CONCORD, N.H. – Lawmakers deciding whether and where to expand gambling should consider both strong and struggling locations, the general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway said Monday.

The state Senate has passed and the House is considering a bill that would allow video slot machines and casino-style table games in six locations around the state: Rockingham Park in Salem, former greyhound tracks in Seabrook and Belmont, a planned golf resort in Hudson and two yet-to-be determined North Country sites.

But Jerry Gappens wants lawmakers to consider the speedway in Loudon as well, given that it attracts more than 100,000 people for each of the two NASCAR Sprint Cup races it hosts each year, plus another 200,000 throughout the year.

“I don’t want to call it a bailout of other facilities, because there’s other people coming in to buy those facilities and run them, but I don’t know why you reward somebody who maybe hasn’t had a great model there or successful model and give them this, basically on a silver platter,” Gappens said. “I think you’ve got to look at people who’ve been good contributors to the state and good partners with the state in generating revenue.”

A study conducted for the speedway by the Innovation Group estimates that adding 750 slot machines would generate about $45 million in its first year, including $16 million in tax revenue for the state, Gappens said.

Adding a gambling facility and 100-room hotel would create about 560 jobs on-site or in the surrounding community, he said.

Gappens said those numbers confirm that gambling would strengthen the speedway experience, and vice versa. “Our expertise is in bringing people into the state to spend money,” he said.

The Rockingham Park project is being pushed by Millennium Gaming Inc. of Las Vegas, which says it will invest $450 million to overhaul the park if the state allows it to install 5,000 video slot machines.

Millennium has said the project would create 1,000 permanent jobs.

Gappens said he didn’t know how much the speedway’s parent company, Speedway Motorsports Inc., would be willing to invest, but noted that it paid $340 million for the track two years ago and has spent another $10 million on improvements since then.

And he said owner Bruton Smith has shown with past projects that he can get a construction job done quickly.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, only because Bruton Smith wasn’t in charge of the project,” he joked. “He built a $60 million dragstrip down in Charlotte in our facility there, and he built it basically in three months. Normally a facility like that would take somewhere around 18 months to 24 months.”

But speed is one reason lawmakers have focused on the racetracks in Salem, Belmont and Seabrook, none of which offers live racing anymore.

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, the chief sponsor of the gambling bill, said that including the three racetracks will expedite much-needed revenue for the state because they have been regulated by the state for years and already have been vetted by the N.H. attorney general’s office.

Choosing sites based on an open bid process, as Gappens proposes, would delay the process, D’Allesandro said.

“The speedway has been around for the 10 years we’ve been working on this, and this is the first time, really, that we’ve heard that the speedway wants to get involved,” he said.

The Hudson resort was added to win support for the bill, and the North Country sites are included because they are in the most economically depressed part of the state.

The bill faces a tougher challenge in the House than it did in the Senate, as House lawmakers have repeatedly killed similar bills in past years.

Gov. John Lynch has said he opposes the bill because he worries about the proliferation of gambling.


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