CONCORD, N.H. — Gambling supporters are sweetening the pot by including $25 million in aid to communities in the latest bill to legalize casinos in New Hampshire, but opponents told a House committee Thursday it is a false promise. Casino supporters told the Ways and Means Committee the money would provide relief to property taxpayers.

“This gambling bill is a way for homeowners to get tax relief,” said John Lydon of Salem.

But opponents pointed out that the Legislature suspended the aid program when it needed money during the recession and that could happen again.

“It’s like giving a dog a bone and taking it away,” said Will Stewart, speaking against the bill for the Greater Manchester Area Chamber of Commerce. Stewart said including the aid “is a nice bribe.”

Cordell Johnston, a lobbyist for the New Hampshire Municipal Association, said his organization isn’t taking a position on casinos, but would like to see revenue sharing restored.

“The revenue sharing is merely a statutory change and like any other statutory change can be repealed at any time,” he said.


The committee is considering a Senate bill to legalize two casinos sharing a total of 5,000 video slot machines and 240 table games. The House killed a bill a month ago that would have legalized one casino licensed to have 5,000 video slot machines. House gambling supporters had talked of adding the $25 million in aid to the House bill had it survived.

Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem urged the committee to support the bill, but added that the Senate is willing to work on a compromise with the House to get something passed.

Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, said the speedway would be interested in bidding on a casino license as a way to draw people to the facility year round. Currently, he said the track is open from April to November and draws 400,000 people to events, which include two NASCAR races.

“As any good business, we’ve got to look at additional revenue sources,” he said.

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