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NH senator pushing new video slots measure

Video slots have gotten new life in New Hampshire, with their biggest Senate backer bringing in a revised proposal for a vote this week.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Video slots have gotten new life in New Hampshire, with their biggest Senate backer bringing in a revised proposal for a vote this week.

Senate Finance Chairman Lou D'Allesandro said Monday he has enough votes in the chamber to pass a plan that cuts the maximum number of machines to 10,000 at four undesignated locations. The House defeated D'Allesandro's initial plan that called for six sites, including two along the Massachusetts state line, and a maximum of 17,000 machines statewide.

That bill would have allowed video slot machines at dog tracks in Belmont and Seabrook, a horse track in Salem, a golf course resort in Hudson and two undesignated sites in northern New Hampshire.

D'Allesandro said anyone can apply under the new proposal.

He said the state could get $80 million from the first of two rounds of license awards next year. Licenses worth an additional $65 million would be awarded late next year or early in 2012. D'Allesandro estimated that revenue from the four sites eventually would be at least $100 million.

Operators could add 150 table games for an additional $10 million in license fees.

The state Lottery Commission would be in charge of oversight except for table games. The Pari-Mutuel Commission, which already has responsibility for table games operated by charities, would also oversee those run by the state.

The gambling bill is the Senate's counter to a House plan to cut the state budget. The House votes this week on a bill to close a budget shortfall through spending cuts, tax increases and debt restructuring.

Gov. John Lynch presented lawmakers with his plan to close a possible $220 million gap, which the House Finance Committee amended, producing about $182 million toward balancing the budget.

The House plan makes $37 million in spending cuts, lays off 30 workers at the youth reformatory in Manchester, requires state managers to take 12 unpaid furlough days, raises taxes on some tobacco products excluding cigarettes and hand-wrapped cigars, raises the tax on insurance premiums and creates a tax on electricity generation and estates larger than $2 million.

Many senators object to the cuts if they could be avoided with gambling revenues.

D'Allesandro said the defeated gambling bill established the Senate's position going into budget negotiations.

"We've got to stay with the Senate's position," said D'Allesandro, D-Manchester.

House Finance Chairwoman Marjorie Smith said the House's position is equally clear: It has said "no" repeatedly to video slots.

"It is not a reliable revenue source for the state," said Smith, D-Durham.

Lynch has not been receptive to video slots. He said he would veto the first Senate gambling bill and an alternative House proposal, but he has not shut the door entirely on video slots.