Will Legal Sports Betting Come to New Hampshire?

by Rick Rockwell
on August 13, 2018
7

Minute Read

When the Supreme Court of the United States overturned a federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada in mid-May this year, some states jumped immediately on the opportunity to tap into a huge industry.

Delaware was the first, with New Jersey right behind it, passing bills that would legalize sports gambling in their respective states. In the first 17 days in New Jersey alone, $16.4 million was wagered and the state made almost $300,000 in revenue.

This was before football and basketball seasons, which are usually bettors’ favorites, which means even more revenue.  So will New Hampshire jump on the sports betting bandwagon and benefit from an influx of revenue?

Legal vs Illegal Sports Betting in the U.S.A.

According to a study done by gambling research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming LLC, the legal sports betting market in the U.S. last year was worth approximately $270 million. In comparison, the firm guessed that the black market sports betting industry brought in between $2.5 billion and $3 billion.

Sports Betting in Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Sports betting laws are being debated in the Massachusetts legislature, and RI’s budget has wording to collect 51 percent of sports wagers when its current legislation goes into effect on October 1. One has to wonder if NH will follow in their footsteps when the January legislative session starts.

News updates on Rhode Island and Massachusetts sports betting:

Sports Betting in New Hampshire

State Senator Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester) says if he’s re-elected in November, he’ll file a sports betting bill in January. According to numerous media outlets, the Democratic Senator made the following comments:

“Football, baseball and basketball, these are little players when compared to college basketball. There are games on every night. The amount of money is incomprehensible. Everybody plays; March Madness office pools, friendly wagers on football games. This could be a great source of revenue. It’s going to happen around the country, so let’s do this responsibly.”

D’Allesandro also said he’s talking with representatives of Caesar’s about setting up a sportsbook in New Hampshire and also of maybe permitting a fully built casino in his legislation. He talked about how to involve the New Hampshire Lottery which would allow the state to set up a Keno-like system where restaurants and convenience stores could gain a license through the Lottery that allows people to play Keno drawings at those establishments. If the lottery is involved, sports gambling could be done electronically, he said, but you may need a casino in New Hampshire to offer the base. These are all issues that D’Allesandro says he will address in his bill if he’s re-elected.

Executive Director of the New Hampshire Lottery, Charles McIntyre, has said that the organization is looking at states that have already legalized sports betting, to see how they are doing it. In the event that New Hampshire legalizes sports gambling, he isn’t sure what role the lottery would play; that’s something that will have to be worked out. In a recent interview, McIntyre stated the following:

“There are a lot of variables to see how the state revenue from sports betting could be realized. Do you have a sports book? Multiple books? Will you be able to place bets on your cellphone? There’s a lot of widespread gaming activity people engage in that we could legitimize is the Legislature votes for it and the governor approves it. If the folks under the dome approve it; however, comfortable they are in rolling it out, we’re comfortable regulating it.”

Collegiate Sports and Sports Betting

In Rhode Island, their sport’s betting bill has a provision that prohibits wagering on any collegiate athletic team that plays in the state, or any RI-based college teams no matter where they play, even outside the state. This will help prevent any point shaving issues, which has affected college basketball in the past.

In New Hampshire, D’Allesandro said, they have to do what they can to protect the collegiate environment, and because the Supreme Court said that betting on collegiate sports is legal, and people from other states will want to be able to bet on college games, putting a similar provision into New Hampshire’s legislation banning residents from betting on NH collegiate games.

State Senator Dan Innis (R-New Castle) voted in favor of D’Allesandro’s casino bill in the previous legislative session (that missed passing the Senate by only one vote). He is supportive of allowing sports gambling and said that when a new sports bill is filed he will seriously consider it and would probably also want to see some extra wording in there regarding collegiate athletics. In the abovementioned interview, Innis expressed his opinions on sports betting:

“Do we want people to be able to bet on UNH football and hockey? My gut says no, but I’ll need to look into it. When I supported casino legislation I asked for the license to be reviewed after two years and there needed to be more than one bidder for any one location, so I’d like to see some kind of similar considerations. Sports betting is a little trickier for me because people have football pools and NCAA brackets, so for me it’s beyond bringing more money into the state fund, it’s about freedom for citizens to bet on sports if they want and for business to have the freedom to engage in that industry.”

He also said that some assurances supporting gambling addiction would have to be addressed, whether through the companies coming in might set aside funds or if it’s a revenue sharing component.

Casino Free NH

Casino Free New Hampshire is a non-profit organization made up of interested parties like legislators, New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, New Hampshire Association of Police Chiefs, and more. Democratic state Representative Patricia Lovejoy represents Exeter, Newfields, Newmarket, and Stratham, and has been a member of Casino Free New Hampshire for a long time. She says that she’s against legal gambling in NH because gambling addictions are horribly destructive. She doesn’t care what protections are put into a bill for collegiate athletics or gambling addiction; regardless, she is unlikely to vote for it. In an interview with Fosters, Lovejoy made the following comments:

“We don’t have a good track record as a state for putting money aside to help people who develop problems with gambling. If we pass it, in the next budget gambling addiction funds would be one of the first things to get cut. Depending on what the final bill is, if people are allowed to gamble large sums of money every day and they can place bets on their phone, it could cause a lot of problems for a lot of people and their families. When you can bet on your phone, you can bet all the time.”

She went on to further discuss how casinos don’t fit the image of New Hampshire:

“The general population is not in favor of casinos and hopefully all candidates seeking election to the Statehouse are asked if they support sports betting. When Pease Air Force Base first closed down one recommendation at the time was to build a casino on the property. What do you think would’ve happened to all that economic activity that has built up over the years there if we had put a casino in there instead? You might have some pawn shops around a casino; they do well in the areas around them. Portsmouth would be a much different city today and I’ve never seen a casino as part of the image we’ve tried to present for New Hampshire.”

What Does This All Mean for Sports Betting in NH?

It’s clear that momentum is gaining for sports betting and gambling within New Hampshire. As the state’s leaders continue to see nearby pro-gambling states like Delaware and New Jersey making millions of dollars in revenue, you can bet that there will be more of an urgency to legalize sports betting.

Like many of the southern states, New Hampshire has had a lengthy anti-casino and anti-gambling philosophy. However, times are changing and the American dollar speaks loudly. The smart play is to get ahead of the game by thoroughly studying states that already have legalized sports betting and see how best to implement a sports betting infrastructure within New Hampshire. Instead, there are still too many state politicians wanting to stand in the way of what I believe is inevitable – legalized sports betting.

And, like the southern states, it’s going to be interesting to see how New Hampshire deals with the changing times.

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