NH House Rejects Expanded Gaming Bill Again

Measure would have authorized the development of a casino near Rockingham Park.

By Lynne Snierson

The New Hampshire House of Representatives, which has killed every piece of casino legislation in modern times, again rejected expanded gambling March 13 by a vote of 173-144.

HB 1633 would have authorized the development of a single, high-end casino development along the state's southern border, where Rockingham Park is located.

Had the bill, which enjoyed the staunch backing of Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan been passed and signed into law, Millennium Gaming was perceived to be the front-runner to win the casino license through a mandated competitive bidding process and develop the project at Rockingham Park.

Rockingham last hosted a Thoroughbred meet in 2002 and a Standardbred meet in 2009, and Millennium Gaming holds the option to purchase the 108-year-old track. Officials have stated the potential return of live racing is part of the plan to revitalize Rockingham should casino gambling be legalized.

In a second vote, the House rejected by the margin of 166-151 a measure to indefinitely postpone casino bills similar to HB 1633 from consideration this year.

A separate casino bill calling for two casinos, a large development with up to 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games in the Southern part of the state along the Massachusetts border, plus a smaller facility in the economically depressed North Country region, passed the State Senate earlier in the current legislative session.

The Senate had tabled its bill while waiting to see what action was taken by the House, and now there is the possibility that bill may come forward next week.

Meanwhile, Suffolk Downs, which is the last surviving Thoroughbred track of the 16 that once were located throughout the New England region, and gaming partner Mohegan Sun remain in the hunt for the single destination resort casino license to be awarded in the Greater Boston region. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is on schedule to decide between applications submitted by Wynn Resorts and Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs by June 30.

On Feb.28, the MGC awarded the single slots parlor license to be located anywhere in Massachusetts to Penn National Gaming Inc., which will execute a purchase and sales agreement for Plainridge Race Course and develop the project at the state's only harness track.

The 2014 live Thoroughbred meet at Suffolk Downs is scheduled to run May 3 to Sept. 1, with conditions depending upon the awarding of the casino license.