Sports

New Hampshire On Path To Lottery-Run Legal Sports Betting As Bill Sails Through House

Springtime has officially sprung this week and with it comes momentum for a bill that would legalize sports betting in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire House on Tuesday passed HB 480, which would allow for up to 10 brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, or retail locations, in municipalities where a majority of local residents vote in approval. The bill would also allow mobile sports wagering throughout the state.

The House overwhelmingly passed HB 480 by a 269-82 vote with broad bipartisan support. The bill reached the House floor via the Ways and Means Committee, where members voted 17-2 in favor. It will now move to the state Senate and will have the attention of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who pushed for legalization in a February budget address.

“This budget increases our education revenue streams by legalizing sports betting, which will bring in an additional $10 mm in annual revenue beginning in fiscal year 2021,” Sununu said in his Valentine’s Day budget speech. “Given our new opportunities to legalize sports betting in a responsible and reliable way, and capture more revenue for our education system, I say we go all In and get it done!”

Oversight by Lottery Commission, sportsbooks in approving locales

The measure would permit statewide mobile sports wagering for individuals 18 years old and up, and it would prohibit betting on New Hampshire collegiate athletic teams.

As for establishing a sports betting account, it appears that bettors would be able to do so both remotely and in person, as identity verification could occur “through secure online databases or by examination of photo identification,” the bill reads.

The New Hampshire Lottery Commission would become the regulatory body, and within it would be the creation of a Division of Sports Wagering to manage compliance. The Lottery itself would be authorized to run the state’s mobile sports betting and operations through those potential retail locations.

As New Hampshire does not have casino infrastructure, the bill says that retail sportsbooks “may be co-located with other commercial businesses or general commercial retail locations,” and that the voters of individual towns would decide if they want a brick-and-mortar sportsbook. Only a majority of local voters would be required to approve a sportsbook location.

The Lottery would seek an experienced sportsbook operator to manage the actual sports betting operation side of things — and ultimately select one, the bill says, through a competitive bidding process (unlike what went down in Washington, D.C.).

Actually, it’s possible the Lottery could use more than one partner in sports betting operations. The bill reads, “The commission may retain vendors,” plural, “to support the commission in operating a sports book.”

“Today, betting on sports events is categorically illegal in New Hampshire, but we all know that many people in New Hampshire and throughout the country are engaging in sports betting notwithstanding,” said state Rep. Richard Ames (D-Jaffrey), per the New Hampshire Union Leader. “The magnitude of this black market is staggering. This bill would bring much of this black market activity to the surface, where it would be legal and regulated.”

The bill’s fiscal note projects the following revenues:

Anything for the pro sports leagues?

In short: No, not really.

The bill does not impose any “integrity fee” or a percentage of wagers or revenue benefiting pro leagues directly. As for betting integrity, the bill would require to-be operator(s) to submit a report outlining procedures to “establish connectivity with monitoring services and/or sports governing bodies relating to suspicious activity.”

Interestingly, the bill includes some of the same language regarding “tiers” of wagers that’s appeared bills in New York and elsewhere throughout the country regarding sports betting data. Yet there is no corresponding requirement that the sportsbook operator use “official” league data in connection with a certain tier. It only says that “the commission and agents shall publicly disclose the source of the data that will be used to determine the outcome of a tier II or tier III wager.”

The bill does not address a tax framework or licensure fees other than to say that from the revenue sharing proceeds to be paid to the state under this agreement, 10% shall be designated for treatment and prevention services for problem gamblers.

Currently Rhode Island, where the state lottery runs the sports betting show, is the only New England state with legal sports betting. Multiple bills are circulating in both Massachusetts and Connecticut, but none have gained real momentum, and actually as of today there’s a substantive bill in Maine, to be formally introduced on Thursday.

“Legal prohibition of sports betting has failed. House Bill 480 will bring sports betting out of the shadows, and provide appropriate rules of the road for all sports betting participants,” Rep. Richard Ames (D-Jaffrey) told New Hampshire Public Radio.

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