A bill to expand New Hampshire gambling is moving forward. But the biggest revenue generator in iGaming won’t be along for the ride.
Online slots were removed from SB 104 in an amendment adopted by the Senate Finance Committee on March 21.
Sen. Tim Lang spoke with PlayUSA about why he removed online slots from the New Hampshire online casino bill.
Lang expects the Senate to pass the bill Thursday. Thursday is the crossover deadline for Senate bills to advance to the House.
Cannibalization concerns cause New Hampshire gambling bill change
Lang said he removed online slots to address cannibalization concerns from some of New Hampshire’s charitable casinos.
“I put an amendment in to take out slot machines, and that was to help our brick-and-mortar partners,” Lang said. “That was to minimize any potential cannibalization, which I don’t think would occur but they were concerned about that.”
Lang expects the change to cut New Hampshire online casino revenue in half. A prior fiscal note projected $31.5 million in tax revenue annually in year three.
The New Hampshire Lottery Commission would choose online casino operators in a competitive bidding process. But it’s unclear if any online casino operators would be interested in the New Hampshire market without slots.
DraftKings is the sole operator of retail and online sports betting in New Hampshire. For those exclusive rights, it pays a 51% tax rate, tied for the highest sports betting state tax rate.
The bill sets the minimum online betting age at 18 years old. That’s consistent with lottery and sports betting in New Hampshire.
Peter Bragdon, a former president of the New Hampshire Senate who now represents Churchill Downs, expressed cannibalization concerns during a committee hearing. Churchill Downs owns Chasers Poker Room, the largest charitable casino in New Hampshire.
Without slots, games that could be bet online in the bill include online poker, blackjack, roulette, craps and baccarat.
Revenue earmarked for community college scholarships
The bill directs New Hampshire online casino revenue to a community college scholarship fund.
“New Hampshire, like every other state, is facing a workforce shortage,” Lang said. “Jobs such as plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, entry-level healthcare, registered nurses and dental hygienists. Our goal is to break down any financial barriers to get people into those jobs.”
If there’s money left over in the fund, Lang says the scholarships could extend to the third or fourth year if someone wants to transfer in-state to the University of New Hampshire or Plymouth State University.
Bill to raise bet maximum also expected to pass
New Hampshire has 15 charitable gaming licensees, 14 in operation. Charitable gaming casinos offer slot-like historical horse racing machines and table games.
They differ from typical commercial casinos in that they have small bet limits. Also, a percentage of revenue goes to charities.
Lang has another bill, SB 120, to raise the betting limit from $10 to $50. Buy-in and re-buy limits on tournament games also would increase from $150 and $250 to $2,500. And table stake limits go from $150 to $2,500.
The Senate will vote on that bill Thursday as well.
“We have casinos surrounding us that have higher betting limits,” Lang said. “We want to give people who want to bet higher the opportunity to stay in New Hampshire and not go to those other states.”
House passage of New Hampshire online casino more difficult
Before joining the Senate, Lang served three terms in the House. So he knows that passing gaming legislation is more difficult in the House.
“It will be a little bit of an uphill slog,” Lang said. “It will be a little more challenging than in the Senate, but I think we can get there.”
The New Hampshire legislative session adjourns June 30.