Draft gambling bill would bring economic development dollars to North Country


January 23, 2013
CONCORD — A provision that would provide funding for North Country economic development" is included in a draft of an as yet unnumbered Senate gambling bill that would allow lottery machines and table games at a single in-state location, chosen in a competitive application process.

District 1 state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat of Dalton, worked to secure this new earmarked funding source aimed at spurring economic development.

Woodburn broke his previous neutral stance last week and decided to co-sponsor this proposed Senate bill.

"The bill clearly directs that the (gambling) tax revenue be used for three purposes: highways, roads, and bridges; higher public education; and North Country economic development," the first-year senator explained by e-mail and in a telephone interview. "The details need to be worked out – including the exact percentage or dollar figure — but it would generate approximately $2 to $3 million every year."

If passed, this bill would make "a major commitment and permanent investment in the North Country to create jobs and economic opportunity," Woodburn said in a prepared statement. "With the ultimate passage of this bill – and the establishment of a single casino in New Hampshire – the North Country will benefit from every dollar spent at this new facility."

Woodburn also attended the Berlin City Council on Monday night to alert Mayor Paul Grenier and Council members to the possibility of new dollars coming to help the North Country's very stressed economy.

This is by no means "a done deal," Woodburn explained. "Nonetheless, it's a great start with lots of work ahead – figuring out the details and convincing others to support the concept."

Ultimately the definition of the "North Country" will have to be incorporated into the bill, Woodburn said. Most likely it would include the area "North of the Notches."

During his campaign before his Nov. 6 election, Woodburn said that he was open to the idea of gaming and would base his decision on the tangible benefit to the North Country. He pledged to advocate for a North Country license if he were requested to do so by one of its Grand Hotels and the community.

The draft language on page 33 of the 41-page Legislative Service Request (LSR 2013-0917.1) states: "the net machine income generated by video lottery machines operated by a gaming licensee shall be paid as follows: 25 percent … shall be paid to the commission from which it shall pay for the costs of regulation, administration, enforcement…,and the operation of the central computer system, and the balance of which shall be paid to the state treasurer as follows: (A) To provide additional funding for highways, roads, and bridges; (B) To provide additional funding to public institutions of higher education in New Hampshire; and (C) To provide funding for north country economic development. Other provisions for net machine income that are above the 25 percent mark are also listed, including three percent to the municipality in which the machines are located; one percent to state Health and Human Services to treat problem gambling; with the balance to be retained with the gaming licensee, subject to any adjusted charitable benefit …" under the gaming license."

John DiStaso, the Union Leader's senior political reporter, wrote in his Sunday column that this bill is being readied by state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, a Democrat of Manchester, and state Sen. Chuck Morse, a Republican of Salem. DiStaso wrote that D'Allesandro told him that he hopes to bring it to a committee hearing before the end of this month and to the state Senate floor early in February.

He quoted D'Allesandro as saying he is "optimistic" that the bill would pass the Senate, but that the House remains an "uncertainty."

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