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Casino money: Robbing Peter to pay Paul

April 10. 2013 5:49PM

New Hampshire needs a casino, we are constantly told, so the state will have enough revenue to fund all the great things politicians want to fund. Have you ever stopped to wonder where all of that money will come from?

Casino backers claim that flatlanders will flock to New Hampshire to play in the glorious gaming palaces. From where will they flock? Massachusetts? That state is getting three of its own casinos and one slot-machine parlor. It will have one casino in each region of the state, including a big one in or near Boston. Why would any Bay Stater come to New Hampshire to gamble once those casinos (approved by law in 2011) are built?

Vermont has less than half of New Hampshire's population, and Maine's is roughly equivalent to New Hampshire's. Both of those states have median incomes that are more than $10,000 lower than New Hampshire's. We are going to count on hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue from the handful of our poorer eastern and western neighbors who are willing to drive here on the weekends to play slots and roulette?

No, the bulk of the money will come from Granite Staters. Casino backers acknowledge this when they talk of casinos retaining the money Granite Staters already spend at casinos in Connecticut.

That is why organizations like the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association oppose expanded gambling. The NHLRA board overwhelmingly opposes casinos, noting that "casino gambling revenues will come at the expense of other recreational activities in our seacoast, lakes and mountains throughout the state. This will lead to reductions in rooms and meals taxes and losses in retail expenditures," NHLRA chairman Joel Bourassa wrote to the group's members last week.

Bingo. Casinos would rob Peter to pay Paul. In New Hampshire's case, Peter represents restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and charities that benefit from the existing small-scale charitable gaming operations. Paul represents billionaire casino owners and the state. That is not a good trade off.

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