New Hampshire Lawmakers Forcefully Reject Online Poker Bill

Within days of conducting an executive session to study the merits of an online gambling decriminalization bill, members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted it down unanimously.

Following the October 25 executive session, House Bill 562 – also known as “An Act Allowing Online Gambling” – was rejected in a 23-0 vote. In technical terms, the bill was classified as “inexpedient to legislate,” but that status leaves HB-562 with no viable path forward.

As the New Hampshire Almanac explains, the vote classification renders the issue of online gambling legalization dead on arrival until the next legislative session at the earliest:

“A bill is considered killed when the House or Senate votes to adopt the committee report of ‘Inexpedient to legislate.’”

HB-562 was introduced in January of this year by Representatives Eric Schleien (R-37), Nick Zaricki (R-7), and Robert Fisher (R-9).

Designed as a “placeholder” bill, the full text of HB-562 provided a short and direct explanation of its intent:

“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.”

As the text makes clear, HB-562 would not have followed the model established by Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, the three states which have successfully created a regulatory framework for statewide online gambling industries. Instead, the bill simply removed language from existing laws which rendered online gambling as a criminal activity. If passed, HB-562 would have paved the way toward eventual regulation.

The bill was originally sent to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it sat idle until August when it was retained in subcommittee. At that point, industry experts viewed HB-562 as an extreme longshot to warrant further consideration, but New Hampshire’s decision to legalize online lottery ticket sales in June prompted further exploration of iGaming options.

On October 12, the subcommittee surprisingly sent HB-562 through to an executive session, but it failed to garner a single vote in support.

However, that lack of enthusiasm may have been based on the bill’s sponsors, rather than its intent.

Fisher, a 31-year old Republican, resigned from the House in disgrace back in May, after constituents exposed him as the ringleader of a misogynist internet forum known as “Red Pill.” Following a hearing which saw critics of Fisher read his comments about using “roofies” and “duct tape” to induce sexual encounters, the lawmaker was forced by party leaders to resign immediately.

Fisher offered the following explanation for his comment during a public hearing:

“Several years ago, I made some injudicious statements regarding women and my frustrations with dating.

Some of the views that have been alleged here are certainly not reflective of what I stand for and what I have done in my time here in Concord.”

Schleien, a 29-year old Republican, is facing a similarly sordid scandal after a 16-year old girl accused him of sexual misconduct. He pled not guilty to those charges, and a tentative trial date has been set for next spring.

Given the lack of legislative power now wielded by both Fisher and Schleien, the eventual failure of their online gambling bill was hardly a surprise to local political observers.