New Hampshire joined the many states that will not legalize online casino this year.
The New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee voted 20-0 to inexpedient to legislate SB 104. The vote indicates that the committee opposes the bill, essentially ending its chances to pass.
New Hampshire was the last realistic chance at a state legalizing iGaming in 2023. New York, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Maine and Maryland also considered online casino legislation.
Committee decision explained
Rep. Fred Doucette made the motion for the committee to oppose SB104. His reasoning:
“Although the intent of the legislation as it was explained to us in testimony by its prime sponsor, we can all agree there’s a need for those scholarships for the community college, this particular vehicle with the flaws in the legislation itself, the way by which the funds are raised, the testimony we heard that it will impact our charities that get service through a charitable gaming model at present, basically the bill needs a lot of work. We can revisit this in the future, but we shouldn’t jump into the deep end of the pool on big gaming at this point.”
Impact on New Hampshire charities reason for defeat
At a hearing the previous day, stakeholders and lawmakers debated the cannibalization issue.
Rick Newman, representing New Hampshire Charitable Gaming Operators Association, explained that charitable gaming is projected to produce between $25 million and $28 million in the next year. That revenue gets spread out between more than 1,000 charities.
“We are very concerned about online gaming, particularly how this bill presents it with no limits on wagers,” Newman said.
Rep. Tim Lang pointed out that these same arguments were made when he sponsored New Hampshire sports betting passage in 2019. Sports betting has generated more than $70 million in New Hampshire and charitable gaming revenue has increased over that time.
Lang tried to address cannibalization concerns by limiting New Hampshire iGaming to table games. The charitable casinos make most of their money from games that play like slot machines. He also proposed that iGaming apps display the closest brick-and-mortar charitable casino.
Rebecca London, senior government affairs manager for DraftKings, attested that New Jersey gross gaming revenue has increased across gaming sectors since the implementation of online gaming and sports betting.
“Importantly, we’ve seen that legalized online gaming does not cannibalize other forms of legal gaming. … What we see is those who are most likely to participate in online gaming are not doing so at the expense of existing markets because it’s typically users who are doing so illegally and are a different demographic than those of current legal options.”
Community college scholarships also questioned
Lang explained his reason for wanting to legalize New Hampshire online casino. He wants to create revenue to solve New Hampshire’s workforce issue. Through funding community college scholarships, he contended that New Hampshire could have more qualified candidates to fill needed jobs as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, nurses, phlebotomists, radiology techs, and so on.
“The interesting thing about this bill is I came at it backwards. I didn’t come in because I wanted to legalize online gaming. I came in because I wanted to provide a solution to our workforce problem, using our community college system as a way to get there. However, I’m a pragmatic person and won’t present a bill that’s going to have a cost unless I know where that cost is coming from. So I came up with a new revenue stream using online gaming to help solve some of our workforce issues.”
Some committee members questioned the constitutionality and prudence of putting gaming revenue toward community college scholarships instead of K-12 education.
New Hampshire lottery revenue must go toward education. Lang argued that iGaming is different than lottery. He added that charitable gaming revenue already goes to charities, not education.
Rep. Susan Elberger contended that New Hampshire is 48th in the nation in public education funding, so the money is more needed in K-12 education. Lang countered that New Hampshire is No. 2 in the nation in quality of education provided, so the public education funding is already sufficient.
Future of New Hampshire online casino efforts
New Hampshire considered iGaming legislation for the first time this year. Connecticut is the only state in New England with legal online casino, operated through the state’s two Indian tribes.
Lang told PlayUSA he will work with committee members to solve their issues and refile New Hampshire online casino legislation next year.
“One committee member said to me that it seems to take three years for a new idea on doing things to sink into the legislature. I’m hoping to shortcut that. I will speak to some of the members of the House Ways and Means Committee to see what exactly was the main issue and how we can craft new legislation to deal with those issues and overcome the objections.”