Gaming the Budget
06-23-2009
I have never been especially drawn to gambling. In fact, it has been years since I last visited a casino. I recall coming out about eight dollars ahead playing slots on an initial twenty dollar investment, and then spending the rest of the evening watching others try their luck at a variety of games. So it is no surprise that I have viewed the collision of expanded gambling and budget reconciliation in the state legislature with some ambivalence. The possibility of having thousands of slot machines located nearby in the future holds no special allure for me, but I have also never been particularly swayed by the various arguments deployed by those who oppose gambling.
 
For me, gambling is thus reduced primarily to a revenue issue. The gaming lobby knows that many New Hampshire residents also feel this way, and its representatives have spent a tremendous amount of time, money, and energy trying to make the case that expanded gambling would be a huge financial boon (to the tune of $200 million) to the state’s weakened fiscal bottom line. While gambling proponents haven’t yet thrown in the towel this legislative session, it looks like opposition in the House will bring them up short once again.
 
I mention this because last night I saw for the first time what I thought was a remarkably effective pro-gambling advertisement on television (you can watch it here). It was run by Fix It Now New Hampshire, the organization working with Millennium Gaming to bring slots to Rockingham Park. The ad is quite simple in design; it sets an accumulating list of potential state taxes and user fees to waltzing music, thereby depicting the budgetary tradeoffs with projected gambling revenues in the starkest of terms. As a close observer of political ads, I think this one effectively crystallizes the gaming industry’s best case argument in New Hampshire, but I’m not sure it can make the difference at this point.


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