Bill to legalize sports betting in N.H. gaining momentum

  • FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2019, file photo, a man watches Super Bowl LIII at the Westgate Superbook sports book in Las Vegas. Kentucky's public employee pension system, 39 billion in the red, is among the worst-funded retirement plans in the country and has vexed lawmakers for years as they sought a solution. Now some lawmakers think they’ve found at least a partial fix: sports gambling. (AP Photo/John Locher, File) John Locher

Monitor staff
Published: 2/23/2019 10:41:28 PM

Eight months after the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for states to legalize sports betting, New Hampshire is taking the gamble.

In his budget address earlier this month, Gov. Chris Sununu voiced his support for legislation that would make betting on sports games legal under the supervision of the state’s lottery commission.

The bill’s leading sponsor, Rep. Timothy Lang of Sanbornton, said it was a pleasant surprise to “hear the shout-out from the governor.”

“We’re not creating a new industry here, we’re just bringing an illicit industry into a legalized industry,” Lang said on Friday.

Christopher Cipolla, a lobbyist employed by DraftKings, told the House Ways and Means Committee on Jan. 30 that Granite Staters wager more than $625 million per year, mostly through offshore websites.

“This massive black market lacks necessary consumer protections and generates no revenue for the state of New Hampshire,” Cipolla told lawmakers.

The bill, HB480, would legalize betting on professional sports and the majority of Division I college sports. Games involving New Hampshire colleges would be excluded, Lang said, to cut down the risk of point shaving or other outside influences on the outcome.

Opening New Hampshire to legalized sports betting would bring in more than $10 million in additional revenue, the governor’s office said in a statement sent out shortly after his budget address.

Ten percent of revenue would be earmarked for services to support treatment and prevention of gambling addiction in the state. Other revenue would be put toward the state’s education system.

The bill includes an estimation of revenue between $1.5 million and $7.5 million in fiscal year 2021 that would then go into the state’s education trust fund. The bill’s sponsors estimate by 2023 revenue could be as high as $13.5 million going into the education trust.

The bill would allow both mobile and retail gambling in the state. Most of the revenue is expected to come from mobile gambling, allowing players to place bets using an app on their smartphone.

In New Jersey, where sports gambling was legalized last year following the Supreme Court’s ruling, about 80 percent of bets are made via mobile, according to Marc La Vorgna of MLV Strategies, a communications firm based in New York representing both FanDuel and DraftKings.

The retail component would give towns the option to approve betting lounges where people can watch games and place bets.

After the bill was drafted, Lang said he heard more from companies interested in mobile betting than retail.

Lang said one company, Eureka Casino Resort, expressed interest in opening a retail betting operation in Seabrook. The Nevada-based company announced in January it had purchased Seabrook Greyhound Park.

“If the bill passes, they’ll seek town approval to offer sports betting there,” Lang said. “That’d be the kind of place you can go to sit and watch a game and place a bet.”

DraftKings and FanDuel, giants in the daily fantasy sports industry, have already spent thousands of dollars in a short window on lobbying efforts in Concord. DraftKings has spent $20,250 in the early parts of this legislative session, according to filings with the secretary of state’s office. FanDuel has spent $26,150, according to reports filed on January 30.

The two companies are supporting similar legislation in more than 20 other states considering legalized sports betting, according to La Vorgna.

Targeted advertising to legalize betting is evident in New Hampshire. A promotional tweet from @DraftKings includes a photo of a New Hampshire license plate reading “LET NH BET.” The tweet links to a webpage where people can fill out a form and sign a message to state lawmakers in support of betting.

Similar advertising blitzes were also found for Maine and New York. The Maine site features a large blue “Welcome to Maine” road sign with “No Sports Betting Allowed!” printed across the bottom.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision last year, statehouses across the nation have been weighing sports gambling legislation in an attempt to get a piece of the multi-billion dollar industry.

In New England, lawmakers in Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut will consider legislation this year to legalize sports betting.

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321, or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

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