New Hampshire Sports Betting Bill Passes, Heads to Governor’s Desk

Posted on: June 13, 2019, 05:34h. 

Last updated on: June 13, 2019, 05:34h.

New Hampshire stands on the brink of legal sports betting. On Thursday, as expected, New Hampshire’s House of Representatives signed off amendments made by a Senate committee to legislation that will authorize land-based and mobile wagering in the casino-less state.

New Hampshire sports betting
Gov. Chris Sununu is a big fan of the New Hampshire sports betting bill and is expected to sign it into law within the month. The state’s first sports books will not be up and running until well into 2020. (Image: Cheryl Senter/AP)

All the bill needs is the signature of Republican governor Chris Sununu, an enthusiastic supporter who has included revenue from a future market in the state budget.

The House initially approved the bill in March, batting it over to the Senate, which added minor adjustments before rubber-stamping it on May 30 and knocking it back to the originating chamber for concurrence. Thursday’s hearing was little more than a formality.

Among the changes introduced in the Senate was the capping of mobile operators at five and retail operators at ten. It also established that the lottery commission, which will oversee the market, will provide “wager limits for daily, weekly and monthly amounts consistent with the best practices in addressing problem gambling.”

The Senate also emphasized the regulator must choose businesses whose bids provide the state with the highest percentage of revenue when selecting retail betting licensees through a competitive bidding process.

Emerging New England Markets

None of this was particularly controversial or difficult for the House to swallow. As such, New Hampshire is set to become the second state in New England to legalize sports books, after Rhode Island.

Both Connecticut and Massachusetts have failed to pass sports betting legislation this year, although Massachusetts — as one of the few states in the US with a yearlong legislative session — could yet do so.

Connecticut has the added complication of having to negotiate a new compact with its tribal operators, and so Massachusetts, which has no such impediment, has the clearer path to legalization.

Rhode Island launched land-based sports betting at its two casinos last year, but so far numbers have been disappointing. Lawmakers hope a bill enacted to authorize mobile betting will provide the market with a shot in the arm and the state plans to launch this by the start of the NFL season.

Mid-2020 Launch?

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, Gov. Sununu is expected to sign the bill into law within the month and a framework of regulation could be in place by early next year, making mid-2020 a likely timeframe for launch.

The bill will create a Division of Sports Wagering within the New Hampshire Lottery Commission to regulate the new sports books.

The state expects to generate $7.5 million in tax revenues in the 2021 fiscal year, rising to $13.5 million by 2023. These funds would be set aside for education programs and to finance the establishment of the New Hampshire Council for Responsible Gambling.

Local voters will need to approve a retail location before it can become licensed for sports betting by the state, and meanwhile wagering on New Hampshire college games will be prohibited.

“This is good for everyone!” enthused the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Timothy Lang via Twitter, Thursday. “Citizens (new consumer protections), businesses (new tourism opportunities), and the state (more revenue for education funding!)”