Lawmakers debate gambling, but poker already booming in N.H.

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As lawmakers debate whether to legalize gambling, they’re considering what to do about charity poker tournaments, which have become big business in New Hampshire.

Under state law, only licensed charities are allowed to host games of chance as fundraisers. The law also requires that charities get at least 35 percent of the profits after winnings are doled out. Some lawmakers aren’t happy that private gaming operators which run the tournaments for charities earn a larger share of the profits.

Paul Kelley, director of the Pari-Mutuel Commission, estimates that of about $50 million a year paid by poker players, charities might reap about $4 million.

Michael Marsh, a Greenfield Democrat who is on a committee studying gambling in New Hampshire, says he would like charities to get a bigger share of the cash. He supports a proposal to raise the charities’ minimum payout from 35 percent to 51 percent of profits.

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