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Gaming facility ordinance to be on Lincoln's warrant

Facilities if approved by Legislature would be restricted to general use zones

January 20, 2010
LINCOLN—If the Legislature approves gambling in the state, Lincoln has already taken a step towards confining a casino to certain zoned areas of town.

During a meeting of the Planning Board last week, board members and residents discussed what zones would be appropriate to put a casino in if gambling were made legal in the state. The board made it clear it was not taking a position on gambling itself.

"We are not for or against gambling," said board chairman Pat Romphrey.

Town Manager Peter Joseph said only the state can legalize gambling. If it was approved, individual towns would not have the right to ban it from their towns unless that was allowed in the language of a bill. One resident noted that the proposed bill in the Legislature right now would require town approval by a vote at town meeting before a casino could open.

Joseph acknowledged that was true of the current bill but a bill could just as easily pass the Legislature without such a requirement. A town zoning ordinance regulating gaming facilities could put the town ahead of the game if gambling becomes legal, he said. He noted that northern Grafton County—including Lincoln—and parts of Coös County have both been proposed as locations for potential casinos.

The board agreed that the general use zoned areas would be ideal, as opposed to residential zones or the village core. Those areas mentioned were along Route 3 and along Route 112 near Loon Mountain.

As for why not have it downtown, Romphrey said a casino would be inappropriate for downtown in a family resort community. He also noted the village core would not be large enough for a casino, unless someone bought up many of the smaller properties.

"I would rather see it outside of town," Romphrey said. "I've heard from lots of people who said downtown wouldn't be appropriate."

Some residents said they thought the ordinance was hurried and not specific enough to deal with some of the features a potential casino might have, and that in order for local restaurants and hotels not to be affected, that perhaps the facility could be confined to being a gaming facility only. They said it would be hard to compete with $4.95 all you can eat buffets.

The proposed ordinance will be on the warrant on Town Meeting Day.

Joseph said those were good ideas but that it was hard to write more specifics into a proposed ordinance without knowing what a potential legislative bill might legalize. Town counsel recommended this specific approach to dealing with gaming facilities, he said.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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