New Hampshire Online Gambling Bill Could Receive a Vote

New Hampshire Online Gambling Law

H 562 appeared dead in August 2017, but will be discussed in an executive session on October 25.

New Hampshire lawmakers have resurrected House Bill 562, which would legalize online gambling in the Granite State. H 562 appeared to be a dead letter in August, when the General Court of New Hampshire seemingly let the proposal die in committee.

Now, H 562 will be discussed in an October 25 executive session. The gambling community take the online gambling bill’s resurrection as a good sign, because it is uncommon for lawmakers to return to a bill in late-October, unless positive new developments have occurred.

The current legislative body in New Hampshire is the most pro-gambling group of lawmakers New Hampshire has had. In July 2017, the legislature passed an online lottery bill. With a longtime ban on Internet gambling no longer in force, it might make sense to the same group of legislators to legalize online casinos and online poker.

US Online Casinos and Poker Sites

The development comes at the end of another long year for U.S. online gambling interests. When the U.S. Department of Justice first legalized online casinos and card rooms in 2011, it was thought iGaming would be adopted by dozens of US states. By 2013, Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey had passed online gambling bills.

Since then, no US state has legalized online casinos or poker sites, despite plenty of talk and more than a small amount of legislative wrangling. California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Michigan have discussed licensing and regulating online gambling websites. None have ever turned those discussions in action, for unique reasons in each state.

Pennsylvania is the state which teased the online gambling community the most in 2017. Over the past 4 to 5 months, the Pennsylvania state legislature has engaged in seemingly constant discussions to pass an omnibus gambling bill. Those discussions were part of an overal budget bill to cover $2.2 billion in governmental debts, so many thought it was only a matter of time before a Pennsylvania online gambling bill was passed. Those people are still waiting.

New Hampshire Online Gambling Bill

Of all the state, New Hampshire might have received the least amount of attention. Yet as 2017 starts to near a close, New Hampshire’s legislators are will take another look at an online gambling bill in the executive session.

One reason New Hampshire proponents of online gambling might have changed their mind was the announcement last week that New Jersey would join the Nevada-Delaware interstate poker compact. With multiple states sharing player liquidity, a critical mass of players will be reached that means bigger guaranteed prize pools — thus more enticing tournaments for players in all three states. If New Hampshire joined the interstate poker compact, it’s online and mobile poker industry would be a lot more lucrative than it would have been just last week.

How an Executive Session Would Work

When an executive session is held, New Hampshire committee members will be asked their opinions on online gambling legislation. Each committee member will answer a question about iGaming with one of the following four answers: Ought to pass, Ought to pass as amended, Inexpedient to legislate, and Re-refer to committee.

Several of those options could move H 562 along in the legislative process, but “Ought to Pass as Amended” is the best option for pro-gambling supporters. That would speed the bill along at the quickest pace, though it is still uncertain how quickly New Hampshire legislators could move on iGaming.

Delaware Online Gambling Model

House Bill 562 is in many ways a placeholder bill. As currently written, it is a 1-page summary of how lawmakers see online gambling in New Hampshire playing out. The bill has few details and would need significant tinkering to transform it into a New Hampshire law.

At the same time, lawmakers might have a plan in place for H 562. One idea put forward is to follow the “Delaware model” for online gambling, which includes placing online gambling regulation under the New Hampshire State Lottery. If so, then the newly-created state-affiliated corporation would oversee online gambling sites, too. Such a move might bypass much of the red tape and preparation needed for the creation of a full New Hampshire Gaming Commission.

Eric Schleien’s Legal Issues

House Bill 562 faces serious political trouble, though. It primary sponsor, State Rep. Eric Schleien (R), faces accusations he sexually assaulted a minor. Without its main supporter, it is unknown the political capital that will be put behind the bill. Two other Republican representatives, Reps. Nick Zaricki and Robert Fisher, sponsored the bill, so perhaps Zaricki or Fisher would become the bill’s main sponsor.