But supporters argued New Hampshire needs the revenue, estimated at about $168 million for the state with two casinos fully operating. They said the state needs the money more than ever now that a superior court has ruled the state's tax on hospitals is unconstitutional. The state gets about $185 million annually from the tax, and is appealing the ruling.
Rep. Ken Weyler said New Hampshire is not going to turn to a personal income tax or sales tax for revenue to fill the budget hole created by the loss of the revenue from the hospital tax.
"This looks to me like the only game in town," said Weyler, R-Kingston.
But House Finance Chairwoman Mary Jane Wallner said the governor, legislative leaders and hospitals are negotiating on a solution that addresses the court's concerns with the tax.
"This is not the time to push the panic button. This is the time to solve the (tax issue) with a thoughtful, measured approach," said Wallner, D-Concord.
Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, said the state would not get revenue from the casinos for perhaps two years, which would not solve the immediate problem created by the court ruling, and Rep. Dan McGuire, R-Epsom, argued the casino proposal was unconstitutional because it would grant a monopoly to two license holders.
Rep. Gary Richardson, D-Hopkinton, agreed and said, "The next person who wants to apply for a license is being discriminated against."
But Rep. Richard Ames, a casino supporter, said that argument is a stretch.
"The revenues from this bill will be sustainable; they will be substantial; and we need them," said Ames, D-Jaffrey.