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Wilton

What’s in cards for N.H. casino?

  • Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Five State Representatives heard concerns from residents of multiple towns about a bill that might attract casinos to Southern New Hampshire. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

WILTON — The N.H. House of Representatives is poised to make a decision on Bill 152 — also known as the Casino Bill — on Wednesday.

Exactly one week earlier — last Wednesday — five local representatives, including Steve Spratt, a member of the House supercommittee dedicated to looking at the pros and cons of the bill, were in Wilton to hear what their constituents had to say on the subject. For most of them, the idea of having a casino in their state was a mixed bag.

The bill would allow one casino with up to 5,000 video slot machines and 150 table games to be built in New Hampshire, with the former Rockingham State Park in Salem as a prime contender for the location.

The draws come mostly in the way of additional revenue for the state. Casinos must pay both licensing fees and a portion of their revenue to state committees. Estimates say a casino would also provide 4,000 construction jobs, and 2,000 jobs once it is built. But while some residents are in favor of the idea for the revenue it would bring to the state, others are concerned about social issues that could come with a large-scale casino, and with New Hampshire’s ability to draw in the crowds.

Most residents found some middle ground when discussing a casino in New Hampshire. While some were not strongly in support of a casino in the state, they did see the value in the revenue it would bring. Others were in favor of some of the additions that a casino might bring, such as a convention center, and felt that the trade-off might be worth it.

“A destination casino in New Hampshire has to have something unique,” Representative Kermit Williams, a Wilton Democrat, told the crowd. “Salem would be great for a convention center, and that’s a function that has nothing to do with gambling, that could attract people to the state. Salem is a much better driving situation than, say Boston, for a lot of local conventions.”

Wilton resident Carol Roberts said that if the House did approve the bill, she would like to see a clear understanding of how much of the profit that stood to be gained would be going to social programming to offset the potential problems a large casino could bring to the state.

“I charge you all to make sure that those social issues are addressed,” she told the representatives. “Make sure they don’t get off easy with that.”

Others felt strongly one way or the other on the issue. Rick Miller, a Greenville resident, said that he came to New Hampshire from New Jersey, and saw the same conversation happening when casinos were allowed in Atlantic City.

“They said that it would save the state,” Miller said during the forum. “They said all this money would be going into education. None of those things happened. They put up a block of casinos, and the city is as bad off as it ever was.”

Miller said that he also questions the impact of casinos in neighboring states on an operation in New Hampshire.

“Why would people come to New Hampshire when there’s casinos in Massachusetts and Maine?” he asked. He pointed out that New Hampshire has a low population, and said the state would have to rely heavily on gamblers coming from out of state to generate the kinds of revenue that had been promised, and he doesn’t think that could happen with the number of casinos either already in place or being proposed in neighboring states.

Lindi Higgins of Wilton agreed, saying she thought that a New Hampshire casino would only be a draw for New Hampshire residents.

“I think with some Yankee ingenuity we can find other ways to make money without casinos,” she said.

Bethy Williams, a Wilton resident, disagreed, however. New Hampshire is a vacation spot for the surrounding states, she said, and having a destination like a casino would just add to the draw, she said.

“Maybe I’m the only one in the room, but I’m completely in favor of a casino,” she said. “I’m positive people will come. People in Massachusetts see New Hampshire as vacation land. If we had a destination, I think people would come more often.”

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