Say Yes to New Hampshire. Say NO to Casinos.
In 1964, the State of New Hampshire created the New Hampshire Lottery. Ever since, there have been attempts at establishing casinos in New Hampshire, despite the opposition of the state’s attorneys general, most law enforcement agencies, and all recent NH governors but the current one. We anticipate at least one casino bill in the 2015 session of the New Hampshire House will be been filed.
So why, in every vote since 1973, have casinos been defeated in the New Hampshire House of Representatives? As a new legislator, you might expect the argument against casinos to be a moral or social cost argument. Rather, it’s evolved into an equation of whether the promised revenue, jobs and entertainment value outweigh the harm that casinos may do to vulnerable citizens, to families, to communities, to the rest of the New Hampshire economy. For over forty years, that answer has been “No.”
As noted in Legislative History of Casino Gambling & Video Slot Machines in New Hampshire, casino proponents have proposed every flavor of casino & slot machines imaginable: Casinos at horse tracks, casinos at dog tracks, casinos at hotels, slot machines at all establishments serving liquor, casinos on boats.
Revenue from those operations has been proposed to reduce property taxes, fix roads and bridges, fund the education trust fund, fund kindergarten specifically, fund treatment of problem gambling, and even to help prop-up the dying horse-racing industry. As was the case in 2013, casinos were pitched as an “all of the above” solution fix for the state’s revenue shortfall, plus give money to cities and towns to replace state aid.
Market Saturation of Casinos
Here’s how it goes: The state budget needs revenue. A state approves, let’s say, one casino, and it generates good revenue for a year or two. Then a neighboring state puts a competing casino right across the border. Because the number of gamblers and the amount of disposable income is finite, revenues tumble when the new casino opens. But the state has now become addicted to the revenue. The response? Allow more casinos into the state – or more types of gambling, such as sports betting and internet wagering – to generate more revenue. Other states, in turn, up the ante and the downward spiral continues.
As witnessed in Atlantic City, NJ, once the premier gambling venue on the East Coast, four casinos have closed and others have slashed jobs to survive, leaving broken small businesses and families in their wake. But as you’ll see, this saturation is not limited to New Jersey.
Casino Boom Pinches Northeastern States – Wall Street Journal
America’s Casino-Saturation Problem – The New Yorker
State-By-State Report Card
Two of the largest casinos in the world, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, continue to see large losses of revenue, termed in one recent article as a “free fall.” Competition from across the border in New York, Rhode Island and shortly, Massachusetts, has cut into the resort-style casinos revenues. In November 2014, Foxwoods announced an eventual cut of 1,000 slot machines, about 20% of its inventory. Meanwhile, Mohegan Sun is considering a new casino across the border from Springfield, MA to fend off losses to their neighboring state.
Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun Report Drop In Slot Revenue For October – Harford Courant
Twin Rivers Casino and the smaller Newport Grand, with already declining revenue, are faced with steep declines due to the pending Massachusetts casinos. A recent state study estimates declines of almost 40% in the face of competition. Twin Rivers had already taken significant hits from New York and Connecticut competition. Slots revenue, typically making up about 80% of casino revenue, dropped $3.5 million in 2013, and $10.2 million in fiscal 2014.
R.I. loses share of table game income due to drop in slots revenue at Twin River – Providence Journal
How Massachusetts Casinos Will Affect Rhode Island’s – – Boston Globe
The defeat of the November 2014 referendum to roll back the law allowing casinos does allow plans for large casinos to go forward in Everett, MA , Springfield and a slots parlor in Plainville, MA, after the casino industry outspent proponents by $14 million to $600 thousand to defeat the referendum. The Everett location is 40 miles from Nashua, and the Plainville location, on the Rhode Island border and which is expected to open in 2015, is over 60 miles from NH.
The winning bid for the Everett casino was from Wynn Resorts, a Las Vegas-based company, which operates casinos in Las Vegas & Macau, China. Wynn’s deal with the state was to build $1.6 billion casino. MGM, of which Steve Wynn was former CEO, won the license for the Springfield casino, a planned $800 million facility, 56 miles from the New Hampshire border. In comparison, the proposed casino in Salem, NH was a $450 million facility.
Casinos Spent $14M To Defeat Repeal Question – Associated Press
Casino Wars: Northeastern US Casino Expansion Took Off in 2014 – Industry trade journal Casino.Org
In 2005, the State of Maine, authorized Hollywood Slots to be built at a declining Bangor horse track. In 2010, Maine allowed a second, somewhat larger casino in south central Maine called the Oxford Casino, owned by Black Bear Entertainment and operated by Churchill Downs. Interestingly, Oxford was vehemently opposed by the operator of Hollywood Slots. After only two and a half years in operation, Oxford’s slots revenues have already begun to decline in 2014. Hollywood, which added table games to compete with Oxford, also is in decline in 2014 vs. 2013. Sensing the loss of revenue, a proposal was made in early 2014 to add a casino to Scarborough Downs –over the objection of Maine’s other casinos — in Southern Maine. The proposal was denied—for now.
Maine Casinos Oppose Expanded Gambling in State – Industry trade journal Casino.Org
An early adopter of casino funding of state government was the State of Delaware. Once held up as an example to help sell casino gambling in NH by proponents, Delaware suffered with large, glitzy casinos built across the border in Pennsylvania and Maryland. So bad, in fact, that in 2013, the Dover legislature appropriated an $8 million bailout of the casinos and the legislature has earmarked $13 million for future bailouts in an effort to save jobs. With another Philadelphia casino just approved, the outlook for Delaware’s casinos is questionable in 2015
Delaware is trapped in casino business – Delaware News Journal
A casino recently opened in Queens at the Aquaduct Racetrack, and three other licenses were awarded in December 2014: In the Finger Lakes, in the Catskills near Monticello, NY, and in Schenectady, just outside of Albany. The Montreign Resort near Monticello is a $630 million facility, though the others are smaller $425 M and $300 M projects.
New York is already home to nine video-slot parlors at racetracks and five full-scale casinos operated by Indian tribes under federal law. Analysts have stated that New York’s casinos will take business from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut casinos, though regional gambling revenue continues to decline.
In Atlantic City, New Jersey, about 130 miles south of Manhattan, four of 12 casinos closed this year. A bid to close a fifth, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, is in bankruptcy court and is now expected to close in March 2015. In the last 12 months, 9,900 jobs have been lost, mostly low-paying service employees. The Taj Mahal closing would layoff an additional 3,000, making the total nearly 13,000 jobs lost.
2014 timeline of battered casinos – Associated Press
What Are the Social Costs of Casinos?
You’re likely already familiar with the downsides of gambling. Youmay know or have heard of someone who has had an addiction and squandered the mortgage to pay for it.
National studies have repeatedly shown that the highest addiction rates occur within a 30-mile radius of a casino. Three quarters of New Hampshire’s population will live within 50 miles of the main proposed site, Rockingham Park in Salem, NH. Typically, 80% of a casino’s revenue comes from video slot machines, the most addictive of casino games (See Addiction by Design by MIT professor Natasha Dow Schüll). The largest users of slot machines? The elderly. Recent bills before the NH House propose a 35% cut of slot machine revenue going to the State of New Hampshire. Only 1% of recent bills are earmarked for problem gambling treatment.
Local Business and Jobs
While casinos bring shiny new buildings and glitzy entertainment when they come, they also have an impact on local business. Families have a finite amount of disposable income for entertainment and leisure activities. Money spent at a casino is often at the expense of local restaurants, concert venues like Capitol Center for the Arts, movie theaters, and other local businesses. And in most cases, local business profits stay in the community, not returned to out-of-state corporations.
Local restaurants employ thousands of people in New Hampshire. The majority of these jobs are locally-owned establishments, where owner-operators live in the communities they serve. While New Hampshire has some chain restaurants in urban areas, even some of the chains are locally-owned, including the Common Man, the 99 Restaurants, and Margaritas. These local businesses not only employ local residents, but the profits of those businesses mostly stay in the local economy.
Within a 30-mile radius, casinos restaurants compete with local-owned restaurants, sometimes offering low-cost food to generate traffic to the casino. Twin River Casino in Rhode Island, comparable in size to last year’s that being proposed by Millennium Gaming in Salem, NH, has 17 restaurants contained within the casino property. In a larger radius, restaurants and other hospitality businesses which normally benefit from a consumer’s disposable income, see reductions in business. (Image at right from Oxford Casino, Oxford, ME)
Culture and Entertainment
You’ve undoubtedly seen Connecticut’s Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun frequently advertise big-name coming attractions on television in the Boston market. Entertainment drives traffic into the casino and is often used as a loss-leader to bring in customers who will come for the concert, but who will gamble as well.
Venues such as the Capitol Center for the Arts, Portsmouth Music Hall and the Flying Monkey Performance Center are all concerned with a New Hampshire casino locking out the local venues from high-draw entertainment. When artists are booked, they agree not to perform elsewhere within a certain distance. Deep-pocket casinos are able to pay more to the artist to perform, leaving the local venues with less attractive and less profitable acts. And like other local businesses, entertainment venues are also affected by the loss of disposable income going to gambling vs. other forms of entertainment.
Do Casinos Bring “Good” Jobs?
One of the arguments for building a casino are the ‘good’ jobs it is expected create. A 2013 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for “gambling industries” indicates a nationwide median hourly wage of $10.76. The mean hourly wage is $13.63, annualized at $28,350. In other words, most jobs are low-paying jobs. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services 2014 poverty level for a family of four is $29,800. About two-thirds of casino workers in the U.S. are unionized, but it is unclear whether NH workers would form a union. Construction unions have supported recent NH proposals, arguing that even short-term construction jobs are worth the social cost trade off. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Gambling Industries
New Hampshire Governors & Casinos
Governor Steve Merrill
Gov. Merrill served from 1993 to 1997 and saw 11 bills related to casino or slot machine gambling. ”I may veto, and I don’t favor, any of these gambling bills. You can’t assume that gambling revenue is a panacea,” said Merrill.
Governor Jeanne Shaheen
While serving as governor from 1997 to 2003, the House and Senate proposed 12 casino or slots gambling bills. All were defeated, but Gov. Shaheen noted that while she would accept video lottery (slot) machines at New Hampshire’s racetracks, “Casino gambling is out of the question.”
Governor Craig Benson
Although only in office for one term, Gov. Benson saw three bills, which he signaled he would veto.
Governor John Lynch
During his tenure 2005-2012, Gov. Lynch was sometimes coy about his feelings on gambling, but in an interview at the end of his last term, laid out his argument for eventually opposing it – after a bipartisan commission he appointed did an in-depth examination of the pros and cons:
“No, I’m still opposed to expanded gambling. I worry about it for a number of reasons. I worry about it in terms of proliferation. Now a legislature might say we’re only going to have one, or two. But looking over 20 years what will happen is the state will enter into another downturn, another recession, there’ll be a need for more revenue. And guaranteed people will say, ‘You know, we already have a casino in Salem, or Hudson, or Seabrook. Why not put put one in Loudon at the Speedway? Or put one in the North Country?’ They’re already talking about that, by the way, this time around. ‘Or put one in Manchester, or Portsmouth?’ And over time, we’ll have more casinos and more expanded gambling. And you won’t be able to shut it off. I worry about the influence in Concord. And there will be a lot of influence. All you need is the owner of a casino, which does deliver, maybe, tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars to the state, to take a position on a bill. And say, ‘If you don’t pass this bill, or veto this bill, I’m going to have to lay off a thousand people.’ Everybody will be down there saying, ‘PLEASE, don’t lay off a thousand people! Please don’t pull the casino! We will accept your position on a bill.’ And that pervasive influence will even get worse.” – on NHPR’s The Exchange, January, 2013.
Governor Maggie Hassan
Governor Hassan, on the other hand, is the first governor to outright support casino gambling in New Hampshire. Hassan said she supports “one highly regulated, high-end casino that could truly compete with Massachusetts. Why? Because I don’t want our gambling revenues and our rooms-and-meals revenues spent in Massachusetts, building their roads, their bridges and their schools, and then having the social and safety concerns that come with gambling, come back over the border and not having any revenues for us to address them.” Despite her backing, 2014’s HB1633 was killed in the House in March, and a two-casino bill, SB366, was killed two months later after passing in the Senate.
State Control, Legislation to Order and Monopolies
As evidenced in the bills shown in the timeline, for decades legislation has been written for, and often by, the horse dog racing tracks and casino operators. Early bills included a state-owned facility which was leased back to an operator, or run by the state itself.
More recent bills have been driven by one company, Millennium Gaming, Inc. Millennium co-owner and co-CEO, William Wortman, owns 20% of Rockingham Park in Salem, and 2012, 2013 and 2014 bills have been largely written to accommodate facilities proposed by Millennium Gaming.
Many Libertarians and conservatives opposed these one, two or three-casino bills as an infringement on free enterprise, feeling the state should not dictate the number, size or operations of these businesses. Another frequent criticism is that the state has more revenue, thus will spend more revenue. Proposals with outright ownership by the state are similarly looked to as a state-run monopoly.
It is likely that an anticipated tight state budget will again be the rallying cry for casino gambling proponents. With the approval of Massachusetts casinos, one of which is less than 50 miles from the proposed NH location in Salem, and another being discussed in Scarborough, Maine, we anticipate either the same bill one or two-casino bill with added “enticements.” It is also possible that or perhaps a scaled-down “slots barn” casino given eroding market conditions.
In the timeline you’ll note that the argument that casino gambling is the “only way” to solve NH’s budget crisis will be made again in 2015. Yet the New Hampshire House has found a way to balance the budget without gambling and the uncertainty it brings. As of December 2014, Connecticut anticipates a 2015 budget shortfall due to declining gaming revenue.
The fact is that in the last 40 years, New Hampshire legislators have found a way to balance the budget without casino gambling revenue. Other than an initial license fee, any annual revenue is two to three years off, which won’t help any short-term shortfalls.
What To Expect In 2015
Urgency to “beat Massachusetts”
Like the TV infomercial, you’ll be hearing that “You must act now!” to beat Massachusetts. New Hampshire, if it ever does approve casino gambling, would be at least two years behind Massachusetts in creating a functional regulatory commission, developing and adopting rules and procedures, soliciting, reviewing and awarding franchises, permitting, bidding, and construction. With even more regional casinos proposed, the market will have been even more saturated by the time any casino operator opened in New Hampshire
Would Revenue Arrive in Time to Balance the Budget in 2015?
No. Even if a casino were to be approved in the 2015session, a bidding process with reviews of proposal specifics would occur. The chosen licensee would then pay a license fee. Before actual monthly revenue, there would be construction and environmental permits, then the actual construction of the facility over a likely two-year period, with an opening possibly in 2017 at the earliest. In the meantime, saturation continues throughout New England.
Glossary of Terms
Destination Resort Casino – A casino to which customers would travel long distances to visit, and would stay for one or more nights. Such casinos often offer large entertainment venues, several restaurants, shopping and golf. One consultant lists Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Connecticut, and Mississippi as qualifying as destination resort casinos. Casinos in other states cater to local markets, where 90% of visitors are from less than three hours away.
Electronic Gaming – General term which would include electronic slot machines, also known as Video Lottery Terminals; video poker, Keno, electronic table games and similar non-mechanical gambling devices. Such language has been used in proposed NH legislation, but covers many devices.
Video gaming terminal – Means any electronic video game machine that, upon insertion of cash, electronic cards or vouchers, or any combination thereof, is available to play or simulate the play of a video game, including but not limited to video poker, line up, and blackjack.
Video Lottery Terminal – A video lottery terminal at a minimum will utilize randomness in determination of prizes, contain some form of activation to initiate the selection process, and make use of a methodology for delivery of the determined outcome. Each video lottery terminal is connected to a centralized computer system that allows the lottery jurisdiction to monitor game play and perform control functions
Video Poker – A casino game that uses a slot-machine-like terminal and allows the player to play a poker variant (usually 5 card draw) and awards payouts based on the strength of the player’s hand.
Keno – A lottery game machine with set prize amounts. For each drawing, a player may choose to play from one to ten spots and a corresponding selection of number choices from one to eighty. The Lottery awards prizes based on the extent to which the game play appearing on a player’s ticket matches.
Promotional Gaming Credit – Means a slot machine or table game credit, discount, or other similar item issued to a atron to enable the placement of, or increase in, a wager at a slot machine or table game.
Slots Barn – A casino with only slot machines but not table games: usually a smaller, less glitzy facility catering to a local customer.
Slot Machine – “Slot machine” means any mechanical, electrical, or other device or machine which, upon insertion of a coin, token, ticket, or similar object, or upon payment of any consideration, is available to play or operate, the play or operation of which, whether by reason of the skill of the operator or application of the element of chance, or both, makes individual prize determinations for individual participants in cash, premiums, merchandise, tokens, or anything of value, whether the payoff is made automatically from the machine or in any other manner, but does not include any device that is a skill-based amusement machine,
Table Game – Any game played with cards, dice, or any mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic device or machine for money, casino credit, or any representative of value. “Table games” does not include slot machines.