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Planning Board agenda:
Opinion: Casino A Bad Bet For TAXPAYERS!
By Guest Writer Kassey Cameron
In case you haven’t heard, former state Senator Andy Sanborn is in the process of seeking approval for a 24,000 square foot casino from the Concord Planning Board. He plans to build off Break O Day Drive behind Chappel Tractor near Walmart on Loudon Rd. Sanborn and supporters tout this project as a win for Concord, boasting charitable proceeds to help non-profits and tax money for the city. But, the benefits will not outweigh the cost. I am not talking about any moral implications; I am talking solely about MONEY: something that we are making less of these days, and needing far more to cover the basics. As a Concord resident that lives less than ¼ mile from the proposed casino, I share the same burden many other residents of Concord do, high property taxes. I know all too well our already high tax bills have seen staggering increases. I also, like many of you, look to new commercial projects that can help ease the residential tax burden by bringing in a larger portion of the city’s tax needs from commercial property. But do NOT bet on this casino to do that.
The first “cost” of the proposed Casino will be the strain on our emergency services. Currently, Sanborn owns the downtown Draft Sports Bar & Grill with the Concord Casino located in it. When looking at the “calls to service” to the current casino from 2018-2022 there were 131 calls for the Concord police to respond to, 61 of a criminal/assault nature. This does not include the more recent incidents involving the police responding to a gun being flashed on premises or a fight at the casino resulting in a fugitive arrest. And while it is the purpose of the police department to serve and protect the people of Concord, it is not the taxpayer’s responsibility to pay for the private security of the Concord Casino. Sanborn does not pay for security at his current casino to protect both his employees and patrons. Instead, he relies on the residents of Concord to use their taxes to take care of his interests. This drain on our police resources will only increase with this future casino. If Sanborn cannot keep the current (much smaller) casino safe and under control without relying on the Concord Police, how can he be relied on to do so with an enormously larger facility? With this potential added responsibility to our Police department, that will lead to an increase in overtime for the current officers and a need to increase staff. Which means a higher tax bill to us residents. I for one am not looking to part with more of my hard-earned money so that a private business can shirk their responsibility of hiring security bouncers to save money and leech off of the municipal services.
The next cost to us tax-payers is time and safety. Anyone that has been on Loudon Road on a weekend or even an evening knows that the traffic around Walmart and Shaws can slow your day down a bit. But with the addition of the proposed Casino and a 600 seat event center, this will bring in considerable traffic to this area. And did you know that there is no plan for a traffic light to enter Break O Day Road from Loudon Road? Imagine driving down Loudon Road to head to the grocery store and having frustrated drivers jetting out across 3 lanes of traffic to get onto Loudon Road. I currently deal with this frustration only a few blocks away to get onto Old Loudon Road to head to Mill Brook to bring my kids to school, and I can tell you that I sometimes wait over 5 minutes to turn onto Loudon road and it can be quite scary having to cross 3 lanes of traffic when drivers are speeding down the road. Now add in more traffic and that turn will take me even longer. Think of all those coming and going to the casino that will have to make that turn to the Casino. I can see many of these out of state visitors just stepping on the gas and taking the turn, throwing caution to the wind and putting the risk of a car crash on the other drivers. Yet the traffic report that Sanborn submitted to the Concord Planning Board states that there will be little to no impact to Loudon Road from an over 600 seat casino and 600 seat event center. Really? They think a single stop sign to turn in and out of the Casino will be sufficient to manage any traffic? As a local, I can’t imagine the statistical gymnastics that were done to come to that conclusion, but I am not willing to bet on that outcome.
The next cost to the taxpayers comes from the potential destruction of local businesses. Discretionary income, or the money that is used on investing, saving, going out to eat, or “fun”, does not increase when a casino comes to town. People already have very little, if any funds, in this category for spending, and what they do have will not increase because there is a new place to spend it. Instead, research shows that casinos often cannibalize the local businesses- restaurants, stores, entertainment venues. They take the spending that would be going to those other businesses. And in times like these that could be the difference between a small business barely making it by or not. With all the money put into the downtown revival, are you willing to see even more empty store fronts? With fewer commercial businesses that means less taxes coming into Concord and a larger tax burden put on us- the residents. This idea that the Concord casino will bring in “free money” to Concord and ease the burden of tax on residents is shortsighted at best. Because when we start to look into the real costs of the casino on the community, we see that nothing is ever truly free.
Research also shows that the majority of casino spenders earn low to middle income wages. Thus, the “charitable proceeds” NH casinos tout as a benefit to our non-profit organizations is simply money out of the pockets of those with baseline very little to give. This is a regressive taxation system. Community member Tim Robson said it best at February’s Planning Board meeting: “I am entirely disappointed that we have legislation that allows casinos. We’re better than this,” he said. “We shouldn’t be funding charities and support services that should be paid for by regular taxes. It’s corrupting and it’s a regressive taxation system.”
My final point has to do with our housing crisis. Anyone that lives in or around Concord knows that there just is not enough affordable, or even available, housing to meet the needs of the population. Where will these casino employees find affordable housing? And if there is not local affordable housing for them, and the surrounding towns are no different, how can these employees afford to live? At the rates Sanborn pays his current employees, this would put additional strain on the affordable housing situation if new employees move into the area. Or in another likely scenario the casino is unable to be staffed and the Concord residents are left with another “vacant Steeplegate Mall” and little to none of the promised tax revenue from this Casino coming into the city. Instead, I think that this land should remain undeveloped for now. Let’s wait until a proposal comes in to develop it into something that will compliment the city of Concord rather than cost it.