CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Sponsors of a Senate bill to legalize casino gambling in New Hampshire said Tuesday they hope the state's share of gaming revenue will pay for planned highway improvements and make it unnecessary to raise the gas tax.
New Hampshire has toyed with the idea of casino gambling for many years. While gambling proposals have passed the Senate on several occasions, none has ever passed the House.
Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who supports the proposal and last week presented a two-year budget that incorporates $80 million in casino licensing fees, said waiting to legalize casino gambling will allow neighboring Massachusetts to take gambling revenue from New Hampshire residents, while New Hampshire pays the social costs. Massachusetts legalized casino gambling in 2011 and will eventually award licenses for a slots parlor and three casinos.
Opponents of the New Hampshire bill say the timeline for licensing a casino in the state is rushed, though Hassan disagreed, saying the proposal is workable and would bring thousands of jobs to the state.
They also say casino gambling is out of step with New Hampshire's character and would divert money away from existing industries and businesses. The bill leaves the door open for additional casinos and expanded gaming in the future.
"Gambling is the wrong solution to ensure economic security and increase jobs," said State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth.
Fuller Clark said she believes much of the $80 million included in the governor's proposed budget could come through increasing other fees and taxes, which is how the state has traditionally raised revenue.