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Sports betting debate to rev up in NH

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 15. 2018 8:54PM

CONCORD — While gambling supporters in New Jersey, Delaware and several New England states are poised to pounce on the U.S. Supreme Court decision to let states allow sports betting, observers expect the issue to mature more slowly here.

State Sen. Lou D’Allesan­dro, D-Manchester, is viewed as the political godfather of casino legislation, having authored it for nearly two decades.

“Somebody has taken the lid off a $2 billion business. I think it was a long time coming,” D’Allesandro said. “Everybody has known it has been going on forever. Every state is going to have to make up their own mind and we’ll make up ours, but we need to think about moving on this pretty quickly.”

Former state senator Jim Rubens of Hanover is chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, which helped lead the successful fight to block casinos from getting a foothold here — most recently in 2017.

“I see this moving online like everything; this is something I used to warn about,” Rubens said. “It‘s going to be in every kid’s bedroom and there is really no good way to stop it. Congress really has to think about this. Are they going to let the floodgates open wide? There is no doubt this will apply even more economic pressure to try to pass something here.”

In its 6-3 decision Monday, the high court said Congress can regulate sports betting and could outlaw allowing these bets to be placed across state lines.

On Monday, Gov Chris Sununu issued this quip when USA Today sought responses from the chief executives in all 50 states. “Legalized sports betting in New Hampshire? I’ll give it 3-1,” he said.

His spokesman, Benjamin Vihstadt, said Tuesday that implementation will determine how feasible it becomes here.

“While Governor Sununu supports the concept of legalized sports betting, he believes it must be done right, and looks forward to having a robust debate surrounding the issue in the future,” Vihstadt said.

Ready and willing

The head of New Hampshire’s state lottery said that agency is ready and willing to administer sports betting were it to be made legal.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to permit individual states to allow sports betting presents a significant revenue opportunity,” said Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the NH Lottery. “Should New Hampshire lawmakers support the adoption of sports betting here, the NH Lottery is able to regulate and administer this form of gaming with all the necessary safeguards for the protection of the consumers.”

In 2017 at the urging of fantasy sports vendors Draft Kings and Fan Duel, New Hampshire legislators made it legal to place wagers on video machines with archives of already-completed sporting contests. This fantasy sports law instructed the lottery to adopt rules allowing and regulating the betting.

New Hampshire became the 13th state to permit these bets. But national industry analysts say a year later there are only a handful of these machines in a few New Hampshire bars.

D’Allesandro said if sports betting becomes legal here, several “betting clubs,” or small casinos could open in communities along the Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and even Canadian borders.

“Sports gambling is already 24-7 so I can see these venues doing very well here,” D’Allesandro said.

Rubens said he expects the gambling battle to fully develop in the Legislature in January.

“There will be enormous political pressure to allow this,” he said

New England states react

Massachusetts and Rhode Island lawmakers have pending sports betting bills before them.

The Bay State measure would create a commission to design legalization of online sports betting.

Rhode Island’s bill would make pro sports gambling legal at its casinos, but not allow bets placed on college sports contests that take place in Rhode Island or permit bets on any contest that involves an in-state school.

Connecticut Gov. Chris Malloy said he’s considering calling back lawmakers into special session this summer to consider whether to legalize sports betting.

On Capitol Hill, retiring U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, vowed to come up with legislation to adopt a federal policy on sports betting.

“At stake here is the very integrity of sports. That’s why I plan to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to help protect honesty and principle in the athletic arena,” Hatch said in a statement.

The state’s two senators, Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, vowed to monitor the debate.

“Senator Hassan believes that it is critical that Congress work across party lines to evaluate the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling on sports betting and to ensure the continued integrity of sports at all levels,” said Ricki Eshman, Hassan’s spokesman.

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