Gambling

Scott Spradling, Fix It Now member, and Jim Rubens, Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling. This issue has been updated by LFDA editors.

Some forms of gambling have been permitted in New Hampshire since 1933, when pari-mutuel betting began, followed by the opening of the Rockingham Park horse track and later the Seabrook dog track.*

We were the first state to have a lottery, which was established in 1964, and in 2010 it generated net revenue of $66 million.

State revenue for gambling goes towards education programs, and since our official lottery began over $1.3 billion has been generated for this purpose.

New Hampshire also permits several other forms of gambling, such as bingo and poker, with a portion of proceeds benefitting charities. An undetermined number of residents also gamble online on illegal gambling websites that are not state regulated.

To deal with the state's budgetary stresses, worsened by the recent recession, several bills were introduced in the Legislature during the 2009 ' 2012 sessions to legalize video slot machines at race tracks (racinos), certain hotels and resorts, or at state-owned facilities. None of the bills passed in the Legislature, but the issue is still hotly debated because of continuing state budget problems.

A gaming commission formed by then-Gov. John Lynch in 2009 studied the issue for several months and reached the following conclusions in its final report:

  • Expanded gaming would generate additional revenues and economic activity, but it would also generate additional societal and economic costs. 
  • Expansion will increase the number of problem gamblers.
  • Proliferation of gaming is a concern, but one with no clear solution.
  • New Hampshire needs to review its regulation of gaming.
  • A data-driven, proactive analysis about the impact of expanded legalized gaming on the state's image and brand is needed in order to better determine and manage potential risks and opportunities.

Recent Developments

As part of the budget compromise in June 2013, the House and Senate convened the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority to study and recommend a regulatory structure for gambling.  On December 9, 2013 the Authority revealed a 2014 bill, HB 1633, that included a regulatory structure and the authorization for a 5,000-slot casino.  Despite the significant effort legislators dedicated to HB 1633, the House killed the bill in March 2014.  The House also killed all other expanded gambling proposals. In 2015, Sen. Lou D'Allesandro sponsored SB 113, a bill that would authorize two casinos in New Hampshire.  It was ultimately killed by the house. HB 169, a bill that raises limits on some types of bets in poker and other games of chance, was signed by Gov. Maggie Hassan in June 2015. 

Check out our exclusive podcast here, in which Sen. Lou D'Allesandro and Jim Rubens debate the pros of cons of casino gambling in New Hampshire.  Click here to see a Facebook conversation with Sen. Lou D'Allesandro about expanded gambling.

*A law banning live dog racing was passed in 2010.

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By Scott Spradling

The state needs the revenue and the alternatives are worse:

  • Our legislature began work on our state budget for the next fiscal biennium (2010-2011) facing a budget deficit from existing taxes and expenses estimated at $400 million to $500 million. The final approved and balanced budget included numerous tax increases and spending cuts, but also significant one-time benefits that will go away next time around.
  • Expanded gambling has the potential to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and solve our budget problems once and for all without any new taxes (such as a sales or income tax) and without bumping up the rates on the many other taxes we have in the state.
  • Expanded gambling will create lots of new jobs and draw tourists
  • With the current recession, expanded gambling with new licenses will generate a large numbers of good jobs in our state. Millennium Gaming of Nevada proposes to modernize Rockingham Park at a cost of $450 million creating thousands of jobs, and that is just one project.
  • Locating gambling sites in various regions of the state will draw tourists to those areas, and could be a major improvement to the economy of the North Country

The fear of increased crime rates is overblown:

  • The fear that a large increase in crime will accompany expanded gambling is not backed up by the facts. FBI data of 2005 show that the crime rate of Las Vegas is below the comparable rates of cities such as Phoenix, Arizona, Orlando, Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In addition, the proposed legislation would devote some of the funds from gambling to recovery programs for problem gamblers.
  • A GAO report in 2000 concluded that "in general, existing data were not sufficient to quantify or define the relationship between gambling and crime'Although numerous studies have explored the relationship between gambling and crime, the reliability of many of these studies is questionable."

"Against" Position

By Jim Rubens

The gambling revenues are overstated and will not solve our state budget problems:

  • Casino tax revenues have not fixed budget problems in other states. Casino states have budget problems no less severe than New Hampshire's and casino revenues are declining nationwide. In fact, racinos may become a tax drain in some states. Rhode Island legislators are considering using taxpayer dollars to buy a bankrupt race track casino there. Maryland passed a racino law and that state, too, is considering using taxpayer money to prop up two bankrupt racetracks - and casino developers have purchased licenses for only half the number of authorized slot machines.
  • Of all states with legalized slot machines or casinos, everyone has either a sales or income tax, all but 6 have both.
  • Gambling interests are overstating revenue projections. Slots revenue may not arrive in time to fix the budget deficit this biennium. First license and operating revenues would be received no earlier than about 24 months after a legalization vote (the typical elapsed time in the seven most recent racino states).

Gambling businesses may not be additive, they cannibalize other local businesses:

  • Slot casinos of the type being proposed for New Hampshire may not benefit the state's economy and simply cannibalize existing local businesses. A literature survey done for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston states, "[c]asinos that cater to a local market generally do not bring outside money into the economy ' [and] may have no net ancillary economic impacts. Residents patronizing such casinos may simply substitute gambling for other goods and services."

Gambling creates many negative social problems and increases crime rates:

  • Multiple casino locations may force negative social and economic impacts on many New Hampshire communities. These impacts include: higher rates of gambling addiction, violent crime, domestic abuse, suicide, and increased welfare, social service and criminal justice costs.
  • A 2006 study published in The Review of Economics and Statistics found that, by the fifth year after the introduction of a casino, host counties saw rates of robbery, aggravated assault, auto theft, burglary, larceny, and rape increase by an average of 10 percent. The casino-crime link has been shown in several additional studies, with the Review of Economics and Statistics study now used to assess casino impacts in most independent gambling cost-benefit analyses. Gambling advocates often cite older studies which use small sample sizes and less rigorous statistical methods and report no definite link between casinos and crime.
     
  • Gambling addiction treatment fails to solve the problem created by casinos. Six casinos spread around the state would increase baseline pathological gambling disorder by about 1 percent of New Hampshire's adult population. Only 7-12 percent of gambling addicts even attempt to access available addiction treatment services. About half or more of revenue at a typical slots casino is extracted from problem and pathological gamblers, meaning that the state budget would be built around the continuous creation of new gambling addicts to replace those who gamble themselves and their families into bankruptcy.
     
  • Slots are several times more addictive and harmful than existing New Hampshire gambling. Gambling addiction onset is over 3 times faster with slot machines compared with table games, lotteries, or betting on animal racing. Here are the intake statistics from the Rhode Island Gambling Treatment Program: 69% slots, 10% horses or dogs, 9% table games, 8% lottery. Through frequent display of "near misses," slot machines are designed to make players think that they are winning 2 to 5 times more than in reality. Recent brain science shows how these near misses promote gambling addiction.
     

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Passed House and Senate

Allows poker games in private residences so long as there is no benefit for the host.

In Committee

Increases the limits on wagers at charitable gaming venues from $4 to $10.

In Committee

Makes some changes to the facilities licenses for charitable gaming. For example, this bill removes the limit on facilities licenses that may be issued annually.

Passed House and Senate

Prohibits employers who are game operators from receiving any distribution from any employee tip pool.

In Committee

Decreases the pari-mutuel tax from 1.25% (horse racing) and 1.5% (dog racing) to 0.5%of the total contributions.

Passed House

Allows keno games in New Hampshire, with local approval. 8% of keno proceeds would go to the venue licensed to host the game. The remainder would go to school funding and gambling addiction prevention and treatment.

In Committee

Allows online gambling.

Passed House and Senate

Regulates online fantasy sports. As the bill was introduced, fantasy sport operators would pay an annual fee of up to $5,000 and a 5% tax on revenue (which may be credited against other business taxes). The amended bill keeps regulations and requires fantasy sports operators to register with the state, but does not include any fees or taxes.

Passed House and Senate

Allows historic horse racing. The Senate amended the bill to instead extend the license for simulcast horse racing at a location in Cheshire County, provided that the location conducts a live horse race within two years of obtaining the license.

Killed in the House

Authorizes one smaller and one larger casino with video lottery and table gaming. The smaller casino would pay an initial ten-year license fee of $40 million, and the larger casino would pay an initial ten-year license fee of $80 million. The casinos would pay a tax of 35% on gross slot machine revenue and 18% on gross table game revenue. The Legislature would choose how to distribute this revenue, provided that some of the revenue goes to towns hosting or neighboring the casino, and some of the revenue goes to treat problem gambling.

In Committee

Doubles the maximum price of Lucky 7 tickets.

Tabled in the Senate

Permits poker games in private residences so long as there is no benefit to the host.

Killed in the House

Establishes a commission to review and make recommendations for changing the charitable gaming laws in New Hampshire.

Killed in the House

Repeals the prohibition on many types of gambling.

Killed in the House

Allows for the establishment of state sports lottery games, in which the winners are determined based on the outcome of any professional or collegiate sporting event.

Interim Study

Increases the amount of chips a player may buy during a "table stakes" game.

Tabled in the Senate

Creates a single casino with video lottery and table gaming, to be located at Rockingham Park in Salem, NH. A tax of 35% of gross slot machine revenue and 18% of gross table game revenue would go to the state with dedicated portions of the funds going to addiction prevention programs and to Salem and neighboring communities.

Signed by Governor

Allows some larger bets in poker (current bet limit is $4).

Killed in the House

Defines poker as a game of skill, which would exempt poker from some of the state's gambling laws.

Signed by Governor

Allows the Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission to issue provisional secondary game operator licenses.

Killed in the Senate

Makes various changes to the application process for game operators in New Hampshire.

Killed in the Senate

Authorizes keno games licensed by the Lottery Commission.

Killed in the House

Allows race tracks where games of chance are held to apply for cocktail licenses. The Liquor Commission states of the ten licensed gaming facilities in New Hampshire, eight of them already hold some form of liquor license. Only two facilities also have a race track. The Commission is not able to determine the exact fiscal impact of this bill on state revenue, but the impact is probably minimal.

Killed in the House

Allows video lottery machines in establishments with a liquor license, distributes proceeds of video lottery machines to the education trust fund, and offsets the education property tax accordingly.

Killed in the House

Allows for the operation of slot machines by persons currently possessing a license to operate table games at a gaming location.

Killed in the House

Authorizes two casinos in New Hampshire. One destination casino would pay a $80 million license fee; a smaller casino would pay $40 million to the state. SB 113 also earmarks $25 million in casino profits for distribution to all New Hampshire municipalities.

Killed in the House

Authorizes one casino in New Hampshire, regulated by the Gaming Commission.

Killed in the House

Authorizes two casinos in New Hampshire, regulated by the Gaming Commission.

Killed in the House

Authorizes six casinos, regulated by the Gaming Oversight Authority.

Killed in the House

Authorizes six casinos, regulated by the Gaming Regulatory Commission.

Signed by Governor

Tightens the state's charitable gaming laws, for example requiring background checks for charitable gambling operators.

Killed in the House

Eases the $4 bet limit in poker games at charitable gaming venues.

Killed in the House

Changes the fee for charitable gaming licenses from $500 every year to $50,000 every five years.

Killed in the House

Defines poker as a game of skill, which would exempt poker from some of the state's gambling laws.

Killed in the House

Authorizes a casino.

Killed in the House

Authorizes three casinos in New Hampshire.

Should NH authorize one or more casinos?

FOR
REPRESENTATIVES

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UNDECIDED
REPRESENTATIVES

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AGAINST
REPRESENTATIVES

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Comments

robertj38's picture
Robert Paulding
- EastWakefield

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 12:58pm

I see the constant debate about this topic playing out in the state press and simply can't figure out what's the problem? State and local governments are not different then you or I. We all have expenses to cover so we can function. Anyone not living under a rock for the past 10 years knows that these expenses we must pay are going up. The federal government has been showing the rate of inflation at around 1% for years but when we go to a supermarket, department store or other retailer we've been seeing rising prices for years. Governments deal with that as well. Whether it be higher utility rates, fuel costs, office supplies, etc. they experience what we experience! All that said, we the people can complain about government spending and how they need to cut it but at the end of the day, their operating costs go up as well. Now comes gambling as a revenue source. Maine for example has reeled in tens of millions since Oxford opened up way up north. That's not near a heavily populated area. Hundreds of million have been given by Twin River in RI. MA is getting ready to move forward with their plans for casino gambling and where are we?

The state will get their revenue one way or the other, fact! Which would you prefer, taxes, fee hikes or Casino revenues. Personally, I'd prefer casino's. Casino's will have those who can afford to spend extra deposit their funds there. Additionally, tourists, whom we depend on, will now have another reason to come here. If taxes and fees are implemented, then that hits most everyone, including those on limited and fixed incomes causing more problems for them.

If this state can allow charity gambling, bingo and lottery to exist then the state can say yes to casino's. If not, those who vote no and like those 80 who didn't even vote at all last time around are pure hypocrits ! Those who are holding out because of some morals, need to look at their wallets when the state comes calling and make that decision. I and many others work hard for what we have and want to keep these things. When a revenue stream comes available to the state that doesn't impact me or my family, I'm on board!!!

robertj38's picture
Robert Paulding
- EastWakefield

Sat, 05/17/2014 - 12:57pm

I'm still fuming over the lost opportunity that our government messed up by not passing legalized gambling! If anyone googled revenue "Oxford Casino Maine", revenue is displayed to the state and the local community. That's a fact! This is a small town way up in Maine and has a large draw. We already have various forms of this here whether it be charity gambling, church bingo, lottery, etc.. Many of our elected officials appear to be hypocrites by turning their heads to this idea. This was a selected tax revenue for those willing to pay. Instead, they opt to pass a gasoline tax that affects everyone. This includes those who are having a hard times with the inflation that our government doesn't count! Those on fixed or limited incomes are hurting as well as the common person on the street. It almost seems that morals are at work. Here's a news flash, other states are going to benefit. We are a tourist state. Anyone who has to drive along 93, 95, Everett Turnpike or Rt 16 know how many people come here on the weekend.

The bottom line, if you don't like it, then don't go!!! We lost revenue, lost jobs for construction, lost jobs for operations, lost jobs for additional hotels, lost property tax revenue, we just lost. My elected officials in Carroll county will here my vote in the Fall! They obviously are out of touch with those people that are feeling the higher costs of living. These are the people who don not deserve the right to serve.

 

Bob Paulding

Wakefield, NH 

Ananta Gopalan
- Hampton

Sun, 05/04/2014 - 9:33pm

New Hampshire Constitution clearly states that the state must promote good morals, frugality and public virtue. Yet, our state government is engaged in promoting vices solely to bring in revenue to the state to support the uncontrolled patronage spending. It has failed in the basic expectation of our constitution while all those elected take an oath to protect and defend our constitution.

Gambling is being promoted to bring in a few million dollars while shedding crocodile tears on potential addiction. The state is already engaged in promoting gambling with its lottery sales. The excuse for that nefarious activity was that it funded education. It is for the children!  They even bring in sports personalities mostly idolized by children to promote lottery sales.

Now, they want to expand into the big time gambling.  They say that it would bring in several millions of dollars.  Some of the bills under consideration would set aside funds for treating the undesirable addiction-induced behavior of people as a result of that promotion- very compassionate gesture indeed!  

The state is also considering legalizing marijuana.  It started with medical marijuana smokescreen.  The state legislators see Colorado and have started to salivate for the few millions waiting to be harvested along with the weed.  They could probably follow the tobacco model for more revenue in the future.  The government promoted tobacco up until perhaps 1970s by offering cigarettes to those in uniform when they fully well knew that smoking was a health risk.  They then sued the tobacco companies to extort money when all of a sudden smoking became a public health issue.  They got billions from the companies and as part of that settlement, the states promised to pay for smoking cessation and the higher medical costs of treating smokers.  In New Hampshire, the funds went into the general fund and that meant very little is being spent for the stated directives of the settlement.  The government never made tobacco products illegal nor did the federal government eliminate tobacco subsidies.  The governments including New Hampshire found it convenient to keep increasing the taxes on the legal tobacco products and that way, they could have it both ways collecting money.  One could see that in the future  a few marijuana producers being hauled off to court to pay for the health related costs while increasing the taxes on the use of it at the same time. 

The state is already selling liquor on a monopoly basis.  So now, we have the state promoting or condoning use of alcohol, tobacco, gambling and probably marijuana while collecting taxes and/or settlement fees from each of those activities.  May be the state should consider promoting prostitution just like Nevada.  After all, with the state supervising it under strict rules, that won't be that bad, would it?  Imagine how many millions that would bring in.  The state could even say that it would be a way to get rid of the state property tax for education.  A properly stated end towards a public good can justify any means, in today's state government.

Can we demand some sanity at the state house?  Control the spending and stay away from promoting all the vices in the name of doing good with them.  Never ending greed for more dollars to spend is being rationalized at the state house to engage in activities of crime syndicates of the past.

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Issue Status

This year's casino gambling bill, SB 242, passed the Senate but died in the House. The bill would have authorized the creation of two casinos in the Granite State: one large and one small. Meanwhile, a move to legalize poker games in private residences, HB 164, passed the House and Senate. A bill to authorize Keno, HB 560, got approval from the House but remains in limbo in the Senate. 

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