By Lynne Snierson
By a vote of 5-0, the New Hampshire Senate Ways and Means sent a bill that would authorize four casinos and up to 10,000 slot machines in New Hampshire to interim study on Nov. 8. The vote enables the full Senate to keep alive its expanded gambling bill and wait until January, when the House of Representatives will first take up its version of similar legislation.
The Senate bill authorizes four casinos and up to 10,000 slot machines and 300 table games. Two weeks ago the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee voted to advance a bill calling for two casinos with 10,000 slots and 300 gaming tables.
The New Hampshire House has killed gambling bills repeatedly in recent years, but pressure from neighboring Massachusetts has shifted the political tides. This fall, both chambers of the Massachusetts legislature passed bills that allow three destination resort casinos and one slots facility, and now a conference committee is ironing out the differences. The governor of Massachusetts supports the expansion of gambling and said he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
If New Hampshire does expand gambling, Rockingham Park is seen as the front runner to be awarded one of the casino licenses. Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas has announced plans to invest $450 million in the redevelopment of the racetrack, which has not hosted a live Thoroughbred meet since 2002 or any live horse racing since 2009.
After the House Ways and Means Committee advanced its bill, Rockingham president and general manager Ed Callahan said that if gambling is expanded and if Rockingham becomes one of the licensees, the track hopes to bring back both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing.