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When it comes to sports betting, NH doesn’t let it ride

We were wrong.

New Hampshire, after Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill into law, has made sports gambling legal in the Granite State. Somehow, some way, we thought that something would circumvent the process.

Silly us. We figured you’d have to have the popular spot like a casino built and in place to before making a sports wager.

So let’s consider this:

A state that has no laws to create casinos suddenly has made sports gambling legal. But where to do it? Oops.

And, just to the south, a state, Massachusetts, which has just seen a brand new, taj mahal of casinos open in Everett, has no legalized sports betting. You can do just about anything at Encore Boston Harbor except place a wager on anything sports. Oops.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Plenty. Everything seems backwards.

But the changes we indicated to you well over a year ago are taking place. With New Hampshire joining the party, 17 states plus Washington, D.C. currently have legalized sports gambling, stealing the thunder of the Las Vegas sports books. In fact, according to reports, New Jersey saw more sports wagering than Vegas in the last year.

The new law creates a new division (Division of Sports Wagering) within the New Hampshire Lottery Commission. No, the Lottery won’t provide sports gambling outlets, just regulate them. Accoring to Legalsportsreport.com, it’s projected as many as 15 licenses will be awarded, 10 of them on-line, the other five what they call “brick-and-mortar” spots (actual parlors). But there are already rumors that 15 cap may eventually be removed via the legislative process. Meanwhile, all terms will be negotiated individually with the Lottery, which will regulate everything.

In other words, this will probably be more of an on-line thing, as is basically the case with the other states (except Nevada). In play betting, according to the report, is available only on line, and those worried about your University of New Hampshire football team being wagered on vs. Umaine, fear not – is state college betting, according to the report, “is off the board.”

None of this will be all established likely until next July, so you’re going to have to wait awhile. The bidding process, according to reports, will begin in January. Remember, for now, the only place in the region where you can place a sports bet in person is in Rhode Island.

So your favorite on-line betting sites will be the ones to go to initially, one would presume, until any betting spots open up around the state. The state will look to profit mightily from that process, and hopes to haul in, according to reports, some $11.25 million annually. Sununu’s remarks on Friday indicate that the money would be earmarked for education.

“With the exciting new addition of sports betting, the New Hampshire Lottery will continue to drive critical revenue, putting even more money into our educational system,” he said. “Today’s action will provide financial support and important resources to help our public education system, which will benefit every child in every school across the state – a win for New Hampshire.”

Amazing. Really, it certainly seemed that without casinos that New Hampshire would be lagging behind in the legal sports betting world. But in March the legislature took decisive action.

Of course, the way all this change has been painted is that now legalized gambling – only 18 and over in New Hampshire, mind you – removes the danger of illegal betting. In other words, no broken bones.

The American Game Association is loving it. A statement issued Friday from its president and CEO, Bill Miller, said “The American Gaming Association applauds Governor Sununu and the New Hampshire legislature for legalizing sports betting, becoming the third previously non-gaming jurisdiction, after Tennessee and Washington, D.C., to authorize wagering on sports,” he said.

But here’s the kicker designed to entice other states to follow through:

“New Hampshirites (huh?) will now have a convenient, secure alternative to the dangerous illegal market that has operated in the state and across the country for decades,” Miller said. “I’m encouraged that New Hampshire lawmakers joined their colleagues across the country in rejecting harmful integrity fees and official data mandates that interfere with the legal market’s ability to compete with illegal operators.”

So there you go. It’ll take a year or so, but the sports landscape around here will change.

For once, New Hampsire didn’t let it ride.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or@Telegraph _TomK.