An online casino legalization bill that has already passed through the New Hampshire Senate got its first look on the House side Tuesday. The House held an hour-long hearing for SB 104, which would legalize online table games and direct funding to higher education. The Senate approved the bill March 30.
The proposal would not allow for online slot machines but would make digital table games, including poker, legal in the state.
The lottery would be the regulator. Potential operators would go through a bidding process. The legal age for online casino would be 18.
The tax rate would be 35%. The setup is similar to the one used for legal sports betting, where the state reviewed multiple bids and could have had up to five digital platforms. It settled on a monopoly for DraftKings, which offered to pay a 51% tax in exchange for exclusivity.
Online casino has been a tough sell in most states. Bills in Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, and New York all failed this session, though stakeholders say that should the economy turn recessionary, the need for funding at the state level could smooth the pathway in the future. So far, only Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia offer online casino, and in all of those states, online slots are part of the package.
Community college students would benefit
Proceeds from online casino would go to a newly created community college education scholarship fund, and bill author Sen. Tim Lang stressed that the intent behind legalizing iGaming is funding education for those in need and in industries where graduates could immediately find work. According to the fiscal analysis of the bill, the state could expect about $13.5 million for the community college education scholarship fund by 2026, with smaller amounts for 2024 and 2025 as the industry is launching.
Lang also said that on the Senate side, lawmakers considered numerous gambling bills, including proposals dealing with breakage in parimutuel wagering and charitable gaming, with the goal of passing a package of bills, not just online gambling. In the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday, lawmakers heard testimony on bills related to horse racing, online gambling, and other gambling issues.
Lang sponsored the sports betting bill that passed in 2019.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the committee heard mostly from those involved in charitable gaming and education. There was a mix of witnesses for and against, with the main concern expressed being that digital casinos would cannibalize retail operations.
New Hampshire has a unique setup by which there are more than 70 charitable organizations running games at 14 locations around the state. The charitable organization is entitled to 35% of profits from table games and 75% from historical horse racing machines. The state lottery gets a 10% cut, with funds earmarked for education, according to New Hampshire Magazine.
In 2022, charitable gaming raised $17.7 million for state nonprofit groups, the New Hampshire Lottery reported.
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