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Sports Betting Bill Advances in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire House last week approved of a bill that allows sports betting on mobile platforms and at ten retail locations in the state. The vote was 269-82 and the discussion now moves to the Senate. The bill has nonpartisan support.

Past governors have supported casino gaming and current Governor Chris Sununu has hopefully included revenue from sports betting in his current proposed budget. His budget office projects $10 million by the second year if sportsbook is approved.

Similar to the governor’s proposal, the bill just passed by the House would forbid wagers on high school or New Hampshire college teams. No one under 18 could place bets.

It would be operated by the Lottery Commission and like lottery and keno, bets could be place on terminals in convenience stores, liquor stores and highway rest stops. Like keno, communities would need to opt in to participate. Other states that have adopted sports betting have also made it available on mobile devices, as long as bets are made within the state’s boundaries. The House bill does not do that as yet.

It does establish a Council for Responsible Gambling and 10 percent of the state’s taxes would go toward funding it. The Lottery Commission estimates that the state will collect up to $7.5 million the first year from bets that could total as much as $280 million. This amount could eventually grow to $13.5 million in year three.

In supporting the bill against those who warned that it would fuel gambling addiction, Rep. Richard Ames said, “Problem gambling is not a new phenomenon. Too many people participating now in legal and illegal gambling activities have been badly hurt by it. Establishing this new Council for Responsible Gambling and bringing black-market sports betting out of the shadows into a place where help can be provided when needed means that we are at last going to get serious about this destructive addiction.”

Rep. Jesse Edwards, who supported the bill, noted, “This is a major bill, and we’ re going to be living with its consequences for decades.” He added, “I just want you to vote with your eyes open because there’s going to be some downsides.”

Although the New Hampshire legislature has for decades resisted the entreaties of its longest serving legislator, Senator Lou D’Allesandro, to approve of a bill to allow casinos in the Granite State, lawmakers are much more receptive to legalized sports betting.

The state stoutly resists news taxes, but the small amount of taxes that would be collected for sports betting strikes many as relatively benign, especially since the activity already goes on anyway–just under the legal radar.

Senator D’Allesandro’s casino bill, which in other years would have at least gotten a lot of publicity before being voted down, this year barely avoided being swept away by a vote of the Senate Finance Committee that he chairs. Instead, he had to settle for it being tabled, a somewhat humiliating compromise.

The state did legalize keno two years ago, with the money earmarked to help fund full day pre-school. But the towns that have voted to allow it within their jurisdictions has been a disappointment to supporters, and keno isn’t producing anything like the revenues that were expected. However, this year that may be changing as more towns have decided to opt into the program.

One of the no votes was Rep. Jess Edwards, who warned against the social ills associated with gambling. He declared that sports book, “will continue state reliance on potentially problematic sources of revenue (sin taxes,) instead of taking on the more difficult task of redesigning the state tax structure to meet a differing set of social characteristics.”

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