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Sports Gambling Is On The Ballot In 9 N.H. Cities Tuesday. Here's What You Need to Know

Credit Baishampayan Ghose via Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers approved sports gambling earlier this year, but left up to voters the ability to opt-in for having any retail gambling facilities in their community. On Tuesday, residents of nine New Hampshire cities will get to weigh in. Here’s a quick primer on the issue:

What’s on the ballot Tuesday, and why does it matter?

Voters in nine cities (Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Dover, Laconia, Manchester, Nashua, Rochester and Somersworth) will see the following question on their ballot on Nov. 5: 

“Shall we allow the operation of sports book retail locations within the city?”

If the measure passes, the company contracted by the N.H. Lottery Commission to open retail gambling establishments could opt to place a facility in that location. Legislation approved earlier this year by the legislature calls for up to 10 physical locations statewide.

Gambling won’t be limited to just New Hampshire cities, however. Smaller municipalities around New Hampshire are also expected to take up the question during Town Meeting season in March 2020. 

No matter what happens on the ballot tomorrow, gamblers will be able to place bets online, as long as they are physically inside the state’s borders. Expect to see plenty of cars with Massachusetts license plates pulling into parking lots close to the southern border once that gets launched. 

How soon could gamblers place their first bets?

Gov. Chris Sununu is pushing officials “to go fast, fast, fast” according to an interview he gave WEEI host Mike “Mut” Mutnansky. Sununu expects the first online bets could be placed in New Hampshire by January, allowing optimistic Patriots fans to wager on the team before the Super Bowl. 

Physical locations could be up and running by March, when the NCAA basketball tournament gets underway.

One remaining hurdle is that the N.H Executive Council still needs to approve sports gambling contracts. That’s likely to be on the agenda when councilors meet Nov. 20. After receiving bids from 13 vendors, the state has narrowed down the selection to Boston-based DraftKings for running physical locations.

What will the betting parlor’s look and feel like?

Charlie McIntyre, the director of the state’s Lottery Commission, says the retail betting parlors won’t be anything like those sad 1970s-era OTBs with linoleum floors and overflowing ashtrays. 

Instead, he says the gambling facilities will be the type of place you want to hang out: “Just take your favorite sports bar — a place where you can get food and a beer, and there will be a couple of windows where you can place a bet.”

DraftKings will be able to open their own facilities, or partner with an existing retail establishment.

How have other states rolled out sports wagering, and what’s been the result?

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling ending Las Vegas’s monopoly on sports gambling, more than a dozen states have given the greenlight to sports betting. New Jersey, already home to an established network of casinos, processed more than $2.9 billion worth of wagers in the first 12 months of operations, raising reportedly nearly $200 million.

Rhode Island was the first state in New England to get sports gambling up and running. Gamblers there can place bets at two different casinos, or place bets online. However, before making an online wager, gamblers need to register in person at one of the casinos. Rhode Island initially estimated $23.5 million in revenue during its first year of sports gambling, but fell way, way short of that goal, in part because of the registration requirement.

How much money is this expected to bring into state coffers? 

McIntyre, with the Lottery Commission, says in the first full year of operations, he’s forecasting $10 million in profits for the state.  Those proceeds, like all Lottery Commission revenue, funds education in the state.

A quick note on forecasts: a few years ago, the state launched the electronic gambling game KENO 603 to much fanfare. Since December 2017, the game has generated a healthy $45.8 million in sales, but it hasn’t met original revenue forecasts, in part, because a higher than expected number of municipalities have rejected KENO at the ballot box. (Voters in five cities will see Keno on the ballot Nov. 5: Concord, Dover, Keene, Rochester and Portsmouth.)

Who can I bet on?

In New Hampshire, you’ll be able to wager on professional sports, including major leagues such as baseball, basketball, football and hockey. 

College games will also be an option, except for contests involving any schools based in New Hampshire. Additionally, if a collegiate sports contest is being played in New Hampshire but involves teams from other states, those games are also off limits. High school games are also prohibited. 

All gamblers must be above the age of 18. 

What about people with gambling addiction?

The law legalizing sports gambling also included a provision to beef up the state’s addiction services. The legislation calls for up to $250,000 in additional funding, and the creation of a Council for Responsible Gaming, which is tasked with promoting “education, prevention and treatment” of problem gambling in the state. 

People with gambling addiction are encouraged to call 603-724-1605, or click here to get a listof regularly scheduled Gamblers Anonymous Meetings around the state.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at
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