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New Hampshire Troopers, Police Get Behind Bill for Casino

Concord — Two significant law enforcement officer groups yesterday endorsed the Senate-passed bill legalizing a single casino as leaders insisted it would create the same amount of social costs as a shopping mall.

The support of the New Hampshire Troopers and Local Police Associations are meant to blunt the strong opposition from the lobby representing local police chiefs.

Local Police Association President David Young said Gov. Maggie Hassan’s $11 billion state budget would preserve drug task forces and avoid cutting them in half without additional revenue in the two-year spending plan.

“Much drug crime will go unchecked, reserving higher ground for drug dealers in our state,” Young said.

Troopers Association President Seth Cooper said a casino would make New Hampshire “even more of a great destination” and Hassan’s budget would increase the 313-member trooper ranks by 15.

“That’s fewer troopers than there are members of the New Hampshire General Court,” Cooper said referring to the 400-person House of Representatives and 24-person sState Senate.

Last week, the Senate voted, 16-8, to pass over to the House the Hassan-backed bill (SB 152) to award one casino license for $80 million to a developer who would build a facility with up to 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games.

Over the past quarter century, the House has rejected numerous bids to approve a variety of expansions of legalized gambling.

The extra troopers are sorely needed, Cooper said. In nearly one-third third of all call responses, it takes sState pPolice more than 15 minutes to respond to a crash or domestic violence scene, he said.

Cooper also cited Hassan’s budget for restoring spending cuts made over the past two years to the program for troubled juveniles known as Children In Need of Services.

Young dismissed claims that a casino would bring massive social costs such as higher welfare caseloads, increased poverty and street crime by addicted gamblers.

“We do not believe casinos in themselves or expanded gambling will bring an increase in serious crime,” Young said. “The same would happen in a shopping mall in any given town.”

Jim Rubens, chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, cited the non-partisan, N.H. Center for Public Policy Studies that concluded a single casino would create $46 million private and government-paid social costs or the same as it would raise in net profit for taxpayers.

“The peer review literature is settled on this, and former Gov.ernor Lynch’s gaming commission agreed there will be 1,200 serious crimes a year from a casino in Salem,” Rubens said. “This is old news from three years ago when the police unions came out for slot machines. The only data they offer is some police chief from a town with new cruisers, new cell phones and new uniforms who dismisses the facts that social costs explode with a casino.”

The House will vote Thursday on two, unrelated casino bills that have attracted little support in that body. The House Ways and Means Committee voted, 12-6, to recommend killing them both.

House budget writers are building a spending plan without the $80 million license fee’s cash Hassan used for her budget because the House has yet to endorse the idea.