Earlier this month, New Hampshire state senator Lou D’Allesandro (D-20) – a longtime proponent of a New Hampshire gambling expansion – watched as his latest bid to legalize full-scale casino gambling was killed off by colleagues in the House of Representatives.
While New Hampshire is already home to a handful of charitable casinos, D’Allesandro attempted to authorize the creation of two commercial casino resorts offering 5,000 video gaming terminals and house-banked casino table games.
One New Hampshire Gambling Bill Dies and Another Lives
D’Allesandro, who serves as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, had shepherded his bill through a successful 13-11 vote by the full Senate. When presented on the House floor, however, lawmakers in that chamber rejected commercial casinos by a convincing 289-63 margin.
But after the predictable “indefinite postponement” of Senate Bill 310 – D’Allesandro has introduced doomed casino bills biennially for the last two decades – the veteran lawmaker threw his considerable political weight behind another New Hampshire gambling bill which would legalize sports betting in the Granite State.
While no legislators spoke in support of SB-310, state representative Willis Griffith (D-18) used his time on the floor to talk about the crowded gambling marketplace in New England. Nearby states like Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut are currently constructing new commercial casinos, prompting Griffith to frame New Hampshire as a state already stuck on the outside looking in:
“There may have been a time when casinos made sense for New Hampshire, but that time has without a doubt come and gone.”
Lawmakers Prefer Sportsbooks Over Slots
Following a 269-82 vote in the House passing House Bill 480 – which would allow both brick and mortar and online / mobile sportsbooks to serve bettors physically located within New Hampshire state lines – D’Allesandro convened the Finance Committee for a special session on May 21.
There, HB-480 was expedited with an “ought to pass with amendment” recommendation, which sends the bill back to the full Senate for final legislative approval.
As D’Allesandro later told Legal Sports Report, the special session was designed to bridge the gap between House and Senate versions of the bill after the latter body added minor amendments:
“We did an executive session because we wanted to get all those bills out. It’s moving along swimmingly. The Senate is going to pass it. It’s in the budget for like $10 million.”
With the state’s budget already slated to include $10 million in licensing fees and tax revenue – details which have yet to be set in stone – Governor Chris Sununu is widely expected to sign sports betting regulation into law. During his February budget address, Sununu directly addressed the need to stay competitive as legal sports betting continues to take root along the East Coast:
“Given our new opportunities to legalize sports betting in a responsible and reliable way, and capture more revenue for our education system, I say we go all in and get it done.”
The Senate amendment process saw the number of online / mobile operators capped at five, while brick and mortar bet shops will be capped at 10. Further amendments clarified language regarding the geolocation standards used to restrict online / mobile wagering to intrastate access only, and tasked the state lottery commission with setting betting limits and other regulations.
The full Senate is expected to review these changes on May 30, and if approved, HB-480 will be sent back to the House for concurrence.
State representative Timothy Lang (D-4), who sponsored HB-480, told Legal Sports Report that he expects the House to finish the lengthy New Hampshire gambling legislation process and send his bill to the Governor’s desk:
“I do anticipate that the House will concur with the Senate changes. I think either way it will pass. If it goes to a committee or conference, I expect they will work it out. But I honestly believe we will concur on the House floor and be done.”