Gambling remains a bad idea for NH

The editorial board here at Foster’s Daily Democrat would like to differ with a recent statement by gambling lobbyist Rich Killion.

“It’s not a question of if any more, it is when,” Killion insisted to Associated Press reporter Bob Salsberg while commenting on the revival of efforts in the Legislature to establish casino gambling in the Granite State.

Killion’s oar in the water is that he is spokesman for Millennium Gaming, which wants to build a $450 million casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, just over the Massachusetts border off Interstate 93.

The motivation for The Associated Press report was found in support, to varying degrees, of casinos among gubernatorial candidates. Gov. John Lynch, who is leaving office, has been a firm opponent.

While we appreciate Killion’s devotion to his employer, Granite Staters are not simpletons when it comes to gambling. They understand that with gambling comes an increase in social ills and forsaken promises.

Of the latter, Foster’s would remind readers of the great promise dog racing once brought to the state, locally at the greyhound racing track in Seabrook and more remotely at the defunct track in Belmont.

Racing proponents went all out to wine and dine legislative leaders with promises of cash flowing freely into state tax coffers. And for awhile the cash did flow – as the wining and dining continued.  Unfortunately, the allure ebbed, and Seabrook greyhound race track owners repeatedly came to the Legislature hat-in-
hand asking the state to cut its take. 

While we don’t expect casino gambling to go the way of greyhound racing, the allure of bright lights and ringing slot machines has itself ebbed.

Across the country, including Las Vegas and Atlantic City, casinos have been forced to remake themselves. No longer are gambling winnings enough to keep the doors open. In Atlantic City, for example, efforts are being made to return the boardwalk to its early 20th-century glory that drew families to the ocean and the amusements found on the famous Steel Pier.

It would be an overstatement to write that casino gambling is on its death bed. This after watching varying casino interests hungrily vie for licenses in Massachusetts, recently made legal by the Legislature.

But given the problems facing the gambling industry, the editorial board here at Foster’s must renew concerns that state coffers will benefit enough to take the risk of legalizing casinos. Further, it seems counterintuitive to accept the argument that New Hampshire should defend its current gambling revenues by expanding opportunities to gamble within state borders.

Casino supporters argue the state lottery revenues will be siphoned off with the advent of casinos in Massachusetts. If anything, that argument points to how badly the casino market is being diluted, and the need for New Hampshire to look elsewhere for revenue – where there is less competition or where the state has already shown its strengths.

One of those strengths has been with tourists – not the singularly rich, but with families who appreciate sampling the quality of life here in the Granite State by visits to our beaches, mountains and lakes and streams, along with attractions such as Santa’s Village and Storyland.

Another appears to be in the growing shopping outlet market, spawned by our lack of a state sales tax.

For those who have not had the opportunity, a visit to the Merrimack Premium Outlets south of Manchester would be instructive. This well-populated outlet joins others in Tilton and Conway/North Conway.

The answer to strengthening the cash position of state coffers is not to gamble on a weak gaming industry. It is with playing to our strengths – promoting our lack of a sales or income tax and the New Hampshire lifestyle.

– Foster’s Daily Democrat