Two weeks ago, I wrote an article titled, “New Hampshire Online Gambling Bill in Play.” Well, it isn’t anymore. Halloween was truly a day to realize our fears, as in an Executive Session, the New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee unanimously struck down HB 562, a bill which have legalized online gambling in the state.
This wasn’t entirely unexpected, as it was probably a longshot that the bill would pass, but seeing it demolished so definitively is a bit eyebrow-raising.
HB 562 was originally introduced on January 5th and quickly referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. It had a public hearing and then an Executive Session (essentially a committee meeting to deliberate the bill) in February, but that was it.
All of a sudden in mid-October, though, a new Executive Session was scheduled for the bill. At the end of the session, the committee members would submit a report to the Clerk of the House denoting “Ought to pass,” “Ought to pass as amended,” “Inexpedient to legislate,” “Refer to interim study,” or “Re-refer to Committee.”
The first two options were the good ones, the third – Inexpedient to legislate – the very bad one. And guess what was submitted to the Clerk by a 23-0 count? Yup. The baddie. Online gambling is now dead in New Hampshire until next year.
Even had the bill passed committee and eventually made headway on the floor of the House or even the Senate, regulations still needed to be hashed out. HB 562 was really just a skeleton bill with the majority of the text in just one 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.
Going back a few paragraphs, I should amend my statement that “Online gambling is now dead in New Hampshire until next year.”
That is not exactly true. Online poker and casino games are, but in July, the state legislature passed a bill to permit online lottery ticket sales. No tickets have been sold over the internet yet, but they will start early next year. An optimist might think that if online lottery sales do well and the lottery commission is successful with its regulation of them that it might make lawmakers more confident that online poker regulations could work.
New Hampshire would certainly have to form an internet gaming compact with other states if online poker even becomes legalized, though. With an estimated 1.3 million residents, it is less than half the size of Nevada, which can barely support one online poker room. New Jersey recently decided to merge player pools with Nevada and Delaware and Pennsylvania, which last week legalized online gambling, is expected to do the same. If online gambling ever becomes a reality in New Hampshire, the state would have to join forces with other states.