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April 30. 2013 10:20PM

Lakes Region Casino shutters its slot machines over state rules, regulations

A Lakes Region casino shut down its slot machines last month when state officials ordered it to stop using Visa cards as jackpot payouts, the company spokesman said.

Belmont-based Lakes Region Casino plans to resume slot operations today, but with jackpots only payable in points, which can be redeemed for merchandise, in-house restaurant food and additional slot games, said Rick Newman, a spokesman for the Casino.

Newman said Lakes Region has been operating slots for years and started issuing the Visa cards about 14 months ago. At the time, it informed the New Hampshire Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission hierarchy, and they said it seemed like a smart idea, Newman said.

A telephone call left for a commission official was not returned Tuesday.

Newman said the objection came early last month, when the Commission sent Lakes Region Casino a letter saying the cash cards violated the law and ordering them to stop.

"It kind of threw us for a loop," Newman said. "Frankly, I don't think the commission is reading the law correctly."

But he said Lakes Region Casino is not going to get into a disagreement with a quasi-judicial body.

The casino, which also operates gambling operations such as blackjack, poker, craps and roulette for charities, has 96 slot machines on premises. A pull ranges from 1 cent to 5 cents.

"They're pretty much entertainment. This isn't Foxwoods; you can't win millions of dollars off them," he said.

Newman said the machines led to dramatic increases in food and beverage sales as well as charitable gaming, which increased $120,000 in wagers after the machines were installed.

Couples would come into Lakes Region Casino; one would patronize the casino games, the other the slots.

Newman said the casino plans to make the points redeemable for items such as T-shirts, video games, food from the casino restaurant and appliances. He even envisioned a Lakes Region Casino version of the old S&H green stamps.

He said customers could save up enough for a laptop or iPhone.



mhayward@unionleader.com


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