Publisher's Note: Who, us? We don’t gamble in NH
By Jody Reese
While Governor John Lynch has made sure New Hampshire will be slot machine-free for another two years, the state is not without gambling. For starters there’s the lottery and all the instant scratch tickets, a very primitive slot machine, bingo and poker and, of course, the horse and dog racing (now just on TV). Add to that the sports betting and illegal poker rooms and in reality there is plenty of gaming already going on in New Hampshire. Would adding 1,000 slot machines— or more — really change the culture of our state? Would it more than now entice people to play games of chance?
I’m not a fan of gaming, but I don’t see people stopping. People enjoy it and will continue to do it and overdo it in many cases. I don’t think it would be a stretch for the state to figure out a safe and controlled way to add more legal gaming. Perhaps it could even run the games, like it does the liquor stores.
A well-run government business — you’re foolin’, right?
It’s taken some years for me to really appreciate our state-run liquor stores, but I’m there. While the selection of wines isn’t a strong suit, you can’t beat the prices, the staff is great and the stores are pretty centrally located, at least in the Merrimack Valley.
That said, it’s odd that the state government runs a business that competes with private enterprise. They don’t even do that in Massachusetts. Our state stores were originally set up to control the sale of booze. It wasn’t about making money; that’s now changed. The state is now singularly focused on making money on the sale of alcohol.
While I don’t see why we pick on alcohol — or any of the sins — as a thing we add extra taxes to, it is a fact of life. We tax things we see as harmful.
That brings me to the main — and conflicting — point about the state-controlled liquor stores. If the state really want to make money on alcohol sales, it wouldn’t sell liquor. It would just tax the heck out of it, right? It’s a little counterintuitive for the state to set up a business that could very easily be done by private enterprise — and is in most places — and run it at such a profit. The stores have a profit margin in the 20- to 25-percent range. So for anyone who says government can’t run a business, just look at New Hampshire’s very profitable liquor stores, which offer booze at some of the country’s cheapest prices.
Take care of your health
All this sin tax talk brings up health care and the federal effort to get more people covered. I’ve suggested in the past that Medicare/Medicaid be expanded to cover most of us, and that seems to be how the legislation is firming up. Unlike booze or gaming, you really can’t go without medical attention, which we’re already paying for through higher medical insurance premiums to pay for the uninsured or through our taxes. The debate should be about how we make it easier for people to get maintenance care, which is far cheaper than emergency care — and to make sure the system is fair. Currently it’s not. People can easily abuse health care while others pay through the nose because they have insurance. We need that playing field leveled, something the government can do — on top of selling booze and scratch tickets.