Landrigan: Are the NH House odds of passage of casino any better this year?
CONCORD - For more than 30 years, the New Hampshire House of Representatives has been the place where casino legislation goes to die. That's what the House has always done, whether Republicans or Democrats were in charge, and despite what a governor wants.
The safer bet is the House once again kills the casino bill.
"I haven't seen any change in the attitude of the House,'' said State Representative David Hess, R-Hooksett, a leader in the anti-casino movement.
There are some subtle signs of change. The House approved legalizing higher stakes poker games. Then last week they added Keno to the state budget.
And Governor Maggie Hassan dropped the full-court press she made for a casino two years ago.
Some believe crafting a tight state budget without any new revenue may improves the House odds.
"Across the board all of us would have had a different budget if we had more revenue,'' said Rep. Katherine Rogers, D-Concord and a member of the House Finance Committee. "Both Republicans and Democrats all admitted that.''
But the chief House budget writer says gambling profits aren't reliable enough.
"If your objective is to create a revenue source that grows with the economy, this is not the one for us,'' said Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Hooksett.
And the state's top prosecutor says a casino threatens our image as an ethical place.
"This is simply an industry that is a magnet for organized crime,'' said Attorney General Joe Foster. "It simply is and has been for quite some time.''
Backers think the ultimate trump card is the millions to be lost once three Massachusetts casinos come on line.
"New Hampshire peoples' money, spent in other stores, in other restaurants in other states,'' Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said.
"New Hampshire peoples' money funding state budgets elsewhere, not in the New Hampshire needs.''