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N.H. House Rejects Bill Legalizing Video Slots

New Hampshire's House killed a bill to legalize video slots Wednesday that supporters argued in vain would help revive the state's economy by creating jobs.

The House voted 212-158 against allowing slots at six locations, including two on the Massachusetts border. A scaled-back alternative was not considered.

The vote does not mean the issue is dead this session, though the big vote margin could discourage supporters. Supporters could push again to legalize slots as an alternative to budget cuts facing lawmakers.

Fix It Now, a coalition supporting D’Allesandro’s bill, ran newspaper ads Wednesday showing a smiling Gov. Deval Patrick with a headline of “Thank You New Hampshire.”

The House votes on its version of a budget-cutting bill in mid-May, then must negotiate a compromise with the Senate. Senate Finance Chairman Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, is the sponsor of the gambling bill that was killed.

"I don't think you're done for the simple reason that there are people unemployed," D'Allesandro said after the vote. "This is not over."

Former state Sen. Jim Rubens, chairman of Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, agreed. "By no means (is it over), but we're very pleased by the margin," he said.

The Senate bill would have allow a maximum of 17,000 video slot machines at three race tracks, a golf course resort and two undesignated sites in northern New Hampshire. The House proposal that didn't reach a vote would have cut the number of machines to 10,000 at five locations.

Gov. John Lynch had said he would veto D'Allesandro's bill and the House alternative, but he did not shut the door entirely on video slots. He said he wanted to review a report on gambling due next month. Lynch also proposed in his plan to close a projected $220 million budget shortfall that the state investigate fantasy sports betting on the Internet.

Supporters tried to persuade lawmakers gambling revenue would mean avoiding cutting social service programs and local aid.

"How many more young mothers do we push aside and say, 'Nope, we don't have money for you this time,"' said Rep. Christine Hamm, D-Hopkinton. "Our hearts are being torn from us. What have we become?"

Others, including Rep. Jane Clemons, D-Nashua, argued money spent building the casinos would mean jobs that in turn would fuel the economy.

"We have people underemployed or unemployed. We have people who have lost their homes or are losing their homes," she said. If the state cuts social service programs, "where and who do they turn to for help?" she said.

Opponents countered that gambling was not an economic engine and allowing it would alter New Hampshire irrevocably.

"We are in terrible economic times, but I have seen these before and it is not the time to choose an economic solution that is too good to be true," said Rep. David Kidder, R-New London.

Rep. Daniel Itse, R-Fremont, argued selecting a few gambling sites violated the state constitution's prohibition against enriching one man over another. The constitutionally correct way to legalize video slots would be to legalize it for everyone and tax it like any other business, he said.

Fix It Now, a coalition supporting D'Allesandro's bill, ran newspaper ads Wednesday showing a smiling Gov. Deval Patrick with a headline of "Thank You New Hampshire." It included a message that Massachusetts would take millions of dollars in revenue from New Hampshire residents if Massachusetts builds casinos and New Hampshire does not.

House Local and Regulated Revenue Chairwoman Mary Beth Walz, D-Bow, said supporters' estimates of the money New Hampshire would lose were vastly overstated.

The Massachusetts House has approved a bill to license two resort-style casinos and allow 3,000 slot machines spread across the state's two dog tracks and two horse tracks. The Senate has yet to act on the bill.

This program aired on April 21, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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