New Hampshire has traditionally been opposed to most forms of online gambling, but recent legislative efforts show state officials may be having a slow change of heart. We will discuss those efforts in greater detail below. As the laws currently stand, New Hampshire permits real money fantasy sports, online horse racing betting and, more recently, the sale of online lottery tickets.
Traditional brick-and-mortar gambling does not have much of a presence in New Hampshire. A handful of smaller gambling facilities are allowed to operate, but only if they donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. Large commercial casinos do not exist in New Hampshire today.
Lawmakers have put forth measures to legalize one or more brick-and-mortar casinos in the state in recent years. Every measure has died before becoming law so gambling in NH remains elusive despite increasing revenue moving to bordering states where land-based casinos operate.
One effort to legalize physical casinos was killed in the house by one vote in 2014. A second bill was introduced in 2017 and it too faced an uphill battle in gaining the approval of lawmakers. The state’s reluctance to expand its real-world gambling options previously made online gambling seem like a long shot, but lawmakers have introduced several bills to legalize online poker and casino games.
Safe New Hampshire Betting Sites
Horse and Greyhound Betting:
The good news is that right now, New Hampshire residents already have a few options for legal online betting. All off the above betting sites are legal and accept customers from New Hampshire. Exemptions in federal laws have paved the way for each of these sites to host real money games for players right here in the United States.
How are these sites legal?
Two pieces of federal legislation make it legal for gaming sites to offer specific forms of online betting in states that approve of those activities. For online horse racing, it was the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 that made it legal to wager on horse races occurring in other states. The act was amended in 2000 to include text that also made it legal to place bets over the internet.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) cracked down on unlawful offshore gaming but included an important exception for fantasy sports. The UIGEA declared fantasy betting a game of skill and therefore legal to play online. New Hampshire has no state laws in place that restrict horse wagering or games of skill so all of the betting sites mentioned above are 100% legal.
It is important to note that these sites are truly legal within the state of New Hampshire. You may see other websites claim that it is legal to play online poker or visit offshore casinos, but that’s not technically correct. Those sites may be legal in their host nations, but they are not legal in any US state.
Only the few states that have expressly legalized online poker and casino games have truly legal poker sites or casinos. And even there, those states prohibit offshore gaming sites. New Hampshire doesn’t have online gambling or poker so if you see a website claim that either activity is legal in NH, know that you’re not getting the whole story.
Online Poker and Casino Sites in New Hampshire
New Hampshire appears unlikely to legalize online gambling any time soon due to a lack of comprehensive legislation on the table. Even so, this is one of a few states that introduced legislation in 2017 and that factor alone was enough for New Hampshire to squeeze in to our 2017 post detailing the states most likely to legalize online gambling within the next year.
In January of 2017, three lawmakers submitted a straightforward bill that sought to amend current gambling laws to allow online gambling. HB 562 was a short and to-the-point law as it consisted of just three lines of text indicating that online gambling should be made legal. The biggest problem with the law besides its lack of support was that it offered no regulations, did not demand taxes and did not even specify any sort of licensing process.
The likelihood of other lawmakers voting favorably on a bill that offered no consumer protections and promised no financial benefits to the state was correctly seen as low. That bill was nearly dead by the end of January 2017.
However, that same bill reappeared later that same year. It turns out, HB 562 was never killed off entirely. In September of 2017, lawmakers scheduled a hearing to discuss HB 562. As a simple placeholder bill, HB 562 still does not contain a whole lot of text. The simple fact that the bill is still under consideration and has now been deemed important enough to at least warrant a committee hearing is a step in the right direction.
True online gambling is still likely a long way off in New Hampshire. The only bill in play right now is only this placeholder bill. Lawmakers would still need to write a full bill, debate it and then convince other lawmakers to vote in favor. Full-fledged New Hampshire gambling sites remain an unlikely possibility in the short term, but we do have some reasons for optimism over the longer term.
State Gambling Law
The New Hampshire Statutes have an entire section dedicated to “Games of Chance.” These statutes specify exactly which forms of gambling are legal in the state and under which circumstances they may be offered. Charitable gaming is a popular form of fundraising for local organizations. Bingo halls and casino nights are becoming increasingly common across the state.
There are even a couple of charitable casinos in the state that are open to the public. You can visit any of these to play real money poker and other table games just like you would at a normal casino. The experience is somewhat limited by section 287-D:16 which enforces a maximum limit of $4 on any individual wager. This rule does not apply to poker tournaments, however, so there is some decent poker action to be had.
In fact, charity gaming has become an industry of its own. The Press Herald reported in August of 2014 that charity gambling had become a $75 million per year industry. The scope of charitable gaming prompted the governor to sign a bill into law to give the Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission greater authority to audit and investigate charity games.
The Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission is responsible for overseeing these activities. You can see a list of licensed establishments on this page. Outside of charity fundraising, there’s not much betting action anywhere in New Hampshire.
Chapter 647 of the Criminal Code explains the penalties for participating in unlawful gambling or operating an unlawful gaming enterprise. Participation in gambling or permitting others to gamble on one’s property is considered a misdemeanor offense under the following text:
- A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if such person knowingly and unlawfully:
(a) Permits gambling in any place under the person’s control.
(b) Gambles, or loans money or any thing of value for the purpose of aiding another to gamble.
(c) Possesses a gambling machine.
Although no person has ever been charged with online gambling in New Hampshire, the Criminal Code does apply to the internet. The state’s definition of unlawful gambling includes every form of gambling (and poker) not specifically authorized by the state. This would include the mere act of placing wagers at offshore betting sites even though the law is not enforced.
Generally, New Hampshire prefers to focus on those who organize unlicensed gambling operations. The penalty for operating an unlawful betting organization becomes a Class B felony if the person running the operation earns more than $2,000 in any one day or accepts more than $5,000 worth of wagers in any single month. Being convicted of a Class B felony in New Hampshire could get you anywhere from 1 to 7 years in state prison.
New Hampshire Online Lottery
In mid-2017, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed a large piece of omnibus legislation that included authorization for the sale of online lottery tickets. The legislation allows customers age 18 or older located in New Hampshire to visit the lottery website to purchase tickets online. Prospective customers must first visit a commercial retailer to apply for an online account and prove their identities / age.
The online lottery in New Hampshire also requires the state to set daily, weekly and monthly spending limits for all customers. The first online lottery tickets were expected to go on sale within the first two months of 2018.
That same bill also authorized electronic keno games, although these are not played online. These games are permitted to be offered via terminal in commercial premises holding a valid liquor license. Property owners must take appropriate measures to prevent minors from participating.
Those who install electronic keno games on their properties are permitted to keep 8% of all proceeds generated from the games. The other 92% is kept by the state and appropriated to fund problem gambling and education intitatives.