If you live in New Hampshire, it’s quite a haul to the nearest casino. It’s at least a two-hour drive to Foxwoods and even longer to the New York upstate tribal casinos. Because of the travel, a lot of Granite State residents tend to stay home.
But casinos are popping up across the Northeast (in New York and Massachusetts). That means state residents will soon have more opportunities to visit casinos quite a bit closer to home. Additionally, if some New Hampshire lawmakers get their way, they won’t even have to leave the state.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by State Senator Lou D’Allesandro recently introduced a bill, SB 242, that would authorize up to two casinos in the state.
Why New Hampshire and casinos?
Sparsely populated New Hampshire may not seem like a good candidate for a casino, particularly with its location in the northeast corner of the country, essentially surrounded by water, wilderness, mountains and snow.
For these reasons, the state can’t support the destination resort-style casinos like the ones in Massachusetts, but it could support one or two regional casinos. These smaller casinos could keep a lot of New Hampshire’s gaming dollars in the state and give people in nearby Vermont, Maine, northern and western Massachusetts and eastern New York additional options.
Inside the bill
The bill introduced by Sen. D’Allesandro (a Democrat) was cosponsored by seven other lawmakers:
- Rep. Peter Leishman [D]
- Rep. Michael O’Brien [D]
- Sen. Bette Lasky [D]
- Rep. Daniel Sullivan [D]
- Sen. William Gannon [R]
- Sen. Donna Soucy [D]
- Rep. Patrick Long [D]
Much the way Massachusetts structured its casino law, the New Hampshire bill would set up a general fund as well as agreements with host and surrounding communities. The bill also calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to “support addiction programs in cities and towns under the revenue sharing agreement, and the gaming regulatory fund.”
A hearing on the bill will take place on Wednesday.
Similar efforts have come close to passing
Unlike the state’s recently introduced online gambling legalization bill — NH isn’t likely to join New Jersey on this front — this isn’t the first time the Granite State has considered casino gambling. The state’s lawmakers are well-versed on the subject.
In fact, the Senate has passed several casino bills in the past dozen years, only to see them voted down by the House of Representatives. D’Allesandro has been leading efforts to bring casino gambling to New Hampshire for the bulk of that time.
The closest the state came to casino gaming occurred in 2014. That’s when a casino expansion bill passed the Senate only to fall short by a single vote in the House.
Most recently, the bill SB 551 would have authorized a single casino in Salem, but it was defeated in the Senate last year by a vote of 13-11.