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home : news : regional July 22, 2014

N.H. Gambling Panel Hears From Public Regulations
Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. -- A gambling analyst cautioned a special commission Thursday that New Hampshire should separate licensing and enforcement operations if the state legalizes casino gambling.

The Gambling Regulatory Oversight Authority held a public hearing on the regulatory structure the state should have if it moves ahead with a casino. The panel is required to submit draft legislation to lawmakers by mid-December on regulations needed for overseeing a casino.

Clyde Barrow, a gambling policy analyst, said separating licensing and enforcement is considered a best practice in states with casinos. Barrow, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said most states assign the enforcement responsibility to state police. Lottery commissions often are responsible for licensing, he said.

New Hampshire's Lottery Commission oversees the lottery while the state's Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission is in charge of charitable gambling and racing.

Many witnesses testified the two commissions do a good job now of overseeing their respective areas of gambling. Proponents of charitable gambling urged the panel not to recommend changes that would hurt their fundraising efforts.

State Rep. Katherine Rogers, D-Concord, said the Lottery Commission should have primary oversight of any casino. She said the commission has effectively operated the state's lottery for more than 50 years without scandal.

Barrow said expanding gambling in New Hampshire would not require "a behemoth government bureaucracy." He said an assistant lottery director could have oversight of video lottery games and another assistant director could handle table games. They would need a small staff to handle licensing administration and auditing, he said.

Patrick Moore and Rich Labrocca of Gaming Laboratories International testified that technology is available to track not just transactions at video lottery terminals but also table games through the use of small radio transmitters in poker chips.

Rick Newman, representing The River Card Room in Milford, urged the panel to recommend allowing electronic charitable games, including Lucky 7 and table games. He said technology will ensure a more accurate accounting of the money gambled.

Kensington police Chief Michael Sielicki spoke on behalf of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, which opposes legalizing a casino. Sielicki asked the panel to include local community representatives on any casino oversight boards to ensure they have a way to discuss any issues that result from a casino's operation. He also said information needs to be collected on crimes, traffic, substance abuse and other problems so money can be spent addressing them.

The Senate passed a bill to legalize a single casino this year, but the House rejected it despite lobbying by Gov. Maggie Hassan. A casino bill is being reintroduced and Hassan hopes the panel will address lawmakers' concerns about the state's ability to regulate a casino.

She and other casino supporters are concerned New Hampshire will lose revenue to Massachusetts, which is in the process of licensing three casinos and one video slots parlor.

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