Lawmakers in New Hampshire are on the verge of finalizing the Granite State’s sports betting bill and sending it to the desk of Governor Chris Sununu.
During a special session of the state’s Senate Finance Committee held on May 21st, members huddled to add final amendments to House Bill 480. The legislation – which would allow land-based and online/mobile sportsbooks to operate across the state – was previously approved in March by the full House of Representatives in a convincing 269 to 82 vote.
That sent HB-480 through to the Senate, where several last-minute amendments were attached by the Finance Committee. Chief among the amendments made by the Committee was a provision capping the number of online/mobile operators at five rather than the original limit of 10. The cap of 10 brick and mortar bet shops, however, remained intact after the amendment process.
The bill was then expedited via “ought to pass with amendment” status, a decision state senator and Committee chair Lou D’Allesandro (D-20) – a longtime proponent of a gambling expansion in New Hampshire – explained in a recent interview with Legal Sports Report:
“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.”
Governor Already Onboard; Hopes to Plug Budget Gaps
As D’Allesandro – who also saw his latest attempt to legalize casino gambling shot down by the House this week – alluded to, Governor Sununu has already approved a budget which includes $10 million in sports betting-related revenue.
In February, the Governor delivered a speech on the budget which included his enthusiastic endorsement of sports betting regulation:
“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.”
Sununu also told the Valley News that legalization was the most effective way to mitigate the impact of offshore online sportsbooks, operations which focus on unregulated markets like New Hampshire:
“We’re not creating a new industry here; we’re just bringing an illicit industry into a legalized industry.”
The newly amended HB-480 is expected to be passed by the full Senate in a vote scheduled for May 30th. From there, New Hampshire law calls for the originating chamber to provide final approval, so the House will hold a final vote before ostensibly sending the bill to Sununu’s desk to be signed into law.
State representative and HB-480 sponsor Timothy Lang (D-4), told Legal Sports Report that he expects the House to sign off and complete the legislative process:
“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.”
Sports Betting Represents Significant Gambling Expansion for State
As one of only nine states where commercial and tribal casinos cannot legally operate – along with Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Soth Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia – New Hampshire’s existing gambling industry is limited to charitable poker, bingo, and table games offering strictly limited bet amounts.
But just as sports betting marked a pivotal shift in Tennessee – which approved the country’s first online-only sportsbook bill earlier this week – regional competition spurred lawmakers to act.
In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed down last May – which repealed a 26-year old federal ban on non-Nevada sportsbooks – New England neighbor Rhode Island launched legal betting in November. Bookmakers are already operational in nearby New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well, while Maine is moving closer to passing its own bill.