A Salem-based advocacy group designed to build support for a casino at Rockingham Park spoke to the Board of Selectmen on Jan. 14 about forming a Casino Advisory Committee as soon as possible.
Daniel Norris, chairman of NH Casino Now, said that the committee would be tasked with quantifying the gaming revenue amounts from a casino as well as how that revenue would be used in Salem.
"Based on the work that we've done we thought that the timing was right to talk to the board about (a committee) and see if that process could get started.
Although the board tabled a vote on the committee until Jan. 28, NH Casino Now suggested the following membership – two Board of Selectmen representatives, Town Manager Keith Hickey, Community Development Director William J. Scott, one Budget Committee representative, one School Board representative, two citizen representatives and either state Sen. Chuck Morse or a state representative that he may designate.
Norris said that his organization has been at work in Salem over the last several months to build support for casino development at Rockingham Park.
"We feel this is the most important economic development issue facing our community right now," he said.
Salem will get a better understanding of the support for a casino in March when voters will choose 'yes' or 'no' on a Salem casino via a non-binding gaming referendum.
Selectman Jim Keller said that it might help to wait on a committee until concrete information on a bill is available in Concord. Fellow Selectman Stephen Campbell said that every committee in town starts off slow, and that he supports starting now.
Norris agreed with Campbell on getting a head start.
"Some time to work on this issue in advance of our town's referendum – that would be helpful to voters to understand what the board may have in mind," he said.
Norris referred to that possible work before the referendum as "very preliminary."
According to Norris, a public forum is scheduled to take place at Rockingham Park sometime in February and will once again feature representatives from Millennium Gaming.