As One NH Sports Betting Bill Stalls, Another’s Sponsor Looks To Remove License Cap

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NH sports betting

The House sponsor of NH sports betting legislation is asking the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to make two amendments to the bill as passed by his chamber.

Rep. Timothy Lang, a Republican, tells Legal Sports Report that he wrote a letter to leadership of the Senate committee asking them to reverse two changes to H 480 made in the House in order to appease Democratic leadership.

In the letter, Lang supported Senate removal of a cap on brick-and-mortar locations allowed to offer New Hampshire sports betting (currently set at 10), and a prohibition on in-game betting at retail locations.

H 480 also appears the most likely NH sports betting bill to succeed this year after S 310 received an “inexpedient to legislate” label Wednesday in House committee.

While S 310 survived the same tag in the Senate to pass on a reconsideration in March, sources indicate to LSR the bill likely will not advance any farther this year.

Cap would hold back NH sports betting

Multiple industry stakeholders also asked for Lang’s changes last week in a Senate Ways and Means hearing on the bill. Lang agrees with arguments that limiting the number of retail locations with legal sports betting to 10 would be insufficient for eliminating the state’s black market.

His original NH sports betting bill did not have a cap. The House Committee on Ways and Means, which has long resisted expansions in gambling in New Hampshire, made the change in an amendment.

“That was a compromise with the House Democrats, who feared there would be a betting parlor on every street corner,” Lang said. “I would prefer it without a cap. I would rather have the lottery commission deal with that and have the flexibility to decide how many retail locations we’ll have in the state.”

In-game betting removed only from retail?

Another modification made by House Ways and Means was to only allow Tier I (outcome-related) and Tier III (lottery -themed) betting from retail locations, excluding Tier II that includes in-play betting.

Tier II is still allowed online. People could sit watching a game at a bar with NH sports betting and not be able to make the same wager on the second-half score that they could on their phones.

Lang said keeping in-game bets out is detrimental to retail locations:

“Some House Democrats were concerned that in-game betting is kind of like playing a slot machine, that people would bet on the next play, then bet on the next play, get wrapped up in the game and lose their shirt.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate because they can whip their phone out and make the same bet. It doesn’t stop the action, it just makes it so retailers are hamstrung.”

Multiple online operators allowed

The number of online operators permitted in the bill has been a point of confusion in New Hampshire.

The language under mobile sports wagering authorized reads that “the commission and its agent are authorized to operate a sports book,” with agent being singular. Lang says he ran this by the legal services team and the lottery, and was told the bill would still allow for multiple mobile operators.

“I never intended to create a monopoly,” Lang said. “I think it should be left to the lottery to decide how many agents are allowed based on the size of the market, and as the market grows there might be more agents added.”

An amendment to clarify that the lottery can choose multiple agents to operate online NH sports betting could still be made on the Senate side.

John Conforti of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission noted at last week’s hearing that New Jersey had 13 mobile operators. He estimated that NH could support no more than three to five, adding that the commission would go forward with a consultant to study the market if the bill passes.