New Hampshire Bills Benefiting Casinos and Charities Have Deadline Nearing

Posted on: March 11, 2024, 04:54h. 

Last updated on: March 12, 2024, 11:15h.

The clock is ticking down on a flurry of bills in the New Hampshire House and Senate that are similar, but could bring significant changes to casino owners, charities, and gambling tournaments.

The New Hampshire State House in Concord. Legislators in the state capitol are considering new legislation that would impact how casinos and charitable organizations operate. (Image: Viator)

The main thrust of the legislation, which must be approved by April 11, contains changes for casino owners and the charities that depend on the gaming revenue from those casinos.

Current New Hampshire state law requires casinos to partner with charities to operate. House Bill 1203 prohibits casinos from charging charities rent to host game nights. Therefore, charities would no longer have to give up some of their winnings in rent payments to the casinos with whom they partner. Some charities pay as much as $750 a night, which is sometimes half of their winnings.

Most casino owners say they won’t oppose the measure, because New Hampshire increased the maximum bet limit on table games from $10 to $50, which increased revenues enough to operate without rent payments.

Meanwhile, under Senate Bill 472, municipalities with casinos could join charities in raising money through charitable gaming. The proposal would allow municipalities to raise funds on up to 10 nights per year at each casino it hosts. Nashua, which is home to three casinos, would get up to 30 nights a year of charitable gaming to help raise money.

There is fine print, however. Municipalities cannot displace charities to run their own fundraisers, but instead, can only receive game nights if a charity doesn’t want to use them.

The interest level in the SB472 is underscored by the long waiting list casinos currently hold of charities that want to participate when any spots open.

A third bill under consideration, SB 432, would expand the number of charities that could benefit from charitable gaming revenue. SB 432 would also give the state 1.5% of certain horse races placed via an app.

Senator Tim Lang (R-District 2), who sponsors the measure, said the tax could bring in $300K annually.

Historic Horse Racing Moratorium Expiration

On July 1, 2024, an existing moratorium on new venues offering historic horse racing expires. Historic horse racing looks and plays like slot machines and generally generates far more revenue than table games. Two bills under consideration would continue the state’s moratorium, which was put in place to evaluate the impact of HHR when the state legalized it in 2021.

Fourteen casinos in the state are eligible to hold HHR licenses, five of which have applications under review. There are only nine casinos in all of the other New England states.

Venue owners support a limit on competition.

“I know there are people who just like (with) the Oklahoma land rush are sitting at the border just waiting for the bell to go off, and you’ll see these things pop up just about everywhere,” said Rick Newman, a lobbyist for the NH Charitable Gaming Operators Association.

Lawmakers have also expressed concern about having too many casinos with HHR games and the potential to siphon off revenue from the existing sites.

Bigger Tournament Winnings?

House Bill 1549 would cap withholdings on what players pay to enter a gaming tournament. That could mean those with higher entry fees could mean bigger tournament winnings. Many casinos host nightly gaming tournaments.

Casinos must withhold 20% of what players pay to enter a tournament. That fee lowers the prize pool and it is not so noticeable for players who pay $100 to enter, because it reduces the pool by $20 a player.

For a tournament with a $2,500 buy-in, the prize pool would drop $500 per player, which could reduce the incentive to play. HB 1549 would cap the fee at 20% or $250 per player, whichever is lower.