If the stars align – and who knows what the real chances of them doing so are – New Hampshire could have legalized online poker in the near future. A bill, House Bill 562, has been revived in the New Hampshire House and is simply summarized as “An Act allowing online gambling.”
HB 562 was originally introduced on January 5th, 2017 and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee a couple weeks later. It had a public hearing at the end of the month and then an executive session – the meeting during which the committee members deliberate over the bill – in February. The bill has had no further movement until now.
On October 12th, another executive session was scheduled for next week, October 25th. According to the New Hampshire government’s website, at the end of the session, “A report is submitted to the Clerk of the Senate or House entitled ‘Ought to pass,’ ‘Ought to pass as amended,’ ‘Inexpedient to legislate,’ ‘Refer to interim study,’ or ‘Re-refer to Committee.’”
“Inexpedient to legislate” is the really bad status in this case, as that means the bill is dead. Clearly, one of the first two is best, with “out to pass as amended” being the preferred outcome for poker fans.
As far as the content of the bill itself, there really isn’t any. It is just a skeleton bill, a sort of “insert regulations here” type of document. The bulk of the text is in the following paragraph:
This bill exempts gambling done over the Internet from gambling offenses under RSA 647. The Department of Justice to date has neither investigated nor prosecuted online gaming offenses and therefore does not expect this bill to have any impact on expenditures. To the extent this bill legalizes a form of gambling, it may have an indeterminable impact on lottery and charitable gaming revenue. Lottery and charitable gaming revenue is credited to the lottery fund, with net revenues after Lottery Commission expenditures being credited to the state education trust fund.
It does not specify any specific games to be legalized, just the general, “Gambling done over an Internet connection on a website on the Internet.”
If passed, the Act would take effect on January 1st, 2018, though obviously New Hampshire would need some rules and regulations first. One would assume operators would have to be approved and licensed, software would need to be tested, and all sorts of other things would need to be done, so even if this passes before the end of the year, it is hard to imagine people in New Hampshire being able to play online poker in just two and a half months.
The optimist, at least, can point to the fact that New Hampshire legalized online lottery ticket sales in July, so obviously there has been approval for online gambling among state lawmakers. The actual online sales are expected to begin early in 2018. There is no indication one or the other, but it would not be surprising to find out that if online gambling does become legalized in New Hampshire that the state lottery commission might be in charge of it. We shall see, won’t we?