Casino bills geared to protect charities, but flaw cited
And supporters of expanded gambling have been careful to add protections for those charities in their proposals. But some say it won't be enough.
Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, a leading proponent of expanded gambling, said he understands how important gambling revenues have become to New Hampshire nonprofits - to the tune of $13.1 million in the last fiscal year.
He inserted a clause in his latest casino measure, Senate Bill 366, that would make any charities that held charitable games during the 2012 fiscal year eligible to receive payments from a casino if they lose money because of the competition.
Essentially, the casino would have to pay the charities the difference between what they made in fiscal 2012 and what they make after the casino arrives.
"We've made every effort to preserve what the charities get, which I think is extraordinary, to be honest with you," D'Allesandro said. "We don't want the charities to lose out. They have been depending on this revenue, and we've made every effort to make sure that they continue to get the revenue."
Rep. William Butynski, D-Hinsdale, plans to propose a similar amendment to the House expanded gambling measure, House Bill 1633. And he said, "Frankly, I don't think the casino bill will pass without it ... because people care about charities and the good work that they do."
Butynski said the charities here should really be worried about what happens if Massachusetts puts a casino near the border, since there won't be the same protections New Hampshire lawmakers are proposing.
Once a big casino comes in, he said, smaller facilities such as his won't be able to compete.
"When I go out of business, they're not going to be able to run (charity games) anymore," he said. "As soon as they don't run anymore, they don't get any money.
"They might pay it the first year, they might pay a smaller amount the second year, but by the third year, there won't be any more charitable gaming operators."
D'Allesandro acknowledged if a licensed gaming facility went out of business, the charities that run their games there would no longer be covered by the hold-harmless provision. "That would be problematic," he said.
"Charitable gaming will be wiped out if there are casinos," said Jim Rubens, a former Republican state senator from Hanover who has been a leading opponent of expanded gambling.
Charitable gaming in New Hampshire "evolved in a fairly free-form, unregulated or lightly regulated ... manner, without many people being aware of the totality of it," he said. "The oversight is certainly light and uneven."