The New Hampshire online casino bill, SB104, is effectively dead. That’s true after a 20-0 vote of “inexpedient to legislate” on April 26 in the Executive Session of the House Ways and Means Committee.
According to the New Hampshire Almanac:
A bill is considered killed when the House or Senate votes to adopt the committee report of ‘Inexpedient to legislate,’ or when a motion from the floor to ‘Indefinitely postpone’ is adopted.
Today’s vote happened after the House Ways and Means Committee held a public hearing yesterday on the bill introduced by state Sen. Timothy P. Lang Sr., R-Sanbornton.
Senators approved the measure, but the bill died in the House committee this afternoon.
Lang told Bonus:
I am disappointed in the House Ways and Means Committee vote.
Obviously, the cannibalization fear mongering tactic worked. While it means it is dead for this year, I will listen to the various opposing views and address them in a new bill in the near future.
Before the vote, lawmakers said SB104 needed more work and could be revisited next year. They cited concerns about retail casino revenue cannibalization, which the online gambling industry says is a false claim. They also said SB104 is flawed, in general.
State Rep. Fred Doucette, R-Salem, spoke before the vote.
The bill needs a lot of work. We can revisit this in the future. But we shouldn’t jump into the deep end of the pool on big gaming at this point.
Chris Grove, a Las Vegas-based gambling industry strategist and investor, predicted in March 2021 that lawmakers would consider online casino gambling a “big G,” while sports betting would be regarded as a “small g.” Indeed, sports betting is legal in New Hampshire.
Yesterday, the House voted to “indefinitely postpone” SB104.
In a voice vote that sounded unanimous, that members of that chamber of the New Hampshire General Court shouted “aye.”
Lang told Bonus yesterday:
The downfall of the bill was simply the erroneous idea pushed by the gaming operators that there is no further room in the market for more gaming monies, and a $1 spent iGaming would take away a $1 spent in the brick-and-mortar locations.
Indeed, most of the bill opponents Bonus heard during the bill’s discussions opined that legalizing online casino gambling would cannibalize revenue from brick-and-mortar casinos.
An amendment had removed online slots from the online casino legalization measure, which reduced its revenue forecast by 55%. Granite Staters would have been able to play legal online casino table games, had SB104 become law.
The expected tax revenue based on a 35% tax rate on operators was:
- $2.4 million in Fiscal Year 2024
- $9.5 million in Fiscal Year 2025
- $14.2 million in Fiscal Year 2026
Meanwhile, the only active bill that would introduce another US online casino jurisdiction to the mix is in Maine.
Connecticut was the most recent state to legalize online casino gambling. That marketplace launched on Oct. 19, 2021.
Lang Advocated for the New Hampshire online casino bill
Lang supported SB104, which he sponsored on Jan. 5.
He tweeted yesterday:
Today I will be spending the day split between Public hearings in Senate Education (My committee) and my Bill introductions in the House Ways and Means.
Lang largely touted its proposed benefits for New Hampshire college students and a possible enhanced workforce, which he said could happen through the Community College Scholarship Fund. The bill detailed how to create that fund.
Today, House Ways and Means Committee members said they supported funding education, but not with this iGaming bill. The discussion and defeat of the bill lasted about 10 minutes.
That means that for the foreseeable future, DraftKings Sportsbook may remain the only legal online gambling option in the 1.4 million-resident state.
What Happened During Yesterday’s Public Hearing
Lang spoke in favor of SB104 during yesterday’s House Ways and Means Committee’s public hearing.
I wanted to provide a solution to our workforce problem.
In other words, Lang said he was concentrating on the scholarship fund, and legalizing online casino gambling was a way to support it. He spent most of his 10 minutes of testimony concentrating on this aspect of the bill.
Consumer protection was on his mind, too, because online gamblers who use illegal sites have no recourse when the sites refuse to pay them.
Finally, Lang addressed cannibalization concerns. He said the retail casinos would benefit from legalizing online casino gambling.
Committee members raised the following objections:
- The belief that online casino gambling would cannibalize revenue that would otherwise go to retail casinos
- Lottery ticket sales are already benefiting education
- SB104 didn’t support pre-K through Grade 12 funding
Public Hearing Testimony on SB104
During the 70-minute public hearing, six speakers supported SB104 and five opposed the measure.
The following educators testified in favor of SB104:
- Charles Lloyd, president of White Mountains Community College
- Catherine Provencher, the chief administrative officer of the University System of New Hampshire (USNH)
- Mark Rubinstein, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH)
Representatives of charities opposed the New Hampshire online casino bill.
Jon Eriquezzo, president of Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County, said he was concerned about what SB104 would do to charities. What he meant was he had the same cannibalization concern, because funds from New Hampshire’s retail casinos benefit charities.
William H. Dunlap, president of the New Hampshire Historical Society (NHHS), said 25% of the nonprofit’s $300,000 annual fund comes from the retail casinos.
So we rely on it.
Randy Pierce, CEO of Future In Sight New Hampshire, said:
If you’re a senior who’s losing sight so significantly that you can’t navigate your home … we’ve got to travel to you.
He said that cuts would mean laying off home-visit therapists.
Because of that, Pierce opposed the bill:
We’re going to have to reduce the number if you reduce our number.
Retail Casino Speakers vs. DraftKings
Rick G. Newman, a self-described lobbyist and former House member, testified on behalf of the New Hampshire Charitable Gaming Operators Association (NHCGOA). Charitable gaming is how New Hampshire describes its retail casino industry. Newman also backed the cannibalization belief.
He said he worried about workforce downsizing among the state’s 1,500 retail casino employees, because he claimed online casinos don’t add jobs. Newman said he also thought some of those 1,500 personnel would lose their jobs because of cannibalization.
I have seen a study by Deutsche Bank … where New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, they saw a 12% drop in brick-and-mortar casino revenue when online gaming went into effect.
Similarly, former state Rep. John Graham believed bettors in New Hampshire had a “finite amount of money” to wager and that any spent on online casinos would be taken from retail casinos. He said he didn’t have any proof, but that proof would come after legalization, which would be “too late.”
Immediately after Graham testified, two DraftKings representatives spoke.
Rebecca London, a senior government affairs manager with DraftKings, provided the committee with research from Connecticut. She said online casino gambling doesn’t cannibalize retail casino revenue.
Doucette told London comparing sports bettors with online casino gamblers was invalid, or “apples and oranges.”
He was the primary speaker today before the unanimous Executive Session vote to kill the New Hampshire online casino bill.