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State senator, Sununu talk possibility of sports betting in New Hampshire

  • State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro explains his plans to bring casino gambling into the state during a Senate Committee meeting, on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, in Concord. D’Allesandro is eyeing a recent Supreme Court decision allowing state to permit sports betting as a boon to the state. AP file

  • Lou D’Allesandro Monitor file



For the Monitor
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Gov. Chris Sununu says he’s supportive of the concept of sports betting in New Hampshire.

And he joked that he “wouldn’t bet against” state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, who promised if re-elected in November he’d “absolutely” introduce a bill for next year’s legislative session that would legalize sports betting in the state.

Sununu and D’Allesandro spoke to the Monitor on Wednesday, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted limits on the sports betting market.

In a 6-3 ruling, the high court opened the door to legal sports betting across the country by invalidating federal prohibitions that date back a quarter century which pretty much restricted the legal industry to Nevada.

States, the gambling industry, and sports leagues will now compete for their pieces of the potential revenue pie.

State lottery Executive Director Charles McIntyre said New Hampshire could see millions in additional revenue, but exact figures are hard to come by.

“Nationally it’s $100(billion)-$400 billion a year, and if New Hampshire is a half-one percent of that, the math is the math,” McIntyre said. “It’s hundreds of millions of dollars a year of gross revenues.”

“This is a multiple-billion-dollar industry, and guess what? Everybody plays,” D’Allesandro said.

Some states like New Jersey and Delaware could start legal sports betting within months. In New England, legislation to legalize sports betting is pending in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“It would be in the state’s best interest to control this and not let it get out of hand, which can happen,” added the longtime Democratic state senator from Manchester, who for two decades has championed unsuccessful efforts to legalize casino gambling in New Hampshire.

D’Allesandro said if he’s re-elected in November, he’ll absolutely have “something ready to go.”

But he cautioned that passing a bill to legalize sports betting won’t be easy.

“Everything here’s a tough sell because it seems like the reps know more than the people. They don’t listen to the people. That’s been the case for the last 20 years as it relates to casino gambling,” D’Allesandro said. “Will this be a tough sell? I assume so.”

But he added that “there’s no question” the Supreme Court ruling helps his cause.

“The Supreme Court said it’s legitimate. It’s the way to go, in essence. They gave it the stamp of approval, so I think that does go a long way,” D’Allesandro said.

Sununu noted D’Allesandro’s passion for the subject when talking about the prospects of sports betting in the Granite State.

“I wouldn’t bet against him,” the governor said.

Sununu said he’s “supportive of the concept” of sports betting, but said there are many unanswered questions about what a potential bill would include.

“Is it going to be a commercial industry? How’s it going to be taxed? What are the job implications? What are the workforce implications?” he asked. “All of those pieces really come to bear. We’ll have to see, but I’m supportive of the concept.”

It’s likely the New Hampshire lottery would implement any plan approved by state lawmakers.

“Should New Hampshire lawmakers support the adoption of sports betting here, the New Hampshire Lottery is able to regulate and administer this form of gaming with all the necessary safeguards for the protection of the consumers,” McIntyre said.

And depending on what the Legislature would pass, he estimated “it could be anywhere from six months to a year” to implement the program.

Last year, the governor signed into law a measure making fantasy sports betting legal. The state lottery now regulates the legal placing of wagers on video machines. New Hampshire became the 13th state to permit such bets, which remain limited in the state.

Anti-gambling leaders are concerned about the Supreme Court ruling.

“It is a race to the bottom and it will ultimately lead in the near to medium term to sports betting on the internet,” cautioned Jim Rubens, a former state senator who also chaired the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling.

“That will lead very quickly to sports betting on teenagers’ laptops and mobile devices and in their bedrooms in the middle of the night,” Rubens warned. “It will be online very quickly and there’s no way to stop it from being accessible to kids.”