CONCORD — Legal sports betting in New Hampshire moved one step closer to reality with a 269-82 vote in the House to advance HB 480, with the ringing endorsement of Gov. Chris Sununu.
Sununu already has $10 million in new revenue from sports betting in the state budget for 2020-21. In his inaugural address, he called on lawmakers to “Go all in and get it done.”
They were more than happy to oblige on a bipartisan basis Tuesday after minimal debate. The bill is now likely to become part of the budget deliberations between House and Senate.
It came out of the Ways and Means Committee with a 17-2 vote of “ought to pass.”
“The key concern of the minority is that it continues and significantly expands the status quo of state reliance on potentially problematic sources of revenue through sin taxes, instead of taking on the more difficult task of redesigning the state tax structure,” said Rep. Jess Edwards, R- Auburn.
“The other large concern is that this bill dramatically increases the level of legal state gambling from approximately $360 million to $560 million.”
Edwards predicted the reliance on gambling could become a “well-financed thorn in the side of New Hampshire society.”
Arguing for the bill, state Rep. Richard Ames, D-Jaffrey, said the bill was bipartisan “from beginning to end.”
“Today, betting on sports events is categorically illegal in New Hampshire, but we all know that many people in New Hampshire and throughout the country are engaging in sports betting notwithstanding,” he said. “The magnitude of this black market is staggering. This bill would bring much of this black market activity to the surface, where it would be legal and regulated.”
The Lottery Commission would select 10 locations licensed for sports betting on factors like financial stability, commitment to maximize revenue to the state and commitment to “integrity in gambling,” Ames said.
The bill requires local approval for betting locations, in addition to Lottery Commission licensing, with no more than 10 operations at any one time. Certain forms of small-bet sports gambling will be integrated into the lottery system.
Betting on high school and college teams is prohibited and all online wagers will have to be initiated and received within state boundaries to ensure compliance with the federal wire act.
A Commission on Problem Gambling will be created in the hope of addressing some of the concerns about gambling addiction raised by the bill’s opponents.
“Let’s bring black market sports betting out of the shadows and into a place where help can be provided where needed, to show at last we are going to get serious about this affliction,” said Ames.