NH town votes in favor of a casino (AP) March 13, 2013 at 12:21 am SALEM, N.H. (AP) – Voters in the town of Salem overwhelmingly endorsed allowing a casino at Rockingham Park Tuesday night. More than 80 percent of those voting, or 4,598, voted in favor of the plan in a non-binding referendum. Voting against it were 1,074. Voters were asked if they favor video lottery machines and table games to be operated in a commercial casino at the race track, where charitable bingo is held but live horse racing ended in 2010. A bill legalizing a casino is up for a vote in the state Senate on Thursday. It’s expected to pass easily. It faces a harder time in the House, which has rejected many similar bills over the years. Legalized gambling in New Hampshire is limited to the lottery and charitable games. Simulcast races at Rockingham also are allowed. Gov. Maggie Hassan supports the legislation, which would legalize up to 5,000 video slots and 150 table games. She included $80 million in licensing fees in her budget to pressure lawmakers to approve a casino. Bill supporters say it’s important that New Hampshire move quickly, to compete with Massachusetts, which already has approved three casinos and a slots parlor. Though the casino’s location would be open to competition, most believe it would be on New Hampshire’s border with Massachusetts. Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas has an option to buy the Rockingham Park race track and proposes spending $450 million building a facility at the track. Millennium Gaming spokesman Rich Killion said Tuesday night that voters know Rockingham Park “can once again be a catalyst for thousands of jobs, economic development and a provider of sustainable revenue for years to come.” “Salem has made a historically, strong statement to Concord that it’s a ready and willing participant for a casino,” he said in a statement. Meanwhile, Jim Rubens who chairs the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling said casinos will increase costs for municipal services such as schools, roads, public transportation and police and fire protection. “Salem residents should not be naïve about Millennium Gaming’s exaggerated promises,” he said in a statement, adding that Salem should seek a binding, full cost mitigation agreement written into any state legislation authorizing casinos. Former Gov. John Lynch squelched gambling supporters’ efforts to bring a casino to New Hampshire during his eight years in office by questioning whether it would negatively affect quality of life. Lynch threatened to veto a bill last year that would have legalized four casinos that would have been licensed to install up to 14,000 video slot machines and 420 table games. The bill died in the House, despite supporters’ arguments that New Hampshire would lose revenue to Massachusetts. Hassan’s support for gambling has given supporters hope this year will be different. Salem voters faced a major referendum on Rockingham Park 80 years ago, just after New Hampshire legalized gambling on horse races. Residents in 1933 voted 617-2 to restore racing at the park, enabling horse racing to return for full seasons rather than a week’s worth of events. By 1936, the track was providing a major source of revenues to the state, enabling elected officials to balance the budget without implementing broad-based taxes. The track has a storied history in the annals of American horseracing. It was the first track in the country to use a moving starting gate and the first to offer insurance to riders. The park stopped holding live horse racing events in 2010, saying it was unable to come up with the necessary funding. The track instituted charitable bingo games in 1997 and charitable Texas Hold’em tournaments in 2006. It also simulcasts races on big-screen televisions. Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.