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NH gambling expansion bill vote delayed, approval unlikely

TAGs: House Bill 593, Lottery Commission, Rep. Stephen Stepanek

New HampshireLawmakers in New Hampshire are getting increasingly anxious as the prospect of gambling expansion is delayed yet again. The vote on House Bill 593 made before House lawmakers – which would decide on whether to approve two casinos in the state – was pushed back another week yesterday. Good news for those not prepared for their last chance to make their case, annoying for those who are as ready as ever.

If approved, House Bill 593 would allow the Lottery Commission to license two casinos in the state – one right away and one in two years’ time – with each licence costing $50 million. The bill would also have a $500,000 fee to apply for a license and its holder would be granted permission to install 5,000 slots and tables. New Hampshire’s share of the proceeds would stand at 35% of slot revenue and 8% of table games, which would in turn lower business taxes.

In a report by UnionLeader, the House gambling plan’s main man, Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Stephen Stepanek, said his committee will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to the plan before bringing the proposal to a vote.

As always, some members of the House have opposed the plan, some lawmakers say the bill would give the license winners a monopoly therefore violating the state Constitution, and some argue it will create problems costing the state additional revenue. Chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, Jim Ruben, said in UnionLeader’s report the real reason the vote was delayed was because the House leadership found “they were hopelessly underwater on the vote count and they wanted to avoid the embarrassment.”

Bitter Ruben said his group will be there Monday to oppose the bill at the public hearing, which doesn’t bode well for the bill’s backers – House leadership – especially since the House has never approved expanding gambling that includes video slots machines or casinos. NH’s legal history in gambling expansion, such as its online lottery, tells us that an approval on this bill is also very unlikely.

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