Say Yes to New Hampshire. Say NO to Casinos.
1. Regional casino markets are saturated. New Hampshire’s market is too small to support a destination resort casino.
The regional gambling market now includes 11 casinos in nearby Montreal, Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island. Massachusetts has legalized four additional large casinos, including a proposed $1.5 billion operation in Everett (near Boston), all to offer flashier venues with more amenities than any casino ever proposed for New Hampshire.
Most New England gamblers live near Boston and New York, not in New Hampshire. Given choice, gamblers take their business to larger casinos closer to where they live.
Casino facility investment is determined by population and aggregate personal income within 30-45 minutes drive-time of a proposed location, and by the location and amenities of competing casinos. The New Hampshire market is too small to justify the $1.5 billion-plus investment required for a Foxwoods-type destination/resort casino offering dramatic architecture, four-or five-star hotels, more and better restaurants, and big-name entertainment. The New Hampshire casino market is suited for a local market “convenience” casino or slots barn.
A convenience casino here would therefore depend primarily on New Hampshire residents for business. New Hampshire gamblers wanting a flashier experience will continue to take their business to Connecticut or Massachusetts. Few Connecticut or Massachusetts residents will drive to New Hampshire to patronize a remote convenience casino offering fewer amenities.
Case in point: despite promises to the contrary (exactly like those being made by gambling interests here) Bangor, Maine’s convenience casino has completely failed to attract out-of-state gamblers or to halt the flow of Maine gambler money to Connecticut.
New England Casino Gaming Update data show that 96 percent of gamblers at the Bangor casino live in Maine, only 1 percent in Massachusetts. In 2004, the year before Bangor casino opened, Maine residents spent $33 million at the Connecticut casinos, $34 million in 2011.
The glory days for the casino industry are over. The collapse of the Atlantic City industry has been widely reported. There are only so many gambling dollars to go around. As a casino market becomes over-saturated, competing facilities put one another out of business.
Finally, beware the “resort” casino bait & switch. Gambling interests typically sucker gullible legislators in smaller markets with promises of a casino with high-end amenities — then deliver a slots barn or a “temporary” facility and indefinite promises to build a glitzy permanent facility.
Check these before and after pictures showing the bait & switch that tricked referendum voters into approving the Oxford, Maine slots barn by a razor-thin 0.8 percent margin.