LACONIA — The city council has scheduled a public hearing to determine whether residents can vote to decide whether Laconia could become home to a sports book retail location.
Under the provisions of House Bill 480 legalizing and regulating sports betting in N.H., the Lottery Commission will award a maximum of 15 licenses – 10 retail and five online – to operators via a competitive bidding process.
State Rep. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, of Belknap District 4, who sponsored the bill and attended last month’s signing ceremony, has said he supports removing the cap on the number of licensees with a future legislative update. State Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, was unsuccessful in his attempt to amend the legislation to allow regulators to determine how many operators the market could bear. The final version codified the cap.
New Hampshire became this sixth state this year to legalize sports betting. The new law prohibits betting on New Hampshire college teams, and sets 18 as the legal age to bet. According to the Associated Press, sports betting is expected to generate $7.5 million in 2021 for educational programs and $13.5 million by 2023.
City Manager Scott Myers told the council if the question goes on the November ballot and passes, a retail sports book location could open in the city. The council agreed this week to set a public hearing to take place during their next regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 26 to determine whether the question should be placed on the ballot for the Nov. 5 Municipal Elections.
“It’s similar to the Keno bill in that it gives local choice,” said Myers.
The law requires that a second public hearing be held 15 to 30 days prior to election day. A majority vote is needed for a municipality to allow operation of a retail sports book location. The law also contains a provision allowing voters to rescind approval. If the council declines to put the question on the ballot it could still be voted on if a petition bearing the signatures of 25 registered voters is submitted to the city clerk.
In the Lakes Region, the city of Franklin will hold a public hearing on Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. in council chambers to decide if the issue should go on their municipal ballot. Laconia and Franklin are the first municipalities to consider the ballot question as Laconia votes in November and Franklin elections are annually held on the first Tuesday of October, while towns go to the polls in March.
The New Hampshire Lottery Commission will maintain a list of municipalities where sports book retail locations may operate. Sports betting giants DraftKings and FanDuel are expected to be among the companies who apply for online-only licenses. The law makes it legal to have sports “lounges” within existing businesses, including bars or resort hotels, but gives individual municipalities the right to approve – or not – allowing a sports book retail location within its borders.
The lottery commission is developing regulations and prospective licensees will need to go through a Request for Proposal process. Mobile sports betting is expected to launch by the start of football season. Brick and mortar venues likely won’t open until next year.