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New Hampshire Motor Speedway pushing itself as possible casino site

Apr 8, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

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Two years ago, Kansas Speedway built a $380 million casino and hotel near its 1.5-mile oval. Now, it looks like New Hampshire Motor Speedway wants its race fans to go for jackpots, too.

The New Hampshire State House is mulling over a bill that would allow two casinos to set up shop in the Granite State, and according to the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, NHMS general manager Jerry Gappens is set to testify Thursday in support of the legislation, which passed the N.H. Senate in March.

“If it’s going to come, this would be a site that should be on the most desirable list,” Gappens told the Monitor last week. “I’m a pro-speedway guy, and I’m bullish on this location…It would be a good thing to bring in additional tax revenue and jobs to the area.”

Since Speedway Motorsports bought the track in 2008 from the Bahre family, improvements have been steady at the ‘Magic Mile,’ which hosts two NASCAR weekends in July and September – the latter falling within the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Gappens believes that a casino at NHMS would help the speedway be more active during the racing off-season. Four years ago, the track commissioned a firm to assess the gambling/hotel market by doing a study of four New England casinos.

According to Gappens, the study said that a casino in Loudon could accommodate 750 slot machines and 24 table games, with a projected first-year gambling revenue of about $50 million.

“And that was done in 2010, right in the middle of a challenging economy,” he said. “If there are only two licenses in New Hampshire, those numbers could be even higher.”

Gappens also wants the track to be an even bigger economic engine than it already is for the state; the Monitor notes that two out-of-state casinos advertise at NHMS and while Gappens likes the money they bring, the ads basically tell people to leave the state.

“We are in the business of trying to bring tourism dollars and bring revenue to the state,” he said. “We’ve got a track record of doing that.”

But casinos can have the tendency to be a polarizing issue, and so, not everyone is enthused about the legislation.

A local Republican state senator that voted against the bill, Sen. John Reagan, noted that the track does do a lot for the state but believes that putting a casino near it would lead to a logistical nightmare on race weekends.

“They are in the racetrack business,” he said to the Monitor. “What happens to their regular thousands of people who are gaming and then all of the people want to go there for a NASCAR race? It sounds like it might be a logistical problem.”

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