No prospective casino developer has been in the news more than Bill Wortman and his firm, Millennium Gaming. Wortman has been courting the town of Salem for years and recently unveiled his concept for a casino at Rockingham Park.
Wortman may have started off as a CPA but he clearly enjoys the role of casino developer that he's morphed into. A beefy man who favors a casual, open collar look, Wortman began his gaming career in 1978 at one of the iconic casinos on the Las Vegas strip:
What would a casino at Rockingham Park mean for Salem city government? We traveled to Western Pennsylvania to find out. There, a $550 million casino and racetrack called The Meadows has injected millions into local government.
A team of reporters at NHPR is gearing up for a series next week that looks at what a casino at Rockingham Park – could mean for the town of Salem. To prepare for that series, our economy reporter Emily Corwin traveled to Washington County in Western Pennsylvania. The racetrack and casino there, called The Meadows, is run by Millennium Gaming. That’s the same company that already has an option to buy Rockingham Park, if legislation passes.
The New Hampshire House makes its first key vote as the casino bill is voted on by a supercommittee comprised of the House Finance and Ways & Means Committees; various amendments will be considered on Tuesday, with a committee vote and recommendation coming Wednesday. The New Hampshire Senate, meanwhile, continues to work on its budget, and the Senate Finance Committee prepares to hear from some of the larger state agencies - Health & Human Services, Transportation, and Environmental Services - on their budget needs.
Today on The Exchange, it's our Friday New Hampshire News Roundup. We're looking at some of the top stories of the week, from the one public hearing held on the state Senate's budget, to the House's hard look at the Senate casino bill, and the removal of "grow your own" policy from the medical marijuana bill.
Kevin Landrigan - Longtime political reporter for the Telegraph of Nashua.
Millennium Gaming brought leaders from Washington County, Pennsylvania to Concord to tout the benefits of a casino to lawmakers at a lunch meeting today. Millennium runs The Meadows casino and racetrack in Washington. If New Hampshire allows a casino at Rockingham Park, Millennium would develop it.
Testimony turned emotional today as a House subcommittee considered the social costs of allowing a casino in New Hampshire. Most of the comments focused on studies of gambling behavior and public policy. The exception was Mell Brooks, of Littleton. He discussed his five years as a restaurant owner in Oregon, where he was allowed to have five video slot machines.
In the wake of the bombings in Boston, NH Senator Kelly Ayotte and other lawmakers are arguing for treating the remaining suspect as an enemy combatant, which would break new legal ground; the national gun bill fails to pass, with Senator Ayotte being the lone New England Senator to oppose the bill; the casino bill backed by Governor Hassan and the NH Senate is now being examined by the NH House Finance and Ways & Means committees; both branches of the NH Legislature continue to work on their budgets.
If the Senate bill that proposes a single casino in the state becomes law it “would dedicate millions of dollars per year directly to North Country economic development,” Governor Maggie Hassan said during a speech Thursday night before the North Country Chamber of Commerce.
That would spur business and job growth “helping us attract new companies by marketing the North Country’s advantages to businesses in Canada and elsewhere,” she told about 125 people at the Log Haven Restaurant on lonely Route 26 in Millsfield, about 145 miles from Concord.
Gambling in the United States has exploded over the last 30 years. More and more, budget-slashing states are becoming increasingly dependent on lottery and other gambling revenues, and politicians are lobbying for expanded gambling, including here in New Hampshire, where Governor Maggie Hassan has included a line item for $80 million in the budget for casino licensing fees. Hassan has been pushing hard for the construction of a single high-end casino near the Massachusetts border, but opponents point out that problem gambling is on the rise – in fact, pathological gambling is now being recognized on par with alcohol and drug addiction. In 2011, we spoke with investigative journalist Sam Skolnik, whose book, High Stakes: The Rising Costs of America’s Gambling Addiction, unpacks the rise of politically supported gambling, as well as its many hazards.
The New Hampshire Senate has voted 16-8 to authorize a single casino on the Massachusetts border. The Senate margin is the strongest yet for a casino bill. But the real fight on this issue will be in the New Hampshire House.
Governor Hassan began her day before the Senate Ways and Means committee. She delivered a pro-gambling pitch familiar from her budget address last week -- New Hampshire needs to act to authorize a casino with 5000 slot machines and 150 table games before similar facilities open in Massachusetts.