As much as Granite Staters don’t like to compare themselves to Bay Staters, it’s instructive to compare the Massachusetts timeline for casino licensing and New Hampshire’s timeline for casino licensing.
Massachusetts has a big head start on the licensing of up to three casinos and it expects to issue licenses by November 2013 at the earliest, February 2014 at the latest.
New Hampshire is just now debating legislation to legalize a casino.
A comparison of the two models shows the New Hampshire timeline is useful.
Much of the Massachusetts licensing guidelines can be found with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, formed to oversee all the aspects of casino gambling, was created in March 2012. Here, a year later, it is only in the middle of a licesning process that, according to its timeline, takes two years.
The commission notes its timeline is applicable to two of the three areas that will be licensed for a casino - in the Boston/Worcester area and in western Massachusetts. The third site in southeastern Massachusetts requires a different application process involving the federal Department of Interior because of a casino proposal from Native Americans in that region.
One telling aspect of the Massachusetts timeline is the background checks of the potential applicants:
These substantial background investigations are being conducted by the Massachusetts State Police in conjunction with investigative teams of gaming experts from the consulting firms of Spectrum Gaming and Michael & Carroll. These teams collectively include former FBI agents, state investigators, prosecutors, and forensic accountants, all of whom have vast experience in all types of investigations, including, but not limited to, background, corruption, organized criminal enterprise and racketeering as well as corporate due diligence and gaming industry backgrounds for the largest gaming entities in the industry.
It notes these investigations “are expected to take six months to complete based upon the volume of information that needs to be reviewed and the number of qualifiers for each applicant.”
SB 152 would be the enacting legislation for a casino in New Hampshire.
It received approval from the Senate Ways and Means Committee last week. A full Senate vote is expected on Wednesday, March 13.
The bill identifies the New Hampshire Lottery Commission as the regulatory agency.
The legislation says this about background checks:
Upon receipt of a complete application from a gaming applicant, the lottery commission shall request that the attorney general conduct a background review, and the attorney general shall conduct a background review of a gaming applicant and its principals, owners, and key employees. The background review may be conducted through any appropriate state or federal law enforcement system and the authorized reviewers may seek information as to the subject’s financial, criminal, or business background, or any other information which the attorney general, in his or her sole discretion, may find relevant to the subject’s fitness to be associated with the ownership or management of gaming in New Hampshire, including, but not limited to, the subject’s character, personal associations, and the extent to which the subject is properly doing business in the manner in which it purports to operate.
And the time given to do all this?
The attorney general shall report the results of the background review to the lottery commission within a reasonable time, not to exceed 120 days unless a request for additional time has been granted by the lottery commission for good cause.
That’s six months minimum in Massachusetts vs. four months maximum in New Hampshire.
The problem with the New Hampshire timeline is how it bumps up against the creation of a state budget.
A new biennium budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 starts on July 1, 2013.
Gov. Maggie Hassan has included $80 million in a casino license in her budget proposal.
The $80 million is a revenue projection. It assumes the revenue will be available within the two years of the proposed budget cycle.
Is there enough time?
Massachusetts is looking at a two-year process. New Hampshire is assuming it can do it more quickly and within the timeframe of a budget that starts on July 1, 2013 and ends on June 30, 2015. It's cutting it close.
Paul Briand is an editor with the Live Free or Die Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that encourages the discussion and analysis of New Hampshire policies and politics.