- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire’s Senate voted as expected Thursday to hold on to casino legislation and wait to see what the House does with its own casino measure.

The Senate voted without debate to table a bill that would allow the state to issue licenses for two casinos sharing 5,000 video slots and 240 table games. The House has repeatedly rejected casinos, most recently last May when it killed a Senate bill that authorized one casino.

Gov. Maggie Hassan has said repeatedly she supports only one casino, which the House proposal would authorize. The House bill is the product of a special commission charged with developing regulations for a future casino.

State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro sponsored the bill the House rejected and the latest Senate effort. He says he added a second casino license to the latest bill to answer critics who complained last year’s bill created a monopoly and was tailored to one location - Rockingham Park race track in Salem.

The Lottery Commission estimates two casinos with a total of 5,000 video slot machines and 240 table games would generate $168 million for the state and about $480 million for the two license holders when they were fully operating in 2018. The state also would get about $125 million from application and licensing fees.

The bill would restrict the casinos to a maximum of 1,500 seats for entertainment venues. D’Allesandro said that is to protect the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester which has about 10,000 seats.

Meanwhile, a House committee is considering a bill that is the product of a special commission that proposed licensing one casino and strengthening gambling regulations.

The Senate has proposed using gambling revenue to pay for highway improvements among other projects. The House, meanwhile, passed a gas tax increase last year to pay for road fixes, but the Senate killed it.

The New Hampshire Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority, which was created after the House killed the Senate’s casino bill, recommended licensing one casino with up to 5,000 video slots and 150 table games, the same numbers proposed in the House bill.

The proposed regulations are much more extensive than were in the bill killed by the House, but limits on the number of video slots allowed and other details about a new casino are nearly identical. Casino supporters are concerned New Hampshire will lose revenue to Massachusetts, which is licensing three casinos and one video slots parlor.

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