Publisher's Note: A reckoning with reality
A reckoning is coming for New Hampshire. Gov. John Lynch is considering legalizing widespread gambling if it doesnít affect our quality of life. I understand the governorís concern. What would casinos, slot machines, poker rooms and other dens of gambling do to our tranquil, rural state?
They are already here, and the world hasnít ended. This weekís Hippo cover story looks at the growth of charity gaming in New Hampshire. Led primarily by New Hampshire Lottery Commission scratch tickets, but including poker and dog and horse race gambling at the race tracks, this state already offers a wide variety of betting opportunities.
Massachusetts and Maine are both looking at building casinos or adding slot machines to offset all the money that leaves their states and goes to New England casinos Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. According to our story almost $1 billion leaves Massachusetts each year for those casinos. Numbers are not available on how much leaves New Hampshire for those casinos.
If Maine and Massachusetts open up massive gambling operations, then New Hampshire might have little choice but to join the group or risk losing millions in lottery, race track and charity revenue.
Whatever opponents say about these charity gaming facilities (these include places that offer poker, black jack and roulette), they contribute millions of dollars to local charities. What will these charities do if this source of income is eliminated?
A lot of this anti-gambling hand-wringing is more show than reality. New Hampshire already offers $30 scratch tickets. Scratch tickets with face values over $10 already comprise 40 percent of the stateís lottery revenue. These scratch tickets are offered at almost every convenience store in the state. Thatís thousands of gaming joints all over the state. I think we can all agree these scratch tickets donít hurt our quality of life.
However, itís true that casinos are different from state lottery programs that offer scratch tickets. Casinos evoke a more negative image of gambling addicts spending their last dime on the slots or the roulette table. Studies have shown that crime does rise around casinos and that gambling addicts tend to congregate around casinos. This canít be sugarcoated. Nor should we enter into some state-sponsored gaming without knowing all the negatives.
Iíd personally prefer that people didnít gamble with their last dime or that people wouldnít drink themselves into homelessness. But itís going to happen regardless of my feelings. And, sure, just because you canít stop it doesnít mean you have to support it. But I think adults should be able to make their own decision about their future, even really bad ones. What is the alternative?
Gambling already provides a steady stream of income for our state government and local charities. Increasing legalized gambling in New Hampshire seems the only reasonable way to deal with Maine and Massachusetts.