New Hampshire Legalizes Sports Betting, But How Long Until Launch?

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NH sports betting

New Hampshire sports betting joins the national party today.

Gov. Chris Sununu signed H 480 into law Friday morning, legalizing and regulating sports betting in his state.

Lawmakers passed the enabling language prior to adjourning in June, but it took the better part of a month for the bill to make its way to the governor’s desk.

His approval makes New Hampshire the sixth US state to get a sports betting bill across the finish line this year. Nine states already have regulated industries up and running, and another seven states — plus Washington, D.C. — have laws in place pending launch.

NH sports betting becomes law

The new law will create a Division of Sports Wagering within the NH Lottery Commission, which is charged with regulating the industry. State lotteries are becoming involved increasingly in the expansion of legal sports betting, and this framework borrows heavily from the one in West Virginia.

NH sports betting will be widely accessible, available in brick-and-mortar shops and statewide via mobile. Regulators will award as many as 15 licenses — five retail and 10 online — to operators via a competitive bidding process. Rather than codifying a revenue-sharing agreement, the law allows the lottery to negotiate terms with each prospective licensee.

A few other specifics worth highlighting:

Local NCAA betting bans have popped up in a number of states over the past year despite being objectively counterproductive to regulation. The concept traces its roots back to New Jersey, oddly enough.

Apart from that little sticking point and the cap on licenses, the NH sports betting law looks like a pretty good package overall. Rep. Timothy Lang, who sponsored the bill and attended the signing, is already keen on removing those caps via a future legislative update.

What to expect from NH sports betting

Though it’s a small market, the licensing process in New Hampshire should generate plenty of interest.

The two Rhode Island casinos are the only legal spots to bet on sports in New England at the moment. The availability of mobile platforms should help NH operators draw customers from neighboring states.

The majority of residents in the region are closer to the NH state line than to a RI casino. New Hampshire does not have any casinos, so there’s not much competition for customers.

Lotto or bust

The lottery is the only legal form of gambling in the state, and the agency has chosen to administer sports betting rather than operate it in-house. This should be good news for bettors and prospective operators alike, as the structure will keep the majority of revenue in the gambling ecosystem.

Regulators will award licenses via a competitive bidding process starting in January, targeting companies that can return the most value to the state. Knowing very little about anyone’s plans at this early stage, you’d to have to expect leaders elsewhere — like FanDuel Sportsbook and William Hill — to seek licensure in New Hampshire.

The fiscal note attached to the bill projects at least $11.25 million in annual state revenue from sports betting that begins in FY 2021. The target launch date is July 1, 2020.

The path to passage

The NH sports betting bill endured some changes in the months after its introduction, and its passage was never a sure thing. A separate, more controversial effort to authorize casino gambling in New Hampshire even threatened to sink the ship for a while before lawmakers decoupled the issues from each other.

With the measure from Sen. Lou D’Allesandro out of the way, the NH sports betting law came together quickly.

One of the smallest, most important changes involved adding a single letter to the license provisions. As initially drafted, the bill only allowed the lottery or its singular “agent” to conduct sports betting. Pluralizing that word into “agents” opened up the market to multiple operators as Lang intended.

Here comes the cap

The updated bill did not include a limit on licenses, and Sen. Bob Giuda sought to reinforce that capitalistic mindset with an amendment allowing regulators to determine how many operators the market could bear. Giuda’s proposal was turned aside, though, and a House committee insisted on codifying the cap in the final version.

House lawmakers passed the original bill by a 269-82 margin in March, then concurred with Senate changes after a brief committee detour.

There was never a doubt Sununu would sign it. The governor included a call to action in his inaugural address and added $10 million in associated revenue to his budget for FY 2020.

Legal sports betting snapshot

The map of legal US sports betting looks like this today, with yellow states legal pending launch:

US sports betting map — July 2019

Lawmakers in Maine also passed a sports betting bill this year, but the governor’s indecision has it stuck in purgatory at the moment.