New Hampshire Online Poker Laws

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New Hampshire Legal Poker SitesRelevant state code: 647.2; 284.1 et seq.

New Hampshire is guaranteed at least a footnote in the annals of American gambling history - the state was the first to introduce a modern state lottery in 1963.  Over 50 years later, New Hampshire law takes a fairly strict approach to unregulated gambling and employs a somewhat narrow definition of gambling:

Section 647.2(II)(d)
"Gambling '' means to risk something of value upon a future contingent event not under one's control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that something of value will be received in the event of a certain outcome.

This is a far less expansive definition of gambling than you'll find on the books of most other states, as it seems to provide plenty of room for games of skill - even if those games involve a substantial degree of chance.

The penalties for illegal gambling activity are quite straightforward in New Hampshire.  A misdemeanor charge awaits those who: Allow gambling in a place under their control, gamble themselves, loan money or otherwise aid someone in gambling, possess a gambling machine or "conducts, finances, manages, supervises, directs, or owns all or part of a business" that is involved in illegal gambling.  

Felony charges kick in when the business meets any of the following conditions:  More than $2,000 in revenue (gross) in any one day, operating continuously for 10 days or more or taking in wagers in excess of $5,000 in a 30 day stretch on "future contingent events."

We were unable to locate annual statistics for gambling arrests in the state of New Hampshire.  Based on a brief search for related news, gambling-related arrests appear to be quite rare in New Hampshire.

Is Any Gambling Legal in New Hampshire?

Yes.  New Hampshire has a state lottery and permits pari-mutuel wagering at licensed racetracks.  You'll also find other (limited) forms of gambling at tracks in New Hampshire such as Rockingham Park.

There is no exemption for social gambling under the laws of New Hampshire.  One could make an argument that the definition of gambling found in New Hampshire law does not cover poker, and therefore that home games of poker are legal in New Hampshire, but that conclusion reflects only an opinion and not established case law.

Overseen by the Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission, charitable gambling can be found in multiple forms throughout the state of New Hampshire. 

Is Playing Poker for Real Money Legal in New Hampshire?

Games run by licensed charitable operators in New Hampshire are legal (but subject to some strange conditions).

All other poker exists in a legal gray area thanks to the definition of gambling New Hampshire employs.  As poker would seem to clearly seem to involve future events that are well within a player's "control or influence," one could make an argument that playing poker is not gambling in New Hampshire.

It would, of course, be just an argument, and it wouldn't stop you from being arrested or prosecuted if an official happened to disagree.  With that said, prosecution of individual gamblers seems to be a non-priority for New Hampshire law enforcement - we could find no record of individuals charged with playing poker, online or otherwise.

Are Online Casinos / Poker Sites Legal in New Hampshire?

We were unable to uncover any provision of New Hampshire law that deals directly with gambling over the Internet.

As with most states, it is likely that New Hampshire officials would assert that laws pertaining to land-based gambling apply equally to gambling conducted online.

New Hampshire Gambling Laws: Fun Facts
You are allowed to possess any gambling devices that are over 25 years old (and that are not actively used for gambling).

It is illegal to publish information about "the location or identity of the person where or from whom" an illegal lottery ticket can be purchased.

Online Gambling News From New Hampshire

Governor John Lynch caused a minor stir in 2010 when his office suggested that he might support online gambling in New Hampshire.  Nothing concrete came of the statement.

The state had a brief flirtation with running lottery games online that sputtered out in 2010.

New Hampshire recently cracked down on so-called "Internet sweepstakes cafes."

Will New Hampshire Seek to Regulate Online Poker Sites?

You might not pick New Hampshire as part of the first wave of states to regulate online poker, but noted gambling law expert I. Nelson Rose did - in 2012 he told Fox Business that he expected California, Illinois, Nevada, New York, New Hampshire and D.C. to be the initial set of states to regulate online gambling.

Rose's optimism aside, there's still the issue of a lack of legislative interest in New Hampshire.  While Lynch's comments are encouraging, they're also nearly two years old and the state has yet to see an online gambling bill presented, let alone tested.  The major land-based US casinos don't have a presence in New Hampshire, so a lobbying push there might not be a priority (or effective if attempted).  Finally, the state's negative experience with online lotto might temper any enthusiasm for expansion of gambling to the Internet.

All things considered, New Hampshire has a better chance than average to institute online poker regulation, thanks largely to their somewhat liberal gambling laws and lack of concerted social opposition to gambling.