MANCHESTER — City voters will decide whether to allow a retail location for sports betting in the Queen City, and a public hearing on a ballot question on the issue will be held Tuesday at City Hall.
City aldermen voted over the summer to put the question whether to allow sports betting — now legal in New Hampshire under HB 480 and signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu in July — on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The public hearing is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the aldermanic chambers at City Hall.
The text of the ballot question is as follows: “Shall the City of Manchester allow the operation of sports book retail locations within the city of Manchester? If you favor this proposal, vote YES; if you do not favor it, vote NO.”
The phrase “sports book” refers to places where people can wager on professional sporting events.
Under the law, the state will select 10 sports book retail locations. If Manchester voters approve retail sports betting, the city would not be guaranteed a location, but it would allow businesses to apply for one of the state’s 10 spaces.
If the city rejects the question of a betting location, residents could still bet on sports under the law but would have to do it online or travel to the nearest location.
Speaking on background, a lottery spokesman said there is “considerable interest in Manchester” and communities throughout the state about hosting a sports book retail location, but officials won’t start accepting applications until cities and towns have voted to approve it in their communities.
In a letter to Manchester aldermen, Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the NH Lottery, writes the state anticipates launching sports betting platforms in early 2020.
“While we cannot predict if the physical sports books will be stand-alone or co-located within other commercial businesses, we do expect retailers to apply in metropolitan areas — and they can only conduct sports book operations in municipalities that have voted to allow it,” writes McIntyre. In a process identical to that allowing Keno, cities have the option to put the question to voters whether to permit the operation of sports book retail locations within the municipality.”
McIntyre recommends putting the question before voters for approval so if a retailer wishes to apply to become a sports book location, “they would not have to wait two years until the election of 2021 before they could engage in the activity.”
If voters allow the operation of sport books and an establishment is selected by the Lottery Commission, city leaders must grant that establishment approval before the Lottery will permit that location to begin operations.
Other municipalities putting sports betting questions on local ballots include Concord, Berlin and Dover.
Earlier this month Franklin became the first city in the state to allow a sports book retail location, with voters approving a ballot question with 527 ‘yes’ votes to 354 ‘no’ votes.
Lottery officials announced last month it received 13 responses to a request for proposal to oversee both online and in-person sports wagering. Officials anticipate selecting a winning vendor by November, with the first bets taking place early next year.
The state is forecasting roughly $7.5 million in gambling revenue by 2021.
Lottery officials say the Keno 603 game brought in $24 million in revenue last fiscal year and is expected to bring in $36 million this year.