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Increase in bet limit to benefit charities

NASHUA – The city’s two casinos wasted no time hiking maximum bets for roulette, blackjack, Spanish 21 and other games from $4 to $10 on Thursday, as soon as officials got word that New Hampshire HB 169 was in effect.

“It’s just a different level of excitement for the player,” said Jim Rafferty, the general manager with The River Casino & Sports Bar on High Street.

Beyond the gambling action, Rafferty and Kevin McMahon, who serves as marketing director for Boston Billiard Club & Casino on Northeastern Boulevard, said millions more in casino earnings are expected to reach charitable organizations.

“We really expect that to increase,” McMahon said.

Both Rafferty and McMahon said Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 169 into law on Thursday.

Efforts to contact Sununu for comment Thursday proved unsuccessful, but records from the New Hampshire Legislature show the bill passed both chambers.

According to New Hampshire’s charitable gaming laws, casinos and poker rooms must donate 35 percent of the nightly take to a registered, New Hampshire nonprofit organization. Another 10 percent goes to the state.

The law requires that no one charity can benefit from more than 10 nights of casino proceeds during the year. Rafferty said that means his casino works with dozens of charities throughout the year.

“We have about 37 different charities,” he said.

McMahon said Boston Billiard has donated more than $2 million to charities since it started hosting casino games and poker in late 2016. The River, which moved operations from Milford to Nashua in 2016, has donated close to $3 million in the 20 years it has been operating. Rafferty said the nonprofits around the state proved a powerful lobby in working for the change.

“They really get the credit for getting this thing passed,” he said.

Rafferty said the gaming is already different this week because of the $5-$10 “sweet spot” he said blackjack players prefer.

“There have been a lot of people wanting to bet $10,” he said. “The $5 to $10 range is a sweet spot.”

McMahon said the games themselves haven’t changed, but players are excited to be able to bet a little more.

“We have been preparing for months for the increased stakes. We have ordered different table layouts, different gaming chips, and have implemented additional dealer training and changes in policy,” added River Assistant General Manager Bob McDonal.

According to the New Hampshire Racing and Charitable Gaming Division, other licensed “games of change” facilities in the Granite State include Lakes Region Casino of Belmont, Pleasant Street Gaming of Claremont, Hampton Beach Casino of Hampton, Ocean Gaming Casino of Hampton, One Lafayette Function Facility of Hampton Falls,Keene Casino of Keene, Lebanon Poker Room & Casino of Lebanon, The Governor’s Inn of Rochester, Chasers Poker Room of Salem, Cheers Poker Room & Casino of Salem, Seabrook Greyhound Park of Seabrook, and Manchester Poker Room & Casino of Manchester.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.