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New Hampshire Racinos Pushes for Slot Machines and Table Games

A state commission studying the pros and cons of allowing expanded gaming to New Hampshire was told on October 21st, 2009 that to get the most benefit for its money, the state should act on the issue first before the state of Massachusetts does.

Gaming experts for the Rockingham Park in Salem, the Seabrook Greyhound Park and the ownership of a golf club in Hudson looking to offer a scale down version of a Foxwoods-style casino resort and other entities agreed while the state would benefit immensely from expanded gaming even if it is up against casinos and other gaming facilities in the Bay State, it would be even more advantageous if New Hampshire move first than Massachusetts.

The fifteen-member commission, formed by Governor John Lynch in the summer and expected to pass a final report next May 2010, heard from the representatives of Millennium Gaming, Rockingham Park's partner, the planned Sagamore Crossing Resort in Hudson, the greyhound racing tracks in Belmont and Seabrook and the supporter of a considerable charitable gaming plan in Berlin.

Millennium Gaming co-chief executive officer William C. Wortman said that he is a twenty percent owner of Rockingham Park and his group has held an option to acquire the racing track from Rockingham Venture for about four years. Before the meeting, he declined to say how long that option will continue but said that even if the state legislature does not immediately approved expanded gaming, "they are here to stay".

Wortman said that his group, which owns four casino facilities in Las Vegas, Nevada and a racino in Pennsylvania, would invest $450 million to remodel the Rockingham Park grandstand if a bill is approved that would permit five thousand slot machines at the racing track.

Wortman stated that under a gaming plan approved by the Senate but never decided by the House last spring, eighty-seven percent of all cash gambled by players would be given back in prizes and forty percent of the remainder would be allocated to the state general fund and lesser amounts to Salem, community programs to help gambling addicts, state tourism and police and personnel training for fire and emergency response.

Consultant Matthew Landry, who is working closely with Wortman, said that five thousand slot machines at Rockingham, with no direct competition from Massachusetts, would produce gross gaming revenue of $418.2 million, with 62.7% of it produced by Bay State players and $204.9 million in revenue given to the different government entities and program, including $167 million for the general fund of the state.

Under a situation that permits for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's plan to allow casino table games and slot machines at the Suffolk Downs near Boston and in Palmer and Middleboro, Rockingham's gross gambling revenue would be $286.9 million, with $115 million for the state general fund, Under that scenario, Landry predicts that about forty-nine percent of the gambling revenue would be coming from Massachusetts.

Wortman said that the slots project would produce 1,000 construction jobs and one thousand permanent employment opportunities. Former state senator Robert Clegg, who is representing the proprietors of the Greenmeadow Golf Club in Hudson, said that the Greemeadow owners have partnered with a developer, whose identity he would not divulge, to propose building a hotel/convention center/casino facility to the property.

A University of Massachusetts analyst and professor, Dr. Clyde Barrow, discussed a study he released earlier this year for Greenmeadow that estimated the resort would produce more than four thousand jobs at the facility. He said that Foxwoods employs 8,400 casino workers and Mohegan Sun employs 6,100 casino workers. Barrow said that eighty percent of the customers would come from neighboring states and predicted $531 million in yearly gross gaming revenue.

The gambling bill under consideration last spring would bring two thousand slot machines to Seabrook Greyhound Park, which racing track consultant Dean Macomber said would produce $50 million annually in new tax revenue, including $1 million for the general fund and $3 million for Seabrook. The racing track's plan to change the grandstand into a racino with three restaurants and entertainment facility would initially produce four hundred full time and part time jobs and about one hundred fifty temporary construction jobs.

Rick Newman, the lobbyist for the Lodge at Belmont, asked the commission to consider immediate changes because they believe that any of these proposals will be permitted by the legislature. He also asked the commission to consider recommending the tracks be allowed to offer video-taped "instant racing" terminals and electronic charitable games.

On a smaller scale, James Rafferty of New Hampshire Charitable Gaming LLC, which manages a charitable gambling operation in Milford, laid out a three-part plan to offer expanded charitable gaming in Berlin. He said that the initial phase of the plan would install 250 slot machines and casino tables at the Albert Theatre, which he said would produce $2.6 million in yearly revenue, $300,000 for the city, $260 for local non-profit organizations and 155 full time jobs.

The 2nd and 3rd phase of the plan would shift to the abandoned Rite Aid parcel, with the final part of the plan including a three hundred-room hotel and a 40,000 square foot casino facility with 1,000 slot machines and twenty-five casino table games.


Tuesday, 03 November 2009
Alex Van Der Butz