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N.H. lawmaker proposes casino for North Country

Asserts economy would get boost

By Associated Press | February 21, 2005

LINCOLN, N.H. -- Representative Edmond Gionet is betting a North Country casino can provide local jobs and stabilize the state economy.

Gionet, a Lincoln Republican, filed legislation that would permit the creation of a privately owned and operated White Mountain Resort & Casino.

Under the plan, the state lottery commission would collect 20 percent of the proposed casino's gross profits for deposit into New Hampshire's general fund.

"We are the playground for the rest of the state, and the rest of the world," Gionet said. "And I figured we could put it in an area with ample real estate, where a private corporation could purchase the land and build a casino at no expense to the state."

Senator John Gallus, a Berlin Republican, estimated a 100,000-square-foot casino would employ 2,000 people.

Gionet's is not the only gambling proposal.

Senator Louis C. D'Allesandro, a Manchester Democrat, has said he plans to propose legislation to allow state-controlled video poker machines to be placed in each of the state's four racetracks.

D'Allesandro's proposal could benefit the North Country by also allowing video poker machines at large resorts, including the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, Mountain View Grand Hotel in Whitefield, and The Balsams in Dixville Notch.

D'Allesandro said his bill would not allow any other gambling besides video poker, and would not allow gaming beyond specifically identified locations in order to keep it under tight control.

Grand Hotel presidents and managing partners, Steve Barba of The Balsams, and Joel Bedor of the Mount Washington Hotel were mixed in their reaction to video poker machines.

Barba said while he enjoys gambling, he felt it was an inappropriate way to raise state funds.

"I think the government has a higher call to duty than tempting people to put gambling before their families," said Barba.

"For the lowest common denominator, the state might be willing to sell its soul for an efficient and nonconfrontational way of raising revenue."

Bedor did not see gambling as a social threat.

"I don't personally have any real concern of the negative impact of gambling," said Bedor. "I think if it's in a controlled situation, [then] there [are] no great crime issues associated with gaming facilities."

The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee heard Gionet's bill last week.

Since the casino bill survived its first committee hearing, Gionet expressed optimism it would remain on the table.

"Because it didn't die, it has possibilities," Gionet said.

In neighboring Maine, plans are well underway for a casino at a harness racing track in Bangor. Regulations for casino gambling are being finalized by state officials, and Penn National Gaming Inc. plans to open its "racino" next year.

Maine voters in 2003 overwhelmingly rejected state Native American tribes' plan to develop a $650 million casino in Sanford in the southern part of the state.

But the same day, voters approved slot machines at harness racing tracks, opening the door to the Bangor Raceway racino.

From The Boston Globe

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