Live Blog: House Votes 199-164 To Kill Casino Bill

May 22, 2013

4:40: The House has voted 199-164 to kill SB 152. This means amendments will not be considered to the gambling legislation and the bill is dead.

4:22: Rep. David Hess of Hooksett gets the final chance at swaying House members. He asks them to support the committee’s recommendation and kill SB 152. “The facility under this bill will be a fraction of the size of the destinations it purports to compete.”  Reiterates that no state has stopped at one casino; questions Gov. Hassan’s assertion it will be “highly regulated.” "This bill has no meaningful provision for judicial review."

4:15: Rep. David Campbell of Nashua, in support of SB 152, says price of doing nothing is too high. “Casino gambling is coming to Massachusetts and that changes everything.”

4:10: Rep. Smith raises concerns about lack of regulation and questions about money coming in before end of budget biennium. She speaks directly to fellow Democrats in the House, "Please think about this, decide what you have to do, so when you leave the Legislature" you can say you did the right thing

4:02: Speaker Norelli says we're coming down to the last few speakers before vote on committee recommendation. Rep. Marjorie Smith of Durham now speaking. A roll call vote has been requested.

3:55: Rep. Warren Groen of Rochester says he saw perils of casinos in New Jersey: “The only thing I can think of worse than a person addicted to gambling is a state.”

3:48: Rep. Gary Azarian of Salem in support of bill, says,“If we’re truly committed to creating jobs for the citizens of our state, SB 152 provides that.” Says jobs will be on average $45-50K with benefits. “That’s a pretty good starting wage.” Says state is looking at $200M/year from a casino. “That’s not money going to Las Vegas, that’s money that’s coming here.” Says that is money that can be used to improve NH infrastructure.

3:40: Rep. Robert Backus of Manchester says he wants to support governor and organized labor, but can’t on this issue; concerned that casino in Salem will “cannibalize” the discretionary spending of locals; organizations like NH Fisher Cats, restaurants and lodging have come out against this bill. 

3:34: Rep. Edward Butler of Hart’s Location says New Hampshire values are not going to change with a casino; won’t change image or brand. “Change is inevitable and we incorporate it as best we can.” Expanded gambling is not going to ruin our image as a great place to live; it will give people one more entertainment option.

3:24: Rep. Leon Rideout of Lancaster asks, "What happens when we are dependent on Millennium for revenue?" This bill is bad for New Hampshire, in the end it's bad for citizens. Who are we going to answer to? The citizens or Millennium Gaming? "Having an irresponsible budget proposed is not a reason to pass this bill." Says this bill cannot be fixed through amendments.

3:20: Rep. Kevin St. James of Kingston urges House to vote against committee recommendation, so members can do what they were elected to do – debate the issue and get it right.

3:17: Rep. Vaillancourt: “This bill is not in the best interest of NH. We will never get the chance at a do over if we pass this.” Says he is in favor of expanded gambling, but not this bill. Says it’s better to do nothing now and get it right later.

3:08: Rep. Vaillancourt says Pennsylvania getting 55 percent while New Hampshire would only get 30 percent under SB 152. “We can expect more powerful lobbyists who become dedicated to deceiving us into doing what’s best for them.”

3:05: Rep. Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester, speaks passionately in opposition to the bill, says, “Unfortunately, this is a tremendous bill not for the people of New Hampshire, but for one out-of-state gambling interest.” Says bill will only benefit Millennium Gaming.” This bill represents a “corrupt bargain.” With this bill, “we cannot succeed; we can only fail…represents the worst kind of monopoly.” Says state’s take is a “mere pittance.”

2:56: Rep. Webb says, “To turn away that many people that are coming in, want to spend their money, it’s not tax revenue, I just have a hard time with that.”

2:51: Rep. Jim Webb of Derry, says the people of his district tell him they want a casino. Says we’re not taxing people, but still getting more revenue. “What a great deal we have here, huh?” This bill takes care of social needs and social problems.

2:49: Rep. Gary Richardson of Hopkinton, asks, “Do we want to adopt gambling as a matter of public policy, as a matter tax policy?” This is a tax bill. This is a tax on gambling. Industry may be inviting that tax, but they do it because they want the profit. “The issue is how do we want to raise money, how do we want to sell the NH advantage? The answer for me is I don’t want to do it with gambling.”

2:43 Rep. Frank Sapareto of Derry, speaking in favor of casino, says New Hampshire historically relies on three things for its revenue: “Booze, butts and bets. That’s where we get our money.”

2:41: Rep. Al Baldasaro questions Rep. Lovejoy on her claims that crime will increase. She stands by them. "Crime follows casinos. I'm not expecting Salem will have an influx of hookers, but there will be crime."

2:37: Rep. Lovejoy asks what costs would be to state of this new revenue stream. “Dollars spent at a casino” will not be spent at already existing restaurants and businesses. “Profits from a casino will not stay in New Hampshire.” Says it will increase crime, and have impact on charitable gaming. It will create “problem and pathological gamers.”

2:30: Rep. Patricia Lovejoy , Stratham, argues against bill, says proliferation is inevitable. “It will never remain as just one casino. There is no state that has only one casino.” Says there’s no guarantee of the new jobs coming with casino will go to New Hampshire residents.

2:26: Rep. Spratt says as of today, “There’s at least six groups interested  in applying for a casino license in New Hampshire.” Says their willingness to spend $500 million to $600 million shows they think they can compete with casinos in Massachusetts; says morality has never successfully been legislated.

2:24: Rep. Stephen Spratt of Greenville gets first crack at debate. He’s in favor of the bill. He asks “If we do nothing, where will the money come from to treat additional costs” imposed by casinos across the border in Massachusetts? 

2:01: House members are on lunch break until 2:15, when they are set to begin debate on SB 152, the bill that would legalize a casino in New Hampshire. The House must reject a committee recommendation to kill the bill in order to take up amendments. If the full House supports the committee's recommendation, debate will be over.

12:13: House now taking up SB 89, a bill that supporters say would help to protect loons from lead fishing sinkers and jigs. Debate on casino bill likely will not come until after lunch break.

11:48: House passes SB 126, the auto dealers "bill of rights," 338 to 30. 

11:46: Debate on SB 126, the auto dealers "bill of rights," wrapping up. Vote coming.

11:23: The New Hampshire Union Leader reports that last-minute lobbying has been frantic as the House prepares for its vote on the casino bill today.

11:11: House taking up other key votes before getting to casino bill, including SB 126, the so-called auto dealers "bill of rights." Debate underway on that bill now. Auto dealers say the bill will help balance the relationship between local dealerships and national automobile manufacturers. 

10:22: Representatives going through some house cleaning measures before getting to SB 152, which would legalize the creation of one casino. The Senate has approved the bill, but a joint House supercommittee has recommended killing the bill, 23-22. The full House will have to reject the recommendation before considering amendments.

10:10: The House members have entered Representatives Hall. Governor Maggie Hassan is here, as well. There was a moment of silence, and now a male quartet is singing God Bless America. I group of SB 152 supporters wearing blue t-shirts have filled the halls of the Statehouse.