CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire’s Senate has passed a revised casino gambling bill that proponents hope will capture enough votes to win support from a House reluctant to expand gambling.
Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, the bill’s prime sponsor, added key features from a bill the House defeated in hopes of winning votes for passage. D'Allesandro, a Manchester Democrat, also included a provision to share the state’s profits with communities. Casino supporters had hoped to put that provision before the House, but the House killed its bill two weeks ago without considering it.
“The revenue sharing takes care of every citizen, every city and town in New Hampshire,” D'Allesandro said.
But Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a Portsmouth Democrat, argued the promises of money for the state and communities was a false promise since future Legislatures could eliminate the revenue sharing.
“Every time a bill comes before us it promises a different way to use the revenues,” she said.
D'Allesandro incorporated parts of the House bill into his proposal. The defeated House bill would have legalized one casino with 5,000 video slot machines. D'Allesandro’s bill would license two casinos sharing the 5,000 video slot machines.
Supporters of the House bill estimated the state would get about $105 million in annual revenue from the casino. The Lottery Commission estimates two casinos as proposed in D'Allesandro’s bill would generate $168 million for the state and about $480 million for the two license holders when fully operating.
Some House lawmakers had objected to the House bill because they believed it would create a monopoly, while other opponents said legalizing a casino was an irreversible and negative change in the state’s image.
Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, has repeatedly said she supports only one casino.
Hassan, D'Allesandro and other casino supporters have said they believe New Hampshire should legalize a casino to capture gambling profits that otherwise will be spent in Massachusetts, which is licensing three casinos and one video slots parlor.
Last year, the House and Senate disagreed on how to raise money for big-ticket budget items such as highway improvements that include finishing the Interstate 93 expansion, higher education and economic development. The House passed a gas tax last year to pay for road fixes, but the Senate killed it after the House killed its gas tax proposal.
Thursday, the Senate passed a 4-cent increase in the tax on gas and diesel to pay for some highway improvements but mainly so the state can borrow money to finish the I-93 project and have money to pay off the debt.
D'Allesandro sweetened his casino bill by adjusting the distribution of the state’s profits to include $25 million in revenue sharing with communities. House gambling supporters had talked of adding that to the House bill had it survived.