Although the legalization of casino gambling has been consistently rejected by the New Hampshire legislature and opposed by a long line of attorneys general, the false promise of easy money has brought it back to be debated yet again in the current legislative session.
Setting the stage, the commission appointed by Gov. Maggie Hassan to develop a regulatory structure for casinos conveniently went beyond its assignment and produced an 81-page bill that not only establishes a large state bureaucracy to oversee large-scale commercial gambling, but also authorizes a casino in Salem.
Ironically, WhiteSand, the “consultant” hired by the governor to work with the commission, not only advises the gaming industry, but also develops, manages and operates casinos in the U.S. and foreign countries. A casino developer advising a state how to regulate commercial gambling? Sounds like a classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse to us. But that’s not the reason we would urge legislators to vote against this bill when the time comes.
While we appreciate the work of the Governor’s Gaming Oversight Regulatory Authority, the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t make a bad idea better. The negatives of legalized casino gambling outweigh any potential benefits to our state.
Once we legalize casino gambling, New Hampshire state government will quickly become addicted to casino tax revenue. Over time, our state will increasingly be in the business of making casinos succeed and expand.
It won’t take long for the gaming industry to gain undue political influence. All you need is for the owner of a casino, which delivers tens of millions of dollars to the state, to take a position on a bill and say, if you don’t pass this bill, or veto this bill, I’m going to have to lay off a thousand people and legislators will be forced to go along. Just ask state officials in Delaware, which bailed out its casino industry last year to the tune of $8 million.
The crime, addiction and social costs associated with machine gambling are likely to offset the majority of revenue gained by the state. The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, which did the research for Gov. John Lynch’s Gaming Study Commission, estimates that while expanded gambling will yield revenue to the state, the social costs of problem gambling mean no long-term net state benefit when the tax on casino operations is set at 30 percent or less.
Even if the tax rate is set as high as 40 percent, the Center estimates that competition from a Massachusetts casino at Suffolk Downs (in Revere, Mass.) would cut into a Salem casino’s revenue to such an extent that the social costs borne by New Hampshire and the revenue it gained would be a net wash.
If a casino opens in the Granite State, its advertising and marketing will drown out New Hampshire’s self-promotion as a great place to live, do business and raise a family. Casino gambling will destroy a state brand that has taken decades of hard work to create, and that will be disastrous.
In short, the facts are clear. Expanded gambling is a bad idea. Creating an expensive state bureaucracy to regulate it doesn’t make it any better. Once we let one casino in, more will follow. No state has stopped at one casino. Over time, our state will become addicted to casino revenue and there will be no turning back. This is not a choice we will ever be able to reverse.
That’s why leaders in law enforcement, business, the arts, religious leaders and legislators have joined together as Casino Free New Hampshire and the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling to once again remind our legislators that legalizing casino gambling is a bad idea to begin with and creating a new bureaucracy to regulate it won’t make it any better.
If you believe, as we do, that this is a bad idea for New Hampshire, we urge you to let your elected representative know that no matter how tempting the revenue is, the negatives of casino gambling outweigh any potential benefits to our state.
Harold Janeway of Webster is a former Democratic state senator. Steve Duprey of Concord is a businessman and N.H. member of the Republican National Committee. They are spokesmen for the non-profit, non-partisan Casino Free New Hampshire and Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling. More information is available at www.casinofreenh.org