Just hours before a massive blizzard slammed the state of New Hampshire, a group of about 50 residents crowded into Atkinson Country Club to receive a much more optimistic forecast on the climate of expanded gaming in the state.
State Sens. Chuck Morse (R-Salem) and Jim Rausch (R-Derry) met with members of the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce on Friday as part of its "Concord Connections" series to give a prognosis on the nature of a casino bill currently churning its way through Concord.
"There is no doubt things have changed in Concord," Morse said. "The atmosphere is much different about gaming. It's not about will we pass gaming. It's about how will New Hampshire do it right."
Morse was confident that the N.H. Senate will support expanded gaming legislation, saying that the challenge will go to the House.
On the details of the bill, Morse was vague given that the legislation is still being crafted.
He did explain that Gov. Maggie Hassan wants one, well-regulated casino in southern N.H.
The reality is that if passed, the legislation would put the casino license out to bid.
"We're going to raise $80 million on that license," Morse said. "That 80 million will be in the budget for 2014-2015."
Morse did break down where he wants some of the revenues to split toward, explaining that he believes that 45 percent of the money from gaming should go toward higher education.
Another 45 percent Morse wants to go to the state's infrastructure, such as bridges, roads and the ongoing work on Interstate 93.
Morse wants the final 10 percent to go toward technological development in the north country.
Rausch spoke to some of the infrastructure shortfalls, saying that money received from gaming will "easily support" the highway bonds, which total $445 million with a principal in interest payment between $30 million and $35 million.
"But there are more critical needs in the state," he said, referencing Betterment funds that go directly to local communities.
"Those are for local roads, not state roads," he said. "That is a direct result to the population of those communities to reduce property taxes."
Rausch said that gaming would help solve problems of red-listed bridges "significantly."
Revenues that would go to the host community and surrounding towns were also addressed.
Morse said that 3 percent would go to the town that houses the casino. If it were to be Salem, the towns of Windham, Atkinson and Derry would all share in 1 percent of the revenues.
He added that dollars in the bill go directly toward the treatment of gambling addictions.
The casino license would only be good for 10 years.
Hassan will unveil her state budget in a joint meeting of the House and Senate at 10 a.m. on Thursday.