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New Hampshire is drawing closer to becoming the next US state with legalized sports betting.
Lawmakers in each chamber tell Legal Sports Report that the Senate will pass a sports betting bill on Wednesday with at least one amendment.
The House already passed H 480, but it needs to return to its chamber of origin for concurrence on the changes before heading to the governor’s desk.
“I anticipate the House will concur with the Senate and it will pass,” said Rep. Timothy Lang, the bill’s author. “If it does go to a committee of conference, I expect they will work it out, but I honestly believe they will just concur on the House floor and be done.”
The Ways and Means Committee recommended an amendment that would cap the number of mobile operators at five. While establishing a reasonable limit for the small state, the amendment also serves to clarify that multiple operators are permitted.
According to Lang, a drafting error in the bill made “agent” singular in the following clause on mobile sports wagering: “the commission and its agent are authorized to operate a sports book.”
Lang was assured that the language did not prevent multiple mobile operators, but appreciates the amendment to ensure there is no confusion.
“The cap of five clearly defines that it’s not a monopolistic venture,” Lang said.
Sen. Bob Giuda is proposing amendments at Lang’s request.
One amendment would allow the New Hampshire State Lottery the leeway to change the caps on retail sportsbooks (10) and mobile operators through rulemaking.
Another would reinsert authorization for Tier 2 wagers at brick-and-mortar locations. The House Ways and Means Committee previously removed language allowing such wagers, which include in-play betting, within the retail setting. Those types of bets would still be allowed through mobile.
These seem like common-sense amendments, but they may get caught up in politics.
Lang and Giuda are both Republicans, while the state Senate is majority Democrat. At least two Democrats would need to vote for the amendments for them to gain approval.
“The likelihood of his amendments passing are not great because they are Republican recommendations,” Lang said. “It depends on politics. I don’t know if they’ll go party line vote or sway Democrats to be reasonable.”
According to Lang, the earliest the House could approve the amended bill is May 30. If it isn’t put on the calendar for that day, he expects it would be the following Thursday.
Lang noted that the chair of House Ways and Means would make the recommendation on whether to concur with the Senate’s changes. That could be problematic if Giuda’s amendments are included, as it is the same committee that removed Tier 2 wagering and instituted the retail cap in the first place.
Chair Susan Almy also tends to lean against gambling expansions in the state.
Lang, however, believes that the House will concur and Gov. Chris Sununu will sign when the bill reaches his desk. They have already included $10 million from sports betting in the two-year state budget.
“I think Ways and Means is more enamored with money,” Lang said. “These are minor changes, and you’ve got to give the Senate the ability to put their fingerprint on it.”
The Senate is in session at the time of writing.