N.H. Hospitality Industry Opposes Casino

Concord — Citing concerns over lost business and the state’s quality of life, the state’s lobby for the hospitality industry has came out against casino gambling.

The board of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association voted “overwhelmingly” against the proposal, NHLRA Board Chairman Joel Bourassa reported to members in an e-mail.

“It is the opinion of the Board that casino gambling revenues will come at the expense of other recreational activities in our seacoast, lakes and mountains throughout the state. This will lead to reductions in rooms and meals taxes and losses in retail expenditures,” said Bourassa who owns the Inn Seasons Resort.

The vote came after it heard presentations both for and against the issue from leaders with Millennium Gaming, which has plans for a casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, and the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling.

The group has been neutral on the issue for the past few years. Prior to that the group had taken a position against casinos and was listed on the anti-gambling group’s web site as a supportive organization for its cause.

“It is also the Board’s opinion that the wholesome, family-friendly image of New Hampshire will be eroded once casino gambling is enacted, and it will have a negative impact on the hospitality and tourism industry,” Bourassa concluded.

The move comes a few days after the state’s largest union for public school teachers dropped its past opposition and came out to endorse the casino Leaders with the National Education Association of New Hampshire said the casino was critical to achieving support for public education contained in the two-year state budget plan of Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The NEA’s Delegate Assembly in April 2002 adopted a resolution to its by-laws that opposed the use of gambling to support public education.

Prior to this vote, owners of restaurants and resorts had lined up in both camps as individuals.

The state Senate has already approved the casino bill that has Hassan’s support and would permit the state to license one company to offer up to 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games.

The plan presumes the winning bidder will pay an $80 million license fee and estimates vary on how much profit for the state the casino would generate.

State lottery officials claim it could bring in as much as $120 million a year while the independent, New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies estimates it will only net about $45 million a year due to competition from three casinos in the works in Massachusetts.