CONCORD – As the New Hampshire House prepared to debate a major casino gambling bill Wednesday, Republican candidate for governor Andrew Hemingway rolled out a far more modest plan to expand charitable gaming he said could bring in about $22 million in revenue to the state.
A recent court ruling that the Medicaid Enhancement Tax is unconstitutional could present a $185 million problem for the current budget.
At a news conference, Hemingway said his plan, which would allow slot machines at eight existing charitable gaming location and at a handful of other transferable locations throughout the state, “is not the cornerstone of how we solve our revenue problems.”
He said it is a plan fit for the Granite State, more reasonable than “mega-casinos,” which he opposes.
Hemingway would allow 150 video slot machines at the eight locations and 50 other permits for a limited number of slot machines. Where those other locations would be would be up to the state Lottery Commission, but Hemingway envisions allowing some machines in certain restaurants or, in the winter, ski resorts and then moving the machines, perhaps to the Seacoast or to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the summer.
Hemingway has a conservative estimate of each of 1,600 slot machines taking in $150 per day for a total of $240,000 per day. That’s $87.6 million on an annual basis.
Hemingway would send 35 percent, or $30.6 million, to the charities; 25 percent, or $21.9 million, to the state; 2 percent, or $1.75 million to the hosting municipality and the remainder, estimated at 38 percent, to the hosting facility.
Hemingway said the current gambling proposal “is one where the state picks winners and losers.” The winners, he said, are “Las Vegas,” while the losers are the existing charities which benefit from charitable gaming.
He said while a “campus-style” casino highly visible, the charity gaming facilities are “low visibility.”
Anthony Fusco Ocean Gaming Casino in Hampton, said the proposal would help charities.
Joel Weinstein Concord Shriners said, “We think keeping gaming in New Hampshire, for New Hampshire would benefit us in the long run.”
Bob O’Connell, executive director of My Friend’s Place, which houses homeless people in Dover, said 25 percent of its revenue comes from charitable gaming and a large casino would probably end that source.
“It’s that kind of stuff that keeps us on the forefront of helping homeless families,” he said. He said Bingo revenue has been declining.
“Who will provide the room for that single mother with two children if casino gaming is not available for operations like us?” O’Connell asked.
Hemingway said, “We all understand there are pending budget realities and one of those realities is the tremendous hole due to the mismanagement of our budget.
“But the idea that one large casino and two large casinos is going to be our savior is a false one,” he said. “Wise budgeting principle is our budget savior.”
“This is a New Hampshire solution,” said Hemingway. “It is not a Las Vegas solution.”