When a state legislature gets fired up about legalizing online gambling, it’s generally because the legislators have finally realized the potential for an enormous cash cow in the form of gambling revenue taxes. So, it’s with a bit of skepticism that one has to wonder what’s really behind the recent introduction of a gambling bill by three Republican members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
The three representatives, Nick Zaricki, Eric Schleien and Robert Fisher sponsored HB 562. The bill, titled Allowing Online Gambling, was introduced in early January and is now being considered (Jan. 31, 2017) by the New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee. The purpose of the bill is to decriminalize online gambling in the state of New Hampshire. The committee will also be considering a daily fantasy sports bill.
HB 562 is short and to the point. The full text reads: “This bill exempts gambling done over the Internet from gambling offenses under RSA 647. The Department of Justice to date has neither investigated nor prosecuted online gaming offenses and therefore does not expect this bill to have any impact on expenditures. To the extent this bill legalizes a form of gambling, it may have an indeterminable impact on lottery and charitable gaming revenue. Lottery and charitable gaming revenue is credited to the lottery fund, with net revenues after Lottery Commission expenditures being credited to the state education trust fund.”
So, depending upon how the bill is interpreted, this legislation could be a precursor to a new bill that would establish and legalize online gambling. Or, it’s simply what it professes to be – a protective measure for New Hampshire citizens who wish to gamble at existing online casinos and poker sites, such as PokerStars.
Compared to other state’s internet gambling legalization efforts, HB 562 does not create any type of regulatory framework for the licensing of online gambling sites in New Hampshire. It also does not require New Hampshire companies to operate online gambling operations within the state. In other words, citizens would be free to access offshore gambling sites.
The bill does point out that revenue from the state lottery could possibly be negatively impacted by citizens spending their money on other gambling sites. That’s almost to say, legislators should consider regulating online gambling in order to benefit from a larger source of revenue, such as licensing fees and taxes, rather than just decriminalizing gambling online.
If HB 562 is enacted, it will become effective Jan. 1, 2018.