NH Senate Roundup: Bill to regulate and tax fantasy football clears state Senate, but awaits further review
CONCORD — A House bill that would regulate and tax online fantasy sports games cleared the Senate in a 20-3 vote on Thursday, but is not headed for the governor’s desk just yet.
Senate President Chuck Morse referred the bill to the Senate Finance Committee for review before final passage.
“The Governor has concerns with HB 580 and will give the bill its due consideration when it reaches his desk,” said interim spokesman Michael Todd.
If the bill becomes law, fantasy sites like DraftKings and FanDuel will have to register with the lottery commission and pay a fee of $5,000 or 10 percent of gross revenue annually, whichever is less, in addition to an annual 5 percent tax on gross contest revenues.
The regulations include a variety of consumer protections and limits on advertising. Game operators have to ensure that players are 18 or older.
State Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, introduced an amendment to eliminate the registration fee and taxation, but that failed 19-4.
“We agree there needs to be clarity for fantasy sports betting,” he said. “This amendment takes out the $5,000 fee and 5 percent tax. Let’s ensure we are regulating without taxation.”
Operators of the games have actually endorsed efforts to regulate and tax their operations as a way of establishing their legality in all 50 states.
“Without the revenue raised in this bill, there’d be no resources for the lottery commission to enforce its provisions,” said State Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro.
No one knows how much revenue the online games will generate for the state, as the fiscal note that accompanies the bill is inconclusive.
“The lottery commission states it does not have empirical data to estimate increased revenues from registration fees, taxes, and penalties, but anticipates increased expenditures for regulation purposes,” according to the fiscal note.
Bitcoin unregulated by state
The Senate also passed HB 436, a bill exempting virtual currency like Bitcoin from state regulation.
“Allowing Bitcoin and other virtual currency to be regulated by the (federal) Consumer Protection Act provides certainty for consumers while allowing this kind of currency to continue to be used,” said State Sen. Dan Innis, R-New Castle.
Democrats argued strongly against the exemption.
“Removing this third party oversight is not only risky for consumers but also makes it easier for drug dealers and other criminals to carry out illegal, untraceable transactions in New Hampshire,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield.
Other House bills that have now cleared the Senate include:
• HB 94, which would prevent those involved in human trafficking with minors to use the defense that they were unaware of the person’s age;
• HB 194, legislation to permit employers to pay wages on a biweekly schedule; and,
• HB 412, establishing a pre-engineering and technology curriculum for public school students in grades K-12.