New Hampshire's pro-casino candidates for corner office -- Ovide Lamontagne, Kevin Smith, Maggie Hassan, and Jackie Cilley -- all claim to be businesslike when it comes to big-time gambling expansion.
Here's the newest acid test for this all-too-lightly made claim: Are you being suckered by the "destination resort casino" bait & switch?
Here's how the bait & switch works: Promise a resort casino with five-star hotels, spas, and other high-end amenities to a state with an outlying (non- major-metro) location like Salem ... then deliver a low-end slots barn that does nothing but cannibalize revenues and jobs from existing local business.
Here are promotional materials from the very most recent "resort casino" bait & switch, Maine's Oxford Casino, 75 minutes West of Conway and 50 minutes North of Portland. In this case, it was Maine voters who got suckered in a referendum approving the Oxford Casino by a razor-thin 0.8 percent margin.
Above, Oxford casino, as proposed in 2008.
Above, Oxford Casino, as proposed to Maine voters in November, 2010. A $165 million dollar "resort-casino" with a 200 room hotel, spa, golf course, restaurants, convention center, parking garage, ATV and snowmobile parking and trail links, and 2,700 projected direct and indirect jobs.
Above, Oxford Casino, as built in 2012. No hotel, no spa, no convention center, no parking garage ... a $52 million single story slots barn the size of a neighborhood supermarket. Maine voters would not have been suckered without the "resort casino" bait & switch.
Millennium Gaming has for several years been promising to spend $450 million for its proposed Salem casino. Early evidence that New Hampshire is being suckered? This year's casino bill, HB593, drafted verbatim by Millennium lobbyists at Tom Rath's law firm, removed the anti-slots-barn, minimum investment requirement found in earlier casino bills.
Here is why New Hampshire will get no more than a glorified slots barn in Salem or anywhere else in our state:
The 5 casinos in Quebec/Montreal, 2 each in Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island, and the 4 bigger, flashier casinos approved for Massachusetts will saturate New England, limiting the New Hampshire market to lower-end convenience casinos attracting mostly nearby local residents. Rather than bringing promised tourism and out of state money, much of NH casino revenue would be cannibalized from existing NH businesses.
A Federal Reserve Bank of Boston review of the casino cannibalization literature concluded: "Casinos that cater to a local market generally do not bring outside money into the economy through the spending of its patrons ... Residents patronizing such casinos may simply substitute gambling for other goods and services."
Given this, why would any businesslike candidate for governor endorse any New Hampshire casino proposal? Unless, of course, the operant business is getting votes from Salem residents who have drunk too many gallons of Millennium's free money Kool-Aid.