanwhile, agreed with Nadeau’s assessment that a golf course would be a positive. “It’s premature to comment (on the proposal) right now, but I’m pleased that they seem to be keeping at least one of the golf courses and are planning for some open space.”

Leonard, who said the company is continuing to tweak the proposal, said a vote on HB593 is probably two months out, which would put it in mid to late April.

Jasper thinks it’s unlikely the bill will pass this year. It’s more likely, he said, it will languish in a House committee during the summer and fall and have a better chance of passage in 2010.

“It’s a very complicated bill,” he said. “I really don’t believe that the bill is likely to pass at this time.”

He added, in its current form, he would vote against the bill because it would allow expanded gambling at the racetracks.