New Hampshire is making a push to become the first state to authorize legal sports betting this year.
H 480 was up for a vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, a proposal from Rep. Timothy Lang to authorize full-scale NH sports betting. Following some brief debate, lawmakers voted 269-82 to pass an amended version onto the Senate.
The bill cleared its first committee stop with similar ease (17-2) last week, and it has the backing of the state’s chief executive, too. Gov. Chris Sununu included $10 million of associated revenue in his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
NH sports betting bill, as amended
The bill proposes a framework for NH sports betting similar to that of Rhode Island.
Under its terms, the NH Lottery Commission would administer sports betting at retail locations and via one or more online/mobile platforms. The bill does not codify any fees, but a fiscal note projects up to $7.5 million in first-year revenue using a “model consistent with industry standards.”
Tuesday’s reading before the full chamber included a comprehensive amendment previously adopted by the committee. Some of the major components include:
- Clarifies the definition of “prohibited event”
- Pluralizes “agents” to allow multiple partnerships
- Delineates bet types available to operators
- Imposes a limit of 10 retail sportsbooks
- Expands language concerning the transmission of data
- Establishes a council for responsible gambling
Those retail sportsbooks would require approval from local voters, though residents would have no say over statewide mobile betting. A subtle change of language also seems to open the door for the lottery to contract with multiple suppliers.
According to the NH Union Leader, the bill is likely to become a bargaining chip as the two chambers work toward a unified budget.
NH sports betting nudging New England forward
As is the case in the mid-Atlantic, regional pressure is creating a sense of urgency in the minds of some New Hampshire lawmakers.
RI sports betting is already legal, of course, and on the verge of expanding to include online/mobile betting. Lawmakers in Connecticut are working toward legalization and active bills exist in every state in New England.
Across all of the eastern US, only four states do not have a sports betting bill on file or a law in place. Despite the unprecedented appetite for legalization, however, no state has legalized sports betting yet in 2019.
If things continue on course in NH sports betting, that could change soon. Lawmakers remain in session in Concord until the end of June.
Meanwhile, in federal court …
A new Wire Act opinion from the US Department of Justice blanketed the legislative landscape in a cloud of uncertainty. Under its reinterpretation of the 1961 Wire Act, transmitting any data related to gambling across state lines may violate federal law.
States have shown little interest in slowing down, though, and an amended version of the NH sports betting bill includes expanded language that maneuvers carefully around that opinion.
Here’s an excerpt:
Any agent or contractor who sends or receives electronic data related to sports wagers is responsible to ensure that any transfer of that data is initiated and completed within the state of New Hampshire and that only incidental intermediate routing of the electronic data occurs outside of the state.
Meanwhile, the NH court system has become the front line for the fight against the new opinion.
The state lottery commission was the first to file a federal lawsuit, seeking to protect its online lottery and its plans to administer mobile sports betting. More than a dozen states have since filed briefs in support of the challenge, and Pennsylvania even sought to directly intervene.
While New Hampshire may be an ideal jurisdiction for such a challenge, legal experts caution that plaintiffs will face an uphill battle. Oral arguments are set to begin in the coming weeks.