Gaming Bill ProposalNovember 8, 2013
by S. Aaron Shamshoyan
A new gaming bill will soon be making its way before lawmakers in Concord and two local representatives hope it could mean a bright future for Rockingham Park.
Representative Gary Azarian (R-Salem), introduced by Representative Robert Elliott (R-Salem), spoke to Lions Club members during a Halloween dinner meeting where he outlined the proposal.
SB 152, a bill permitting one licensed casino in the state, failed in May when the house voted not to reconsider an inexpedient to legislate motion which was adopted. The motion passed by 35 votes.
Azarian said his new bill was similar to SB 152, but contained amendments, which would help satisfy opponents of the previous bill.
An omnibus of amendments proposed earlier this year is being included in the new bill, Azarian said. Amendments include provisions for regulation, impact on the state, and revenue dispersion. He said the previous bill failed committee approval by one vote, adding it was from Salem.
“We’ve taken SB 152 with the omnibus and that’s the bill,” Azarian said. “What they made in that omnibus is what should be on the bill.”
And if the bill does pass, Azarian hopes Rockingham Park will be receive the license. “We need to create jobs,” he said adding about 2,200 jobs would be created in Salem on the park grounds if a license was granted.
Millions in revenue would be raised for the state from a casino also. “The state needs the revenue,” Azarian said, noting funding would help reconstruct the highway and fund human services.
“The bottom line is there’s going to be a lot of money raised for the state and the town,” he said.
Azarian said expanded gaming would not impact charitable gaming. Currently Rockingham Park raises about $1.8 million for local charities annually, and if revenues were to decrease, the casino would be required to supplement the funds.
“We need to fight for this at the State House level and not here in Salem,” Azarian said. A non-binding referendum held in March showed close to 80-percent of voters supported a casino in town on the grounds of Rockingham Park.
Azarian said competition in Massachusetts wouldn’t be an issue for a Salem-based casino. The location of Rockingham Park is probably the best locating in New England, Azarian said on behalf of consultants.
Both Azarian and Elliott are confident the bill will pass. Azarian said the new provisions will satisfy the needs of many opponents and feel it has been well thought out.