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Policy: Law

3rd time not the charm on casino bill in House

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News,Business,Gambling,New Hampshire,Law

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Casino supporters who hoped the third time would be the charm in New Hampshire's House after suffering two defeats in the past two months were shut out again Wednesday.

The House voted 192-172 not to reconsider last week's vote to kill a bill that legalized two casinos sharing a total of 5,000 video slot machines and 240 table games. The measure also called for distributing $25 million of state revenues from the casinos to local communities to provide property tax relief.

The fight was to reconsider last week's House close vote to kill the bill — 173-172, with the tiebreaking vote by the presiding officer.

Supporters pleaded with the House to consider the state's need for revenue to potentially replace money from a tax on hospitals a superior court judge recently ruled was unconstitutional. They noted that two Wall Street bond rating firms had subsequently put the state's credit rating on watch.

But gambling opponents said the House had spoken repeatedly on the question of legalizing casinos — twice killing bills this year and once last year.

"It does not need to be reconsidered and brought up a fourth time," said Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett.

But the House voted 183-179 not to bar considering different casino measures before adjourning June 5.

Judiciary Chairwoman Marjorie Smith argued in vain that it was time for the House to move on and block attempts to bring the issue up in the remaining weeks of the session.

"In baseball, you can hit foul balls again and again to keep your at bat going, but once you hit three strikes, you're out," said Smith, a Durham Democrat.

Executive Departments and Administration Chairwoman Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, countered that it was unwise to foreclose any option to raise revenue in the remaining weeks.

The House has consistently rejected efforts to legalize casino gambling. It rejected a bill to legalize a single casino in March. The Senate then passed a revised bill to legalize two casinos, which the House killed last week.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, has repeatedly said she supports only one casino. She and other casino supporters have said they believe New Hampshire should legalize a casino to capture gambling profits that otherwise will be spent in Massachusetts, which is licensing three casinos and one video slots parlor.

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