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After a single closed-door hearing, the bill was later retained in committee in February. That simply means the legislature wasn’t going to act on the bill during the current session, but it could be revisited at a later date.
The new hearing will take place on Sept. 6, in an unidentified subcommittee during a work session.
As noted above, H 562 is a placeholder bill. It’s a conversation starter that would allow the legislature a chance to begin online gambling legalization and regulation discussions without having to adhere to a rigid regulatory structure. That would be the case if the bill was more complete.
Exactly how vague is the bill? The full text reads:
“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.”
Original interpretations of H 562 suggested the bill was trying to create a white market, akin to the UK. That is, it would allow operators from across the globe to offer their games to New Hampshire residents.
This theory came about because New Hampshire doesn’t possess the land-based gaming industry of New Jersey or a state like Pennsylvania. Thus, finding qualified online gambling operators would be far more challenging. It would almost certainly require New Hampshire to look to out-of-state companies.
Of course, as we speculated back in January, “Precisely what the sponsors of the bill are trying to accomplish is still unclear.”
This may or may not be the case. The recent online lottery development makes it more unlikely.
In June, New Hampshire became the fifth state to authorize online lottery sales. The legislature quietly passed a bill authorizing the state lottery to offer certain online products.
The legalization of online lottery in June may be the reason H 562 is being revisited.
The lottery language coupled with the legalization of online lottery offers an alternative theory of how online gambling in New Hampshire might work.
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New Hampshire might be thinking about something similar to the model being used in Delaware.
In this scenario, the state wouldn’t farm out the operator role to out-of-state companies. It’s possible it would be the lottery that would run online gambling in the Granite State.
This model was briefly discussed in Pennsylvania earlier this year, before being dismissed. Unlike Pennsylvania, which has a thriving land-based casino industry, having the lottery run online gambling in NH could make sense.
In casino states, licensing gaming companies to operate online gambling sites is the path of least resistance. But in New Hampshire, the lottery could open up a bidding process. It would then lease out branding rights to the states’ gaming establishments. That would perhaps allow the winning bidder(s) to launch a site.
That would require a partnership similar to the situation in Delaware, where 888 and Scientific Games provide the software, but the state’s three racinos provide the branding.