Governor John Lynch today announced that he will veto any legislation allowing casinos or racinos in New Hampshire.
In a detailed letter to legislative leadership, the Governor outlined a number of reasons for his decision to veto any casino legislation, including the lack of a regulatory structure, the potential impact to the state's quality of life and economy, and the proliferation of gambling across the state.
"As the next legislative session nears, it appears there once again will be multiple proposals to expand gambling in New Hampshire. As you know, I have long been concerned about the potential impacts of expanded gambling on New Hampshire's special character and quality of life," Governor Lynch wrote in a letter to the Senate president and House speaker.
"Over the years, I have listened carefully to all sides in the gambling debate, and even convened a bipartisan group of distinguished citizens to examine the issues around expanded gambling. After a great deal of thought and consideration, I have determined that the risks to New Hampshire from expanded gambling are simply too high, and for that reason I will veto any legislation allowing casinos or racinos in our state," Governor Lynch wrote.
A copy of the Governor's letter is below:
November 14, 2011
The Honorable Peter Bragdon
State House - Room 302
Concord, NH 03301
The Honorable William O'Brien
Speaker of the House
State House - Room 312
Concord, NH 03301
Dear Senate President Bragdon and Speaker O'Brien:
As the next legislative session nears, it appears there once again will be multiple proposals to expand gambling in New Hampshire. As you know, I have long been concerned about the potential impacts of expanded gambling on New Hampshire's special character and quality of life.
Over the years, I have listened carefully to all sides in the gambling debate, and even convened a bipartisan group of distinguished citizens to examine the issues around expanded gambling. After a great deal of thought and consideration, I have determined that the risks to New Hampshire from expanded gambling are simply too high, and for that reason I will veto any legislation allowing casinos or racinos in our state. Here are the reasons why:
* Lack of regulatory structure: The Governor's Gaming Study Commission's report made clear New Hampshire does not have a regulatory structure sufficient to police expanded gambling operations. Even states that set up new regulatory structures have had problems. In Pennsylvania, a grand jury report recently found a host of problems with its gambling oversight agency. Yet, some are contemplating that New Hampshire move forward with expanded gambling before establishing any new regulatory structure. I have previously made clear that before I would consider expanded gambling, New Hampshire would need to have in place a strong and comprehensive regulatory structure. An effort to move forward with determining how to regulate this industry, however, has been blocked.
* Quality of life and our economy: It appears increasingly likely that Massachusetts will expand gambling. Given that, casinos in New Hampshire are unlikely to attract the large number of out-of-state visitors some supporters have forecasted, and will rely more heavily on New Hampshire residents for their income.
Expansion of gambling will bring with it social problems, harming New Hampshire's quality of life and adding costs to local and state government and social service agencies. While expanded gambling would bring employment opportunities, those jobs would likely come at the expense of other jobs in New Hampshire, as expanded gambling would divert money that is now being spent at other New Hampshire businesses and supporting other New Hampshire workers.
* Proliferation: Even if proponents are successful in limiting an initial bill to one or two gambling locations, I do not believe expanded gambling would stay limited to one or two locations over the long term. When revenue failed to meet expectations, there would be a strong push to expand gambling to other parts of the state. West Virginia, according to a study commission report, began in 1994 with just allowing slot machines at racetracks. Yet by 2009, gambling had expanded to such an extent that a single West Virginia county, with a population of just 37,000 people, had 37 mini casinos. New Hampshire could end up with casinos, or slot machines, across our state.
* Industry influence: For years, lobbyists and industry officials have promised that expanded gambling would deliver significant revenues to our state. If New Hampshire was to allow expanded gambling, this one industry could come to represent a significant portion of the state revenues, potentially wielding outsized control over policy debates. In the past several years, we've already seen the industry spend heavily on television ads and lobbyists in an effort to gain a foothold into New Hampshire. Such influence would only grow if the industry controlled a large portion of the state's revenue. I do not believe that it is in our state's long-term interest to grant that much influence to one industry.
* Just because Massachusetts is doing it doesn't mean New Hampshire should follow: This debate seems to be taking on urgency in part because of the discussions in Massachusetts. We have been told we must expand gambling in New Hampshire now because Massachusetts is about to do it. Taking our policy lead from Massachusetts is not something New Hampshire has traditionally done.
There are a lot of things that Massachusetts does (such as have income and sales taxes) that we don't do in New Hampshire. We should not be driven by Massachusetts' policy choices or Massachusetts' schedule.
While expanded gambling may bring a short-term infusion of cash, we have a responsibility to future generations of New Hampshire citizens to consider the long-term impacts of our decisions on the State of New Hampshire.
Over the years, New Hampshire has developed a brand that has led to our economic success. We offer a well-educated workforce, low crime rates, and a beautiful natural environment. New Hampshire is consistently ranked among the best states to raise a child, the most livable state and the safest state. As I have said before, I believe we must be extraordinarily cautious about doing things that may hurt our successful strategy.
I do not believe the monetary benefits of expanded gambling outweigh the risks it poses to New Hampshire's quality of life, its existing businesses and workers and its economic future. Consequently, I will veto legislation allowing casinos or racinos in New Hampshire.
John H. Lynch