NH gambling panel hears about Pennsylvania regs

New Hampshire gambling panel hears about Pennsylvania casino regulation

Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- A former Pennsylvania gambling regulator on Thursday advised a New Hampshire panel charged with recommending rules for future casinos that the best way to regulate them is with a stand-alone, independent authority.

Kenneth McCabe, who also is a retired FBI regional director, told the New Hampshire Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority that he was appointed to the Pennsylvania board when it was created after a bill legalizing gambling passed in 2004. McCabe said legislative leaders from both parties appointed four members and the governor appointed three.

"We really didn't answer to anyone. We answered to the people of Pennsylvania," he said.

The Pennsylvania law requires the four legislative appointees and one of the governor's appointees to agree on decisions, which effectively gives them veto power, he said. He said that forces people from different backgrounds to work together though he wasn't sure he would recommend that New Hampshire grant its regulatory board such broad power.

McCabe said his experience with gambling when he took the job on the control board was from FBI investigations into organized crime.

"I came in with a jaundiced eye," he said.

He found that the gambling industry wants to be regulated to protect its investment just like other businesses. He said he also found that regardless of how honest or diligent the control board was in awarding gambling licenses people criticized them.

"People are going to think the fix is in. Be prepared to be sued," said McCabe, now chief executive officer of Southern Gaming Resorts.

The New Hampshire panel has been considering whether to recommend a new regulatory agency or beef up staffing and power at the Lottery Commission. Also under discussion is the role the state Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission should have in a revamped regulatory system.

The New Hampshire panel must submit draft legislation to lawmakers by Dec. 15. The panel also is reviewing whether the regulations governing existing charity gambling should be revised.

The panel was created after the House killed a casino bill this year that had passed the Senate with strong backing from Gov. Maggie Hassan. The bill rejected in May would have allowed the construction of one casino with 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games.

Hassan hopes the commission will address concerns about the state's ability to regulate a casino that came up last spring when the House killed the Senate bill.

Casino supporters are concerned New Hampshire will lose revenue to Massachusetts, which is in the process of licensing three casinos and one video slots parlor. New Hampshire has no personal income or general sales tax and supporters also believe revenue from a casino could help pay for highway improvements and other state programs.

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