Online casino legislation in one New England state died this week, while a neighbor launched its own efforts to legalize internet gaming.
The New Hampshire House's Ways and Means committee voted unanimously against advancing Senate Bill 104 on Wednesday (April 26), declaring it “inexpedient to legislate.”
The bill would have legalized online casino gaming in the state, with operators selected through a competitive bidding process similar to the state’s sports-betting model.
In 2019, the New Hampshire Lottery selected DraftKings to operate as an online sports-betting monopoly in the state, but the company pays a 51 percent revenue share for the privilege.
The bill narrowly escaped the Senate last month via a razor-thin 12-11 margin, after senators amended the bill to authorize only a limited portfolio online table games while online slots remain prohibited.
The biggest concern among New Hampshire legislators was that the online casino games would cannibalize the state’s charitable casino gaming industry, where licensed brick-and-mortar facilities can offer casino-style games on behalf of a charitable organization, as long as the charity receives at least 35 percent of the gross gaming revenue.
Those concerns led to online slots being removed from the bill in the Senate, and ultimately led to its demise in the House committee.
“Basically, the bill needs a lot of work,” said Republican state Representative Fred Doucette during the committee meeting, citing the potential cannibalization concerns. “We can revisit this in the future, but we shouldn’t jump into the deep end of the pool on big gaming at this point.”
The bill’s demise comes as somewhat of a blow to online gaming advocates, considering that New Hampshire was the only state to see online casino legislation of any kind clear a legislative chamber to date in 2023.
However, a new hope for online gaming supporters emerged quickly, as neighboring Rhode Island saw legislation introduced on Thursday, which was backed by both Senate and House leadership.
Senate Bill 948 would legalize online casino gaming in the state through the state’s licensed casinos, which are operated via the state lottery by Gamesys-owner Bally’s Corporation, which is lobbying for the legislation.
“This legislation is a first step in the public review process around potential iGaming in Rhode Island,” said Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, both Democrats, in a joint statement.
“The companies that manage casino operations on behalf of the state have made significant investments to ensure they are well positioned to thrive in the years ahead, much of which was required under [state gaming law].
“It is imperative that we continue to explore all avenues to protect and bolster our competitive position, including the potential for iGaming.”
A study conducted by Spectrum Gaming Group commissioned by Bally’s estimated $93m in gross online gaming revenue for the state in its first year of online casino gaming, which could increase to $130m in annual revenue over a five-year period.
“The Senate and House Finance Committees will now begin a rigorous public review process during which all aspects of the proposal will be thoroughly examined, including proper protections,” according to the joint statement issued Thursday by Ruggerio and Shekarchi.