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N.H. House kills video slots bill

Backers say plan may be taken up again in session

By Norma Love
Associated Press / April 22, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H. — The House yesterday killed a bill to legalize video slot machines that supporters argued in vain would help revive the state’s economy by creating jobs.

The House voted, 212 to 158, against allowing slots at six locations, including two on the Massachusetts line. A scaled-back alternative was not considered.

The vote does not mean the issue is dead this session, though the big vote margin could discourage supporters. Lawmakers could push again to legalize slots as an alternative to budget cuts the state is facing.

The House votes on its version of a budget-cutting bill in mid-May, then must negotiate a compromise with the Senate. Lou D’Allesandro, Democrat of Manchester, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is the sponsor of the gambling bill that was killed.

“I don’t think you’re done, for the simple reason that there are people unemployed,’’ D’Allesandro said after the vote.

Former state Senator Jim Rubens, chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, agreed. “By no means [is it over], but we’re very pleased by the margin,’’ he said.

The Senate bill would have allowed a maximum of 17,000 video slot machines at three race tracks, a golf course resort, and two undesignated sites in northern New Hampshire. The House proposal that did not reach a vote would have cut the number of machines to 10,000 at five locations.

Governor John Lynch had said he would veto D’Allesandro’s bill and the House alternative, but he did not shut the door entirely on video slots. He said he wanted to review a report on gambling due next month. Lynch also proposed in his plan for closing a projected $220 million budget shortfall that the state investigate fantasy sports betting on the Internet.

Fix It Now, a coalition supporting D’Allesandro’s bill, ran newspaper ads yesterday showing a smiling Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts with a headline of “Thank You New Hampshire.’’ It said Massachusetts would take millions of dollars in revenue from New Hampshire residents if Massachusetts builds casinos and New Hampshire does not.

Mary Beth Walz, Democrat of Bow, the chairwoman of the House Local and Regulated Revenue Committee, said supporters’ estimates of the money New Hampshire would lose were vastly overstated.

The Massachusetts House has approved a bill to license two resort-style casinos and allow 3,000 slot machines divided among the state’s two dog tracks and two horse tracks. The Senate has yet to act on the bill.

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