New Hampshire

New Hampshire Legislature Passes Sports Betting Bill

Sports betting is all but legalized in New Hampshire, as on Thursday, the state’s House of Representatives concurred with the Senate’s amendments to HB 480. The next step is for the bill to go to the Enrolled Bills Committee for finalization (proofreading, etc.) and then on to Governor Chris Sununu’s desk. The House previously approved the bill 269-82 in March.

Governor Sununu supports the bill and said in his budget address that $10 million will be brought in by the state from sports betting, so there is no reason to think that he will not sign it to make it law.

“I anticipate that it’ll roll right through the Enrolled Bills Committee within a day and go straight to the speaker; and then the speaker will have to give it to the Secretary of the State,” the bill’s author, Representative Tim Lang, told LegalSportsBetting.com. “I just don’t know how long the speaker is going to sit on it.”

“The reality is,” Lang added, “absent of any politics or manipulation, probably within two to three weeks it’ll be sitting on the governor’s desk.”

Interestingly, the House passed the final version of the bill with the Senate’s amendments by a simple voice vote after House Ways and Means Committee Chair, Representative Susan Almy, talked to her committee members and approved the changes. She never held a vote in the committee; she just took the committee’s temperature and approved the bill, and then recommended the full House do the same.

“Nobody thought there was anything that they changed that would require us to go to a committee of conference and renegotiate a couple of really small things. They didn’t change much,” she said.

This Bill is a Bit Different

The bill allows people 18 years of age and older to bet on sports. Up to five mobile sports betting operators are permitted in the state and up to ten retail operators will be authorized.

Lang isn’t pleased that limits were placed on the number of sports betting operators, preferring that the market determined how many operators the state could handle.

Unlike what we have seen in most other states, the retail sportsbook locations are not limited to existing casinos.* From reading the bill, it looks like the sportsbooks can be opened essentially anywhere in the state, provided the operator goes through the application and bidding process. The bill lays out the following criteria for the lottery commission to select operators:

The commission shall conduct sports books for sports wagering through agents selected through a competitive bid process and approved by the governor and executive council. Any such contract shall be based on the state receiving a percentage of revenue from sports wagering activities within the state. The commission shall ensure that an agent demonstrates financial stability, good character, honesty, and integrity. In selecting an agent, the commission shall consider, at a minimum, the experience and background of the agent, the agent’s ability to serve proposed locations for sports book retail operations, the agent’s mobile and internet capabilities, the agent’s contribution to the economic development within the state, the agent’s commitment to prevention of problem gambling, to responsible gaming, and to integrity in betting. The commission shall select a group of bidders who best meet the criteria set forth in this paragraph and select from that group the agents whose bids provide the state with the highest percentage of revenue from the sports wagering activities covered by the bids….

So, it’s probably not just anyone who would be given consideration for a sports betting license, but likely established businesses that have made a solid “contribution to the economic development within the state.” Note also that unlike in other states, there is not a fixed sports betting revenue tax set out in the bill. Instead, the state is actually taking bids from applicants and will pick the ones who are willing to give the state the largest cut, provided they meet the other criteria.

Retail sports books will be allowed to offer traditional sports betting, that is, bets placed before games begin (Tier I sports betting). They will also be able to offer Tier III sports betting, which sounds like a lottery product. Mobile sports betting operators will be allowed to offer both as well as in-play sports wagers. Why the difference, I do not know.

Betting on college games is permitted, but games played by New Hampshire schools or within the state of New Hampshire will not be on the board.

*There are casinos in New Hampshire, but they are not the sprawling, Vegas-style resorts that immediately come to mind when you think “casino.” The maximum bet at tables games is four dollars. The maximum big blind in poker games is also four dollars, so the highest stakes game you will find is $4/$4 no-limit hold’em.

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