The Concord Monitor is publishing a candidate profile the weekend before the election. They identified several issues most important to them, one of them being expanded gambling in New Hampshire. This is a complex topic. Given that they could publish only short answers (to make room for all of the candidate responses), I wanted to offer a fuller explanation for those who wished to disuss the issue further.
Expanded Gambling, or the issue of creating law to allow one or more casinos to operate in New Hampshire, is a recurring issue. There seems to be strong support from the town or towns where the casino would be located. There is also an advocacy based on the quick injection of revenue which would help balance the State's budget without necessitating cuts. Opposition seems mostly to focus on a moral/cultural opposition, although this is not the only position. Many Representatives believe that casino gambling would be wrong for New Hampshire, while others worry about an increased criminal element.
During my term in 2011-2012, I voted
against the passage of the expanded gambling bill. I would also have opposed the Governor's proposal, with which she wanted to add $80 million of revenue to the budget. Despite a history of defeats, this is an issue that is likely to keep coming session after session. Two years ago, the Monitor also asked me my position on expanded gambling. My answer was as follows:
The gambling expansion proposals that come
before the legislature have many problems. Not least of these is the
Constitutional problem inherent in licensing gambling to only one
perhaps several, while prohibiting competitors from enjoying the same
privilege. A more appropriate alternative to "expanding" gambling would
"decriminalize" gambling, getting the State of NH less involved rather
involved with the gambling business. I frankly don't anticipate a
bill of this nature coming forward as the main financial incentive (both
State, in terms of fees, and to the eventual license holders) is the
a State-supported monopoly on casino revenues.
Without the space restrictions, I can expand on what I oppose about the expanded gambling bills. My opposition to these bills is in three areas. As I've said, would consider a bill that resolves these issues in whole or, even possibly in part.
I had a problem with a bill that grants licenses to a handful of big corporations to do what, for the rest of us, would still be against the law. The NH Constitution tells us that "Government.. [is] not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men." It is difficult to interpret such a law consistent with this principle
The State of NH vowing to prevent any and all competition in perpetuity is what gives the licenses their value. While proposals have varied in the number of licenses that could be granted, they all seem to have this limit on competition to be a key factor. While corporations are restricted under state law, to pass constitutional muster, those restrictions need to consider only the interests of the people, not the interests of the licensees in protecting their businesses.
One concern about casinos is their potential to bring with them a criminal element. During my session, this was a hotly debated point. The State Police Association said there would be no increase in crime, running counter to the intuition of many gambling opponents.
One criminal element I worry more about than the problem gambler is the potential for corruption to our government. I believe the reason that big corporations are willing to offer such a windfall to the State government in terms of fees, licenses and taxes is because they expect to receive much more from the State than they are going to pay us. Partly they are paying for that semi-monopoly protection. But they are also paying for the State to establish a substantial agency that will regulate the casino business. The gambling industry struggles with is the issue of trust. Their customers know they are playing a losing game against the house but need to be assured that the odds, while against them, are at least not unfairly against them. What better way for a business to assure its customers than to say "We have the State of New Hampshire watching our every move and guaranteeing to you that we are on the up-and-up."
This would be a huge increase in government. The Republican platform and the values that I have run on are opposed to government expansion. The fact that the casinos promise to pay for this extra government themselves is small consolation. And while I'd like to believe that the State's employees would not bend to corruption, casinos increase the potential for this enormously. Nevada and New Jersey have had too many scandals within their gaming commissions to simply dismiss that it couldn't happen here.