CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire’s House stuck to a long tradition of opposing casino gambling Thursday and rejected a proposal to license one casino with up to 5,000 video slot machines and 150 table games.
The House voted 173-144 to kill a bill that resulted from a special commission appointed to study regulatory issues after a casino bill failed in the House last year. The House has repeatedly rejected efforts to legalize casinos.
Supporters argued that the state would get about $105 million in annual revenue, partly by drawing on New Hampshire’s image as a destination state for tourists.
“This is another draw to our state,” Derry Republican Frank Sapareto said.
But opponents said legalizing a casino was an irreversible and negative change in the state’s image. They also said the cost was too high, especially from an expected increase in problem gamblers addicted to video slots.
“What is it us anti-casino types have against casinos? It is the slot machines,” Stratham Democrat Patricia Lovejoy said.
The bill’s proposed regulations were much more extensive than in the bill killed last year, but limits on the number of video slots allowed and other details about a new casino were nearly identical.
Gov. Maggie Hassan, who backs legalizing one casino, continued to argue after Thursday’s vote that New Hampshire should legalize a casino to capture gambling profits that otherwise will be spent in Massachusetts, which is licensing three casinos and one video slots parlor.
“Despite today’s vote, I continue to believe that developing our own plan for one high-end casino is the best course of action for investing in the priorities that are critical to long-term economic growth. Soon, we all will see the impact of Massachusetts casinos right across our border in the form of lost revenue and potential social costs,” Hassan said.
The Senate voted earlier this year to hold onto its latest casino bill until after the House acted on its proposal. Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, the bill’s prime sponsor, said Thursday he’d still like to see the Senate send the bill to the House but isn’t optimistic of its chances of passing the House.
The House and Senate disagree on how to raise money for big-ticket budget items such as highway improvements that include finishing the Interstate 93 expansion, higher education and economic development. The House passed a gas tax bill last year to pay for road fixes, but the Senate killed it. The Senate was considering a smaller gas tax increase Thursday.
The New Hampshire Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority, which was created after the House killed the Senate’s casino bill, recommended the legislation.
Hassan hoped the special panel would address concerns opponents had expressed about inadequate regulations.