November 1, 2007

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Publisher's Note: Odd state out
By†Jody Reese

Soon New Hampshire may be one of the only states in this region to not offer legalized gambling.

Maine is on its way to approve slot machines and Massachusetts is looking to open several casinos, including one north of Boston.

Maine and Massachusetts are part of a national trend for states to use gambling to pay for education and other state-funded programs that taxpayers seem weary to further support. This is nothing new. Almost every state in the country has a lottery. States also tax cigarettes and alcohol at higher rates than other goods. These sin taxes, as they are called, are a tacit acknowledgment that these products arenít all that good for you and if you want them youíll have to pay a little more and that money will be used to keep taxes lower or offer more government programs.

The same is true for legalized gambling. Governments have come to the conclusion that people are going to gamble, so why not offer it in a safe, legal way that gives government some of the profit. In New Hampshire, we already allow gambling on horse and dog racing at several tracks around the state, as well as a whole host of lottery products. Opponents argue that gambling ends up costing states more in social services costs that arise from people spending too much gambling. Thatís been the line of gambling opponents here in New Hampshire. But if Maine and Massachusetts go forward with their gambling plans, opponents have a hard sell ahead of them. If New Hampshire were the only state in the region to not offer gambling, then it would likely see its residents cross the state border to gamble in Maine and Massachusetts, just as residents from those states cross over into New Hampshire to take advantage of no state sales tax and lower alcohol and tobacco prices. We would see money leaving New Hampshire. In the end, itís not a question of morals or theorized social costs, but of cold hard cash.

At this point, New Hampshire doesnít have much of choice. If weíre the only state in the region not to offer legalized gambling then weíll lose millions to our neighbors. It would be like all of a sudden we didnít sell alcohol any more. People would just cross the border to buy it. Offering legalized gambling in New Hampshire isnít a moral questions anymore, itís a question of revenue.

Do we as a state so oppose gambling that we are going to let Maine and Massachusetts take millions from our residents for their government programs?

That sounds foolish. Banning gambling here will only drive it out of state.

Vote Tuesday
Manchester, Nashua and Concord will all be choosing a mayor this coming Tuesday. In New Hampshire you donít even need to be pre-registered to vote. Just show up at your polling station with your identification and you can vote.