Sunday, October 26, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;54.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nskc.png;2014-10-26 01:05:10
Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hassan signs bill getting tougher on charity gambling

CONCORD – Gov. Maggie Hassan signed legislation Monday that beefs up enforcement and auditing of legalized gambling to benefit charities.

The bill, which sprang from a high-powered study commission, also will close legal loopholes that allowed redemption slot or so-called “gray” gambling machines across the state to pay off winning customers in non-cash payouts such as credits on a debit card. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

CONCORD – Gov. Maggie Hassan signed legislation Monday that beefs up enforcement and auditing of legalized gambling to benefit charities.

The bill, which sprang from a high-powered study commission, also will close legal loopholes that allowed redemption slot or so-called “gray” gambling machines across the state to pay off winning customers in non-cash payouts such as credits on a debit card.

“This bipartisan legislation implements important charitable gaming reforms that will strengthen our ability to effectively regulate the millions of dollars in gambling already taking place in New Hampshire, and I thank Representative Ames, the entire Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority and legislators from both parties for their efforts on this carefully developed bill,’’ Hassan said in a statement.

Monday capped the close of regular business for the 2014 session as Hassan cleared off her desk the final bills before her.

Hassan also signed a Hollis state senator’s bill to study whether to create new dental care professionals.

Sen. Peggy Gilmour, D-Hollis, had wanted to let public health dental hygienists to perform many duties of a dentist but agreed to a 15-person panel study into whether this was needed especially in under-served areas of the state.

The final bill Hassan signed earmarks money from the state’s regional greenhouse gas initiative to support “all energy” efficiency projects.

“Smart investments in energy efficiency will enable us to save money well into the future by reducing energy costs for our people and our businesses,” Hassan said.

The New Hampshire Legislature’s only unfinished business now is to return at some point this fall to take up Hassan’s four vetoes.

The new ground rules for charitable gambling don’t begin until July 1, 2015, but starting in the next two-year state budget it gives the Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission about $200,000 a year to hire more auditors and investigators.

Attorney General Joseph Foster’s office would get roughly $500,000 annually for beefed-up, criminal background investigations of the charity gambling business and its chief operator.

The charitable gambling firms will pay for the cost of the investigations.

Currently, the games bring in $13 million a year in profit for charities and about $3 million for state taxpayers.

A consultant to the gaming authority, WhiteSands Gaming concluded New Hampshire’s regulation of these games was ill-defined and open to abuse. That consultant noted the state has a high concentration of table games such as roulette and blackjack where as much as $75 million is bet annually in the name of 389 charities.

The Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission has tried for several years to secure legislation to beef up its enforcement but always failed in the task.

New Hampshire has allowed the mini-casino operations since 1977 with few limits other than on the size of the bet and the maximum days a charity can sponsor an event. Unlike commercial casinos, the maximum bet is $4, regulations aren’t as stringent and video slot machines are illegal though some operators provide them as game machines that pay out prizes instead of cash.

In its report, the consultant stressed the commission needs more resources.

“As a result, meaningful compliance efforts are thwarted by limitations in the statute and regulations, and it appears the commission may not be funded or otherwise resourced to attract, train and retain personnel with the expertise required to complete the necessary rule making or equipped with other tools and resources necessary to adequately oversee this sector,” the consultant said.

Local police and state prosecutors have control over the redemption poker and slot machines but the Legislature agreed with its consultants that there needed to be more controls.

“The general court also finds that redemption slot machines are frequently a front for unlawful gambling, and the use of such machines siphons money away from legal, charitable gambling to the detriment of the state’s charities,” the signed law states.

The measure also creates a study commission that by Dec. 1, 2015, must recommend whether it’s “in the state’s best interest” to keep all forms of charitable gambling.

Implicit in the commission’s work would be to find an alternative source of revenue for these charities.

Hassan supports creation of one high-end highly regulated casino. Over the past two years, casino supporters have proposed to set aside space for charitable gambling games or make a payment each year to replace the lost profits from charity games.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report. Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).