New Hampshire sports betting bill advances to Senate

20 March 2019

New Hampshire is a step closer to regulated sports betting after a bill that would legalise such activities in the state advanced to the Senate.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has passed an amended version of House Bill 480 by a vote of 269-82, with the bill now moving forward to the Senate for further discussion.

Should the bill come into law, consumers would be able to place bets at various retail locations across the state, as well as via online and mobile platforms. The New Hampshire Lottery Commission would be responsible for regulating the market.

The current version of the bill does not clarify how much the licences would cost, nor the level of tax sports betting operators would face. However, a fiscal note on the bill suggests sports wagering could generate up to $7.5m (£5.7m/€6.6m) in revenue during the first year of regulation.

Among the amendments approved by the House this week include a limit of 10 retail sportsbooks in the state and the establishment of a council for responsible gambling.

An amendment also clarifies the prohibited events where sports betting would not be allowed. This covers any collegiate sports event that takes place in New Hampshire, as well as any high school sports event sand amateur contest where the competitors are under the age of 18.

Sponsors are hoping to pass the bill on or before July 1 this year, with plans in place to launch a request for proposal process for contracted sports betting agents on January 1, 2020.

If the process progresses as expected, the first legal sports bets in New Hampshire could be placed on or around July 1, 2020.

The progression of the bill comes after New Hampshire last month launched a legal challenge against the US Department of Justice's (DoJ) revised opinion on the Wire Act, claiming the new stance is not faithful to the text, structure, purpose, or legislative history of the legislation.

Filed on behalf of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, the lawsuit states the stance is beyond the DoJ’s powers to enforce, and demands a declaratory judgement setting out the rights of all parties involved, and to an order vacating and setting aside the 2018 opinion.

The DOJ initially ruled that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting in 2011, which was used as a legal basis for state lotteries launching online sales, and states such as New Jersey regulating online casino and poker.

However, this stance was then changed in a revised opinion published by the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel in January this year, ruling that the Act covered all forms of gambling.

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