Why Legalizing Casino Gambling Would be Wrong for New Hampshire
By Judd Gregg and John Lynch
For more than 40 years New Hampshire Legislatures have debated the merits of legalizing casino gambling, and for 40 years they have rejected it. On May 4, when it next convenes, the New Hampshire House will debate and vote on it once again.
Casino gambling would be wrong for New Hampshire. We urge representatives of both parties to reject it once more. Here’s why.
First, and most importantly, casino revenue is not the state budget windfall that many people think it is.
Most states that open the door do not stop at one or two casinos.
Across the country, state governments have become addicted to gambling dollars to fund new or expanded state programs. Experience shows that in any economic downturn these states then turn to gambling tax revenue to try to balance their budgets.
When existing gambling revenue isn’t enough they have to add more games and more locations to keep state programs going. This becomes a perpetual problem that only builds on itself. Every state that has opened the door to gaming has experienced this cycle.
Second, it won’t take long for the gaming industry to gain undue political influence. All you need is for the owner of a casino, which delivers millions of dollars to the state, to take a position on a bill and say, “If you don’t pass this bill, or veto this bill, I’m going to have to lay off hundreds of people,” and legislators will be pressured to go along. Just ask state officials in Delaware, which bailed out its casino industry a few years ago to the tune of $8 million.
Third, the potential total revenue from the two casinos the current bill proposes is about $650 million. Where is this money going to come from? It is not like there is the potential of incremental discretionary spending. It’s a zero sum game.
The money spent in casinos will come from spending that will be shifted away from local restaurants, shops, theaters or other small businesses into the coffers of large corporations. The $650 million diverted from local businesses to corporate casinos represents the loss of hundreds of jobs and potentially empty storefronts on nearby main streets.
Fourth, as casinos advertise, which they most certainly will do, the New Hampshire brand image will change dramatically. The state does not does not have the dollars to match casino advertising.
Our brand will change from a family-friendly state to one that specializes in gambling. To put it in perspective, over the course of a year, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut spend roughly $25 million in advertising. The State of New Hampshire spends approximately $6 million.
We are not opposed to gambling for moral reasons. We are opposed to it because we believe that it will have an overall negative impact on the State of New Hampshire.
Our state is rated as one of the most livable, one of the safest, and the best state in the country in which to raise children. Why would we ever go forward with a structural change that could negatively impact those metrics?
The collective wisdom of the New Hampshire House of Representatives has served us well on this issue for the last 40 years. In an historic vote last week, the House’s own Ways and Means Committee resoundingly gave the latest bill its thumbs down by a vote of 19 to one.
Casino gambling is the wrong choice for New Hampshire. We urge House members to reaffirm that on May 4. Let's not put at risk a successful strategy that is clearly working.
Judd Gregg (R) served New Hampshire as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981-1989, as governor from 1989-1983 and as U.S. senator from 1992-2011. John Lynch (D) served as governor of New Hampshire from 2005-2013.