This week the House Joint Committee of Ways and Means & Finance voted to reject SB 152, the casino bill by a 23-22 margin. While this vote was not a decisive victory for either side, there are many aspects of this bill to consider before it comes up for a vote by the full House next Wednesday.
SB 152, is a flawed piece of legislation. In fact, the Joint Committee heard 18 different amendments – including one that was 55 pages long! – that might supplement, clarify, or fix broken pieces in the bill.
The majority of legislators on the Joint Committee realized that after a month of hearings and testimony, SB 152 is a gamble for the Granite State. Many asked the question, “What is the real benefit to New Hampshire?”
Casino supporters will tell you that New Hampshire is desperate for new streams of revenue, and that building a casino is the only way to provide it. But, let’s take a minute to dig deeper. Is our state really benefiting from this one-time $80 million licensing fee? Shouldn’t we recognize that fee for what it is: one big payday loan? SB 152 will give an out-of-state casino operator license to drain hundreds of millions from our economy – is this really the New Hampshire way?
Studies and research have shown that gambling typically hurts, not helps, existing businesses by siphoning away discretionary dollars that would otherwise circulate in the local economy – the kind of small businesses that are the heart of our economy here in New Hampshire. And that’s before considering the economic costs of gambling associated with increased crime, additional law enforcement costs, and treatment for gambling addiction, which may well exceed the community’s total revenue from gambling.
I have talked personally with both Democrats and Republicans on the Joint Committee, both acknowledging the societal impact that bringing a casino to New Hampshire would have. The Joint Committee heard from some of the world’s leading experts on gambling who made it clear that these impacts are real and that they are costly. The question becomes, is endangering the well-being of our small businesses and families worth a temporary band-aid on our budget?
Before the House votes next Wednesday the 22nd, I urge you to call your representatives and ask them to vote to kill SB 152, because passing this bill would be too big a gamble for New Hampshire.
Cornerstone-Action and Cornerstone Policy Research are non-partisan, non-profit organizations dedicated to preserving New Hampshire’s traditional values, limited government, and free markets through education, information and advocacy. Our vision is to create an environment in which strong families—the foundation of our society—can lead New Hampshire into a new era of prosperity and strength. For more information, please visit nhcornerstone.org.
Ashley Pratte, Executive Director