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Gambling Regulation Panel Set to Begin Meetings in N.H.

Concord — A special commission will begin work in two weeks on gambling regulations for a casino New Hampshire does not have but that Gov. Maggie Hassan is again pushing lawmakers to approve.

Hassan announced her three appointments Wednesday to the commission, which is to submit draft legislation on the oversight and regulation of gambling to lawmakers by Dec. 15 for consideration in 2014.

Hassan lobbied heavily for a casino before lawmakers killed a proposal this year. New Hampshire has no personal income or general sales tax and many felt gambling was the best remaining way to raise money for transportation, education and other needs without implementing a tax. The time was right, supporters argued, because neighboring Massachusetts is licensing its own casinos and New Hampshire will miss out on revenue that will instead go to those casinos.

“As our state stands to lose an estimated $75 million per year to Massachusetts casinos, moving forward with New Hampshire’s own plan for one highly regulated destination casino will help create jobs, boost our economy and generate revenue to invest in critical priorities,” Hassan said in a statement.

She acknowledged that lawmakers were concerned about the state’s ability to regulate a casino and said she’s confident the commission will address the concern.

State Rep. Richard Ames of Jaffrey, Londonderry Police Sgt. Patrick Cheetham and Manchester attorney Kathy Sullivan will serve on the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority. Ames will serve as chairman.

Senate President Peter Bragdon appointed Sen. Jim Rausch, a Derry Republican who co-sponsored a casino bill this year. House Speaker Terie Norelli named state Rep. Lucy Weber, a Walpole Democrat.

Attorney General Joseph Foster also is a member.

Other members are the commissioner of the Department of Safety, executive director of the Lottery Commission and director of the Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission or designees for them.

In May, the Democratic House killed a Senate-passed bill that would have allowed the construction of one casino with 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games despite lobbying by Hassan, a Democrat.

Last week, the bill’s prime sponsor, state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, said he will file a new casino bill for lawmakers to take up next year. The bill will address critics’ concerns that regulations were not strong enough in the bill rejected in May, said D’Allesandro, a Manchester Democrat.

“I hope it works. I can help them,” D’Allesandro said Wednesday.

Hassan had included $80 million from a casino licensing fee in her budget, but the House took the money out when it wrote its version of the budget. The House killed the casino bill. Budget negotiators then revived a gambling regulatory authority created years ago that had stalled because money to hire experts was never approved. The budget that passed in June allows the panel to spend $250,000 without getting permission.