Franklin voters say yes to sports betting, but not without some confusion

Published: 10/2/2019 6:38:02 PM

Franklin became the first city in New Hampshire to authorize in-person sports betting Tuesday, months after the activity was first legalized.

But the process to get there prompted some head scratching.

It started as a simple yes or no question at the bottom of their city ballots Tuesday: “Shall we allow the operation of sports book retail location within the city?”

The phrase “sports book” refers to places where people can wager on professional sporting events, from National Football League games and Professional Golfers Association tournaments to mixed martial arts and car racing. But unless your cousin is a bookie, you might not know what that phrase means.

Voters approved the question by a 3-2 margin (527-354), even if there was a little confusion.

“A lot of people were upset by the wording of the question,” said City Clerk Katie Gargano. “They didn’t understand what it meant.”

The exact wording of the question posed to voters was set by state law, Gargano said.

The law, which took effect in July, allows anyone over 18 in the state to participate in online sports betting. It also allows the state to set up a “sports book” to facilitate sports betting in physical locations.

Those locations would be serviced by third parties and New Hampshire officials are currently sifting through 13 applicants for vendors. Before they can take effect, however, they need the approval of cities and towns.

Since Franklin votes early, it was the first in the state to vote on the issue.

Just like with Keno, the question is posed directly to voters. And just like it did with Keno, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission has been making a city-to-city pitch to establish sports betting under the new law.

Cities get the first crack with municipal elections this fall; town residents will have to wait until March to decide at town meeting.

Franklin’s vote doesn’t necessarily guarantee in-person gambling facilities will come to the city. It is up to those third-party vendors to decide where they operate, a spokeswoman for the Lottery Commission said Wednesday. With its vote Tuesday, Franklin could host one betting location, multiple locations, or none at all. If a vendor expresses interest in Franklin, the Commission has final say.

Meanwhile, eight more cities are facing votes on sports betting Nov. 5, including Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Dover, Laconia, Manchester, Nashua and Portsmouth, according to the Commission. If the cities put the question on the ballot, each are required to hold a public hearing within 30 days of the vote, according to the new law.

“The N.H. Lottery has reached out to every city in New Hampshire to provide information about the implementation process,” said Maura McCann, spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Lottery. “In addition, the N.H. Lottery has offered to have a Lottery representative visit each city to speak about it further and to answer any questions.”

City, school races

Elsewhere on the ballot, Franklin voters re-elected mayor Tony Giunta over challengers Leigh Webb and David Furbush. Giunta received 567 votes to 396 for Webb and 45 for Furbush.

Three seats on the city council saw one incumbent win, one lose and a newcomer take an open seat. In Ward 1, incumbent Ted Starkweather beat Ted Johnson; in Ward 2 Olivia Zink beat Paul Doucette, and in Ward 3, April Bunker beat incumbent Kathy Lauer-Rago.

For school board, Cecile Cormier won a write-in campaign in Ward 1, and Timothy Dow, an incumbent won easily in Ward 3. In Ward 2, write-in Roy Hubble got 12 votes but he lives in Ward 3, so the eventual winner was Doucette, who won with five write in votes.

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