Senators approved SB104, legalizing New Hampshire online casinos, in the first of two required votes before it can move to the House. On Feb. 22, during the bill’s second reading, lawmakers spent 20 minutes debating its merits.
All but two of the New Hampshire State Senate members opposed the proposed legislation in their oratory. However, the 13-11 vote approving the New Hampshire online casino legalization measure bodes well for its second at-bat in three weeks.
Meanwhile, SB104 will sit in the Senate Standing Committee on Finance because all monetary items must pass through that committee. Finance committee chairman – state Sen. James P. Gray, R-Rochester – voted today in favor of the bill.
If the bill becomes law, New Hampshire’s 1.4 million residents may see the first iGaming marketplace launch since Connecticut’s came online on Oct. 19, 2021.
Yesterday, hopes for an Indiana online casino marketplace faded as an Indiana General Assembly deadline came and went without action on HB1536. However, US online casino bills remain active in Kentucky, Illinois, and New York.
According to the New Hampshire General Court‘s records, Senators didn’t vote on SB104 yesterday.
Primary bill sponsor state Sen. Timothy P. Lang Sr. didn’t immediately return a Bonus request for comment yesterday and today.
The next Senate session is scheduled for March 16. That date more closely matches when Lang previously told Bonus the bill might receive a vote.
How New Hampshire Online Casino Will Differ
State Sen. Timothy P. Lang Sr., R-Sanbornton, authored the bill and said New Hampshire online casino will only include “table-style games.” He told his fellow Senators to think of Texas Hold ‘Em, poker, and blackjack. Not slots, historical horse racing (HHR), or Lucky 7.
New Hampshire’s casinos already have an unusual structure, with 35% of the net revenue going to charities and 10% to the state. Hence, brick-and-mortar casinos are referred to as charitable gaming establishments. Those casinos generated $66.7 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR) in 2022, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA).
By contrast, Lang’s bill outlines all remaining funds after New Hampshire online casino gambling’s operating expenses are deducted from the total collected under the 35% tax rate should be routed to a Community College Scholarship Fund.
Lang told Senators today that the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, which will oversee iGaming, estimates online casino gambling will generate $5 million for the scholarship fund during 2024. That will be if the marketplace launches on April 1, 2024, as SB104 describes.
Lang said the lottery reports Year Two will result in $20 million and Year Three in $30 million in proceeds for the scholarship fund. The estimates from the lottery happened before a bill amendment removed slots.
The New Hampshire Executive Council will oversee the request for proposals (RFP) process for three to five online casino skins.
New Hampshire online casino gamblers will need to be 18 or older, like their mobile sports betting counterparts who’ve been able to place bets legally since 2019. Most states require online gamblers to be 21 or older.
New Hampshire Online Casino Legalization Opinions
State Sen. Suzanne Prentiss, D-West Lebanon, opposed the New Hampshire online casino measure because she disliked education receiving funding from gambling.
I don’t love the funding source myself, but it provides a perpetual solution to those workforce issues to get us an educated workforce.
Meanwhile, most of the Senators who spoke today about SB104 voted against it, with their primary opinion being that online gambling would cannibalize brick-and-mortar casino revenue.
State Sen. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, was the most vociferous:
I find it hard to believe that a marketing effort would not pull any clientele that goes to a brick-and-mortar charitable gaming house will now not be diverted to an online market.
He thought charities like nursing facilities, youth programs, and shelters might see a drop in revenue if the bill becomes law.
Lang responded that studies show iGaming doesn’t pull money away from retail casinos.
However, Abbas’s fear echoed that of former New Hampshire Sen. Peter Bragdon. Bragdon testified to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Jan. 25. He worried that his employer, horse racing betting company Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), would experience cannibalization.
That’s a concern that worries online gambling advocates.
Cannibalization fears will prevent iGaming legalization this year, predicted BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt on Jan. 26. His brand holds the plurality of US online casino market share.
Only state Sen. David H. Watters, D-Dover, backed the bill publicly along with Lang.
Watters said today:
We’ve had a long debate over many, many years about gaming in New Hampshire. … A number of years ago, we came to the fork in the road on casinos and we took it. … So on gaming, the cat is out of the bag. And guess what? It had kittens, right? And here we are.
Then Senators switched the metaphors from animals to food.
Watters said legalizing online casino gambling will grow “the size of the pie,” and the additional money will go to community colleges. He said that educating the workforce is workforce development when responding to state Sen. William Gannon, R-Sandown.
We’re going to eat away at our charity gaming money.
He cited a Rutgers study showing 5% of New Jersey gamblers are online-only bettors. They don’t visit the job-creating, property tax-paying casinos, he said.
Gannon is concerned about the Seabrook gaming facility in his district. The Brook is a Eureka Casino.
There is no expanded pie. … We’re taking money away.