03/13/2014 3:48PM

New Hampshire House votes down expanded gaming bill


The New Hampshire House of Representatives said no dice to expanded gambling March 13 by defeating a bill to authorize a single, high-end destination resort casino 173-144.

The vote dashes hope for the possible return of live Thoroughbred racing at Rockingham Park any time soon, as the 108-year-old racetrack was the odds-on favorite for the location to develop the project.

The House has killed every piece of casino legislation in modern times, although the State Senate passed its version of the bill with overwhelming bi-partisan support earlier in the session. In a second vote on Thursday, the House rejected a measure to indefinitely postpone consideration of any bills similar to HB 1633 this year by the margin of 155-166, so if the Senate passes its bill to legalize two casinos in separate regions of the state it will come back before the House.

Nonetheless, Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) has consistently supported a single casino development allowing up to 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games to be located in the state’s Southern tier to compete with three destination resort casinos and the single slots parlor legalized across the border in Massachusetts.

HB 1633 would have established a gaming commission to regulate the commercial casino, the state lottery, charitable gaming, and horse and dog racing, although there is no longer any live horse racing in the state and greyhound racing was outlawed several years ago.

Had HB 1633 passed and become law, Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas intended to exercise its option to purchase Rockingham Park and pursue the single casino license through a competitive bidding process. Millennium officials stated that the return of live racing, either Thoroughbred or Standardbred, was part of the plans to revitalize the track.

Officials of Millennium and Rockingham were not available for comment after the vote.