Ted Siefer's City Hall: Video machines and gambling: What gambling?
The topic at Tuesday's meeting of the Administration Committee was video poker machines and their reputed use for gambling. The city charges $2,000 a year to license a single machine.
One person not smiling was Ward 12's Keith Hirschmann, the alderman who put the matter on the agenda. He was alarmed after reading about the bust of a drug ring whose alleged ringleaders were tied to a West Side pizza restaurant that was licensed to have three video poker machines.
But Hirschmann didn't find a whole lot of like minds on the committee. Its chairman, Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Craig, pointed out that the ordinance governing the "amusement devices" has numerous restrictions.
"I would consider it an extremely strong ordinance, regarding not only what devices are licensable, but where they're placed," he said.
Normand didn't mention it, but it bears noting that the machines generated about $240,000 in revenue for the city in the 2014 fiscal year.
Manchester police, in coordination with the state Liquor Commission and federal agents, spent the better part of the past year on an investigation of illegal gambling that resulted last month in seven arrests and the seizure of cash and machines from three establishments in Manchester.
Normand said while drug conspiracy charges have been brought against a co-owner of the pizza restaurant and a person state police described as a former employee, there hasn't been a trial.
The committee voted to receive and file Hirschmann's agenda item, but the alderman is undaunted.
Hirschmann has a meeting tentatively scheduled with police officials this week.
Noting that state police alleged that the pizza restaurant spent less than $20 a month on food supplies, he said the machines give businesses an unfair advantage.
The owners of JW Hills, the downtown restaurant and bar, were willing to pay $20,000 of the roughly $25,000 remaining on their original $75,000 RLF loan, with a single $15,000 lump sum payment and the remainder being paid off in $1,000 installments over the next five months.
Alderman Osborne once again summed up the situation succinctly: "Take it while we can get it."
By now, you've no doubt heard about STEAM Ahead NH, the program to begin at West High in the fall aimed at setting students on career tracks in science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.
The idea is to be able to send all fourth-grade students on an all-expenses paid field trip to the SEE Science Center in Manchester. Gatsas is working on the project with inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, a major booster of science and technology education and the founder of the FIRST Robotics program.
Ted Siefer is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @tbsreporter.
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