New Hampshire is following the lead of many states in American, and seriously investigating the possibility of legalising sports betting in the state. However, the complications of legalisation and regulation continue to complicate the matter.
As in many states, the appetite among the authorities for legalised sports betting is quite evident, and the reasons quite obvious. Senior officials would love to attract the sort of revenue that gambling inevitably rakes in, but the sometimes conservative atmosphere of the United States doesn’t always make this easy.
Gov. Chris Sununu, the House and the Senate are all united on the concept of gambling operating in a regulated environment. But legislative sessions are certainly complicating the issue, and it is still quite possible that certain proposed bills will die in the coming months.
While the Senate of New Hampshire has already passed a bill to authorise sports betting by an overwhelming vote of 269-82, this is not the end of the story. Sen. Lou D’Allesandro viewed this as an opportunity to push the bill he has been attempting to push through the Senate for over 20 years, which would see two casinos constructed in one of the last American states to be bereft of them.
However, there is little light at the end of the tunnel for this legislation in New Hampshire. While the bill failed by a mere single vote in 2014, it has been routinely defeated ever since. And when the bill was put before legislators this year, the senator also tacked on a clause related to sports betting. The casino bill failed to even it clear the senate, losing by a 13-11 vote on March 7.
“With it being March Madness, you get more and more people thinking about sports betting and I think it carries with it its own momentum. We put it through when we thought it could pass. Timing is everything in this life,” D’Allesandro commented in an interview.
But the debate is set to open up once more throughout April and May, with the New Hampshire legislative session discussing the possibility of sports betting in the state. The aforementioned Sunumu has already entered $10 million from sports betting in his budget proposal for 2021, and has openly called on lawmakers to ensure that the legislation is passed.
“I think sports betting will happen, and if it doesn’t happen now it eventually will happen. I think it has become so pervasive that it can’t be denied anymore. But I’m not kidding myself. We’ve got our work cut out for us,”
D’Allesandro said, in a somewhat contradictory statement!
The bill put before the house will authorise sports betting to be run by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, with potentially 10 retailers and an online operator involved in the process. In addition into calling for the expansion of casinos, S310 would also commend sports betting at the casinos, and also create what is described as an “online sports pool operator”. While the lottery commission will play a central role in regulation, it would not participate in the process directly.
Charles McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, has stated that it would be possible for the bill to be changed in order for the lottery commission to participate alongside the casinos, but it’s not something that state legislators advocate. McIntyre instead argues that there are possible benefits of having casinos participating in sports betting, Indicating that this will result in a more competitive and open market, particularly if two casinos are ultimately constructed.
But the legislative environment in New Hampshire remains challenging. D’Allesandro has effectively been banging his head against a brick wall for 20 years, only to have his overtures rejected by colleagues each and every time. The senator believes that legal sports betting is a must in New Hampshire, both for libertarian and revenue-related reasons, but his reason for pushing the issue is simply to ensure that the casino bill passes.
“I hope one drives the other in terms of momentum. They voted for keno, they voted for sports betting. I think our bill becomes much more acceptable with votes taken and passed on those two items. I’m cautiously optimistic,”
Yet the reaction of the Senate is still far from certain, with the possibility that the state legislature could strip the Kino expansion and merely pass the sports betting element. D’Allesandro suggested that this wouldn’t be a popular decision, but it is one that regulators in the state are nonetheless seriously contemplating. However, McIntyre contends this perspective, indicating his belief that the majority of participants in government are actually in favour of legalising gambling.
“I certainly haven’t heard a lot of negative comments about sports betting within the government. The state wants revenue, recognizes that people are betting on sports illegally in a gray market and wants to bring that activity into the open,”
Indeed, some people believe that the tide is finally turning in New Hampshire, and that the climate is aligning in favour of legalised sports betting and casino gambling. Indeed, a bill legalising the lottery in New Hampshire took 10 years before passing, and we may yet look back at casino and sports betting in New Hampshire with a similar retrospective.
“The way laws work, you can have a no every year but it only takes one yes to get it approved. Sen. D’Allesandro is committed to waiting for the right moment when the tumblers come into place to get the casino bill passed,”
McIntyre pointed out.
If, for whatever reason, the authorities continue to drag their heels on this issue, then one must question whether the state’s motto of “Live Free or Die” will indeed remain appropriate…