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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mixed feelings among card players over expanded gambling in NH

To Matt Spirito, the equation is quite simple.

“More gambling means more jobs. If we make more money, they make more money,” Spirito, a dealer at The River Card Room in Milford, said Wednesday evening. ...

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To Matt Spirito, the equation is quite simple.

“More gambling means more jobs. If we make more money, they make more money,” Spirito, a dealer at The River Card Room in Milford, said Wednesday evening.

“They” in the context of the River Card Room means charities, but if House members reverse Wednesday’s super committee recommendation and approve a single-site casino, local and state coffers would be the beneficiaries of what some, including Spirito, see as much-needed revenue.

Gambling opponents won a narrow, 23-22 victory with Wednesday’s super committee vote. (Eight Nashua-area committee members split 4-4). But Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, the prime sponsor of SB 152, the bill that would legalize up to 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games at a single site, nevertheless expressed optimism it will fare better next week when it comes before the full House.

So-called charity gambling parlors like the River Card Room donate portions of their proceeds to an assortment of charities and typically have much lower betting limits than larger-scale casinos. The River Card Room’s limit, for instance, is $4.

A Nashua woman at Spirito’s table who asked her name not be used said that if gambling were legalized in New Hampshire, even if it were restricted to one site as is currently being considered, it would keep more dollars in New Hampshire.

“They should (approve gambling). I don’t see why not,” she said in between hands. “We go to Foxwoods often. I’d much rather spend my money here and support New Hampshire.”

At another table, Mark Montalvo said that as a Massachusetts resident, he’s hesitant to support expanded gambling if it were proposed in the Commonwealth, but only out of fear that it would adversely affect its current lottery, which he calls “one of the strongest in the nation.”

“I’d be all for it in New Hampshire, if they could regulate it as well as this is,” he said of the Rivier Card Room and similar operations. “I very much enjoy coming up here. Even if you have a real bad night, you might lose $300, maybe $400, but in the big casinos you can lose more than that in an hour,” he said.

Other players, like Milford resident Gloria Rockwell, said they are content with lower-stakes gambling. “I just enjoy playing,” said Rockwell, who shared a blackjack table with Montalvo. This is fine for me. I’m not into the high-stakes games.”

Fitchburg, Mass., resident Tina Rondeau, meanwhile, said potential sites should be carefully considered if large-scale gambling parlors are legalized in New Hampshire.

“Personally, I would love it if they came, but I also think it should be up to (residents of) the neighborhood,” Rondeau said. “They should have a say in it, if they’re going to put (a casino) in their town.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).