Just four months removed from becoming the fifth state to approve online lottery ticket sales, New Hampshire is looking to join the small list of states offering fully regulated online gambling.
In late June, lawmakers in the Granite State sent a sprawling budget plan to Governor Chris Sununu, one which included an online lottery amendment. Sununu signed that bill into law one week later, and after going into effect on July 1, the New Hampshire Lottery is scheduled to begin online ticket sales sometime next year.
Back in January, three members of the state’s Legislature – Representatives Eric Schleien, Nick Zaricki, and Robert Fisher – introduced House Bill 562.
Bearing the simple and straightforward title of “Allowing Online Gaming,” HB-562 sought to decriminalize all forms of gambling conducted over the internet. The bill is a placeholder of sorts though, containing only the barest of textual guidance as to the actual process of legalization.
The full text of HB-562 reads as follows:
“This bill exempts gambling done over the Internet from gambling offenses under RSA 647.
The Department of Justice to date has neither investigated nor prosecuted online gaming offenses and therefore does not expect this bill to have any impact on expenditures.
To the extent this bill legalizes a form of gambling, it may have an indeterminable impact on lottery and charitable gaming revenue. Lottery and charitable gaming revenue is credited to the lottery fund, with net revenues after Lottery Commission expenditures being credited to the state education trust fund.”
The bill was sent to the House Ways and Means Committee for review – receiving both a public hearing and an executive session to review its merits – but the House essentially shelved HB-562 in August by retaining it in a subcommittee work session.
But with momentum now established for statewide acceptance of iGaming, New Hampshire has revived HB-562 for a second look.
Lawmakers have assigned the bill to an executive session, to be held on October 25, and at that point one of four options will be pursued.
The committee members can render a vote of “ought to pass,” which implies that while support for the bill is widespread, further deliberations and amendments are required to secure passage.
A vote of “ought to pass as amended” would be the most encouraging sign for iGaming supporters in New Hampshire, as this suggests lawmakers are content with the bill as written.
On the other hand, a vote of “inexpedient to legislate” would essentially render HB-562 dead on arrival in its current form.
Finally, by voting to “re-refer to committee,” lawmakers can kick the proverbial can by sending the bill back to its starting point.
As a placeholder bill, HB-562 isn’t designed to follow the model established by Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware – the three states to set up regulated iGaming industries thus far.
Rather than create a regulatory framework through which to supervise iGaming operations within the state, HB-562 simply classifies online gambling as a legal activity. Thus, residents of New Hampshire – and possibly visitors to the state depending on the law’s final language – would be permitted to play online casinos and poker rooms operated in other states.
This aspect of the bill may cause problems during the implementation phase, as the three iGaming-legal states wrote exclusionary provisions into their own laws which prevent out-of-state players from participating.
Another potential hurdle for HB-526 may come from the bill’s own sponsor, as Schleien was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a minor in April. The Republican lawmaker pled not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.