New Hampshire Denies Online Poker and Gaming in 2023
Another state in 2023 fails to legalize online casino games and poker. This case involves New Hampshire. While it is not usually a state on the “most likely to legalize igaming” list, the 2023 proposal appeared to have some momentum. It helped that other nearby states – Connecticut, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania – have legalized and regulated online casino games. They all include online poker in their list of licensing options, but Connecticut and West Virginia have yet to see any poker applications.
Even so, New Hampshire lawmakers have seen the benefits of regulating and taxing igaming as a whole in neighboring states.
Perhaps that is why they took up an igaming bill in the 2023 legislative session. While it did make progress, it was recently postponed indefinitely. That means the likelihood of passing the bill in 2023 is almost nonexistent.
It started, as many bills do, in early January. A bipartisan group of New Hampshire legislators – State Senators Lang, Watters, Gannon, D’Allesandro, Avard, Pearl, and Ladd – introduced SB104 “to regulate online gambling and direct net proceeds to a community college education scholarship fund.”
It's SB104, the bill sets it up similar to my bill that legalized Sports betting in 2019. Public Hearing is this Wednesday in Concord. Revenues will go to make the NH community/technical 2yr college system of New Hampshire tuition free for in-state students. https://t.co/ob5b0yequy
— Senator Tim Lang (@tlangsr) January 21, 2023
The bill was written to legalize online casino games and online poker, currently only legal under the state’s charitable gaming laws. The New Hampshire Lottery Commission would establish the framework for the igaming regulatory system and regulate the new industry. Millions of dollars in revenue would go toward a fund to set up two-year scholarships to provide free in-state tuition for financially eligible students.
After the bill’s introduction on January 5, the Ways and Means Committee set SB104 for a hearing on January 25.
Several SB104 sponsors attended the hearing, as did a representative of the state’s community college system and one from DraftKings.
The only substantial opposition came from Churchill Downs, which operates a poker room in Salem, New Hampshire. Peter Bragdon of Churchill Downs expressed concerns of cannibalization – a familiar line – of land-based gambling/wagering revenue. The idea that igaming harms land-based gambling has been debunked in every state that has legalized igaming thus far. Study after study has shown cannibalization to be a false flag. Even so, Bragdon suggested that they focus on a bill that would study the effect of igaming on the state’s current charitable gambling operations.
Some minor changes to the bill took it to a vote. That amended bill passed narrowly by a vote of 13-to-11. Yet another hearing and another amendment brought it back for another vote. That took a few tries, but it did pass by a vote of 12-to-11 with one member abstaining.
What Went Wrong?
Discussions led to amendments, which led to favorable committee votes. But when the bill moved to the House Ways and Means Committee in late April, it stalled. And by stalled, it was a unanimous halt with a 20-to-0 vote of “inexpedient to legislate.” SB104 was, for all intents and purposes, dead.
New Hampshire's online casino bill died in a House committee today. SB104 passed the Senate and had a steadfast advocate in its sponsor, @tlangsr. He tells Bonus he'll try again next year.
— Bonus.com (@BonusUpdate) April 26, 2023
According to Senator Lang, the House Committee members fell victim to the cannibalization argument and refused to even consider the bill. He told the Bonus website that he planned to “listen to the various opposing views and address them in a new bill in the near future.”
Opposing lawmakers felt that the bill didn’t offer enough detail, that lawmakers were not educated enough about the proposal of gambling expansion. He felt that the bill’s passage would be akin to jumping “into the deep end of the pool on big gaming.”
Try, Try Again
The most likely scenario is that Senator Lang and others will continue discussions about online gambling. The goal will be to educate about igaming, demonstrating by other states’ examples that cannibalization has not been an issue in any state.
Considering the progress made this year, it seems almost a certainty that New Hampshire will consider igaming, including online poker, again in 2024.