Millennium one vote shy of bringing gambling to N.H.

Just one vote separated Millennium Gaming’s Bill Wortman and Bill Paulos from finally seeing the New Hampshire lawmakers approve casino gambling in the Granite State.
For more than a decade, the Las Vegas-based Wortman and Paulos, operators of the Cannery casinos, as well as a racino in Pennsylvania, have held an option to acquire the defunct Rockingham Park in Salem should the state agree to expand gambling.
Consistently, lawmakers have turned down bills that would authorize one or more casinos. The bill that failed by one vote last week would permit two casinos. Likely, said observers, one of the licenses would be located in Salem.
That town’s residents have been opening their arms to the revitalization of Rockingham Park, most recently used for charitable gambling. Last June, 81 percent of the town’s voters favored a casino in a non-binding referendum.
Shockingly, three of the town’s representatives voted against the bill when it failed by a 173-172 vote in the House. The Senate already has approved Senate bill 366.
Salem Representatives Marlinda Garcia, Bianca Garcia and Patrick Bick cast negative votes.
Asked about her vote, Marlinda Garcia was quoted as saying she was influenced by “the very valid concerns of many New Hampshire citizens that we are selling out New Hampshire interests to developers from Las Vegas for a quick buck.”
Ironically, the citizens of Salem could have had New England’s first casino back in 1984, but the influence of local as well as state politicians killed the proposal. It was a planned proposed by Kirk Kerkorian’s MGM following the devastating fire that leveled two-thirds of what was at that time one of the country’s premier “country” racetracks.
MGM officials promised the track operators, publicly-traded N.H. Jockey Club, Inc., to rebuild the racetrack if state officials would pass a law that would permit a casino on the southern New Hampshire property.
At the time, with opposition from a number of Salem residents, including John Sununu, who would later become governor, the proposal never got off the ground.
The argument then, that such a gambling facility would affect the citizens’ quality of life, is the same argument used by a number of gambling opponents more than 30 years later.
Casino gambling is not dead in New Hampshire since the House voted to reconsider the matter this week.
Proponents argue time is of the essence in order to place New Hampshire in a competitive position with Massachusetts, where three casinos will soon be authorized.

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