Published: April 1, 2023

New Hampshire online casino bill approved in the Senate, now heads to House

Passing New Hampshire online casino legislation through the Senate wasn’t easy. But nothing involving online casino legislation has been easy in 2023.

Rep. Tim Lang’s SB 104 originally failed 11-12 on second reading Thursday. But Senate President Jeb Bradley had Lang’s back.

Bradley immediately called a recess. And, after just a few minutes, the Senate returned and motioned to reconsider the bill. On a second vote, the New Hampshire online casino bill passed 12-11.

It’s the first successful vote for online casino by a legislative body this year. Sen. Kevin Avard switched his vote from no to yes to make the difference.

Cannibalization of charitable casinos debated on floor

Charitable casinos in New Hampshire provide a portion of their revenue to different charities in the state. Lawmakers expressed concerns that online gambling could cannibalize brick-and-mortar casinos, hurting the bottom line for these charities.

Sen. Daryl Abbas explained on the floor:

“I just keep falling back to my biggest concern, which are the charities that these gaming houses have been so generous towards. But these charities, what they’ve done is come to rely on them. In my district, these are organizations that support children, veterans, they deal with homelessness, animal shelters, schools. I’m just not comfortable diluting that market to any extent. There’s too much unknown for me.”

Lang responded that New Hampshire already has online gaming in sports betting. And that online sports betting has not affected charitable gaming revenue.

Charitable gaming facilities offer slot-like historical horse racing and Lucky 7 electronic games. Through a committee amendment, those were prohibited for online wagering to appease charitable gaming operators. So the New Hampshire online casino bill is limited to table games.

“If you still want to go and play HHR, you must go to a brick-and-mortar location and have that money go to charity,” Lang said.

Lang added that another stipulation added in the committee amendment requires any online gaming operator to let players know the location of the closest brick-and-mortar charitable casino.

Lang’s bill earmarks online gaming revenue toward community college scholarships.

Sen. Cindy Rosenwald expressed concern about gaming funding education.

“Beyond the instability that SB 104 would cause for the nonprofit sector, it’s clear to me that we should not make the ability for a person to go to college dependent on another person’s entertainment,” she said.

Lang countered that revenue from sports betting and the state lottery already funds education in New Hampshire.

Details of New Hampshire online casino bill

Here are the key details of SB 104:

  • Appoints the New Hampshire Lottery Commission to oversee online casino gaming.
  • The NHLC would choose the operator(s) through a competitive bidding process.
  • Allowable online games include online pokerblackjackroulettecraps and baccarat.
  • Sets the minimum betting age at 18 years old.
  • Directs New Hampshire online casino revenue to a community college scholarship fund.

Bill expanding charitable gaming max bets also passed

Following the first vote, Lang returned from recess explaining to colleagues that the next bill would help address cannibalization concerns. That seemed to help sway the vote change.

Lang said SB 120 would dramatically increase revenues of charitable gaming operations and charities. The bill raises 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. Table stake limits go from $150 to $2,500 as well.

It appears the two bills are tied together to fortify charitable gaming contributions while instituting legal New Hampshire online casino play.

New Hampshire online casino bill heads to House

Later in the day, SB 104 and SB 120 passed on third reading by voice vote. That advances them to the House.

Lang previously told PlayUSA that House passage would be more difficult than the Senate.

“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.”

Given that the Senate only passed the New Hampshire online casino bill by a single vote, that doesn’t bode well for House passage.

The New Hampshire legislative session adjourns June 30.

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