The real impact of casino gambling in NH

If casino gambling matters to you, this is a year to ante up and head for the polls

As someone who spends nearly every   hour of every day thinking, talking, writing about politics, you can take it from me: your vote this fall will not repeal Obamacare or keep it, it will not lower your taxes or increase them on the rich, it won’t stop Northern Pass, overturn Roe v. Wade, do anything about climate change, lower gas prices, stop the NSA from snooping on who you call or what websites you visit, it won’t make college more affordable or increase the value in your 401(k).

Washington is too gridlocked for that and Concord has no power to do anything big anyway.

But … but … your vote in state elections — from governor on down to state representative — could have a very big impact on the future of the state.

In 2012, New Hampshire voters elected the first governor in state history devoted to establishing casino gaming. Democrat Maggie Hassan ran on the concept of passing a bill that would allow for one high-end casino, most likely ending up at Rockingham Park in Salem. Once elected, Hassan proposed a two-year budget that assumed that a casino law would pass and would be making the state money within two years.

That confidence was short-lived. Even though her own party controlled the NH House of Representatives, they did not appear to be inclined to vote for the state’s first casino.

With vote after vote and amendment after amendment, when the last tally was taken, casino gambling was stopped by a single vote.

To those Salem residents who overwhelmingly wanted a casino and for those who wanted gambling money for the state to invest more in social services or education, this was bad news. Ditto for those working in construction in a down economy and those who would eventually staff the casino.

But that one vote was great news for the vastly outspent grassroots effort that insisted that a casino, even one directly on the Massachusetts border, would fundamentally alter the state’s culture, causing the poor and elderly to waste money and leading to the break-up of families.

If you find yourself feeling one way or the other, your voice will count this election. If you don’t particularly care about the issue, this might be a good time to read up and make a decision.

In the governor’s race, Democrat Hassan still wants a casino, while her Republican opponent does not. But this is not about Republicans versus Democrats. There are Republicans who oppose gambling for moral reasons or who are worried it will enlarge government. Then there are those Republicans who are for it if revenue can be used to lower taxes. The divisions among Democrats are just as wide and complicated.

The Granite State isn’t the only state taking up casino gambling this fall. Neighboring Massachusetts already passed a law allowing for casinos to be created. This year, voters there will be asked on the ballot if they want to repeal it.

Categories: Politics