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Editorial

Forum on casino bill open to all

Some say casinos have no place in New Hampshire because they come with the type of social costs that will degrade the quality of life we hold so dear.

Others contend we should build a casino because the windfall the state would receive will boost underfunded programs that are dependent on support from Concord.

Whether you’re for Senate Bill 152, or adamantly opposed, the reality is that this issue has many threads that weave themselves right through the fabric of who we are as a state.

The debate is intense and the complexities are many. But the solution is rather black and white. We either ante up or we fold and walk away.

Legislators charged with figuring out whether this is the best path for our state are holding public hearings that will allow residents to offer their thoughts, and perhaps bring up benefits or concerns that may resonate with voters who are just coming to the issue.

Wednesday night is about as good a chance as you get to tell those directly involved in the process just what you think about the proposal for a casino in southern New Hampshire. House Representatives Steve Spratt and Kermit Williams will be among our region’s state legislators who will attend a public hearing at the Wilton Town Hall at 7 p.m. According to those putting the event together, there will be no presentations made. All the time will be devoted to hearing the public out on an issue that has certainly captured many headlines over the past few months. The discussion is open to all.

The House has put together a supercomittee that includes three subcommittees that will look at revenue, regulation and community impact. On Thursday, members of the subcommittee will report their findings to the supercommittee, and points made at these types of forums will be critical in helping to shape this complex debate.

In a nutshell, SB 152 would open the door to one large casino in New Hampshire. The benefit, backers say, is that the licensing fee associated with that casino would give the state budget some much needed infusion of funds without the need to raise taxes. But how much, and for how long? And how would this impact the state? Lots of agencies dependent on state funding see this as a necessary evil. Beyond job creation, few are outwardly thrilled with the notion of a casino within New Hampshire’s borders. Yet they view this as the most plausible solution to a budget crunch that is certain to be ongoing.

But casinos come with their own problems. There’s a social cost that is well documented, and there are very real concerns about how a New Hampshire casino would distinguish itself amid a flood of new gambling options in Massachusetts. Also, what impact would a state casino have on the organizations that depend on New Hampshire charitable gaming?

There are lots of questions surrounding this defining issue and not a whole lot of time to weigh the concerns. Wednesday night is one of the best opportunities to help shape the discussion.

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