Some forms of gambling have been permitted in New Hampshire since 1933, when pari-mutuel betting began, followed by the opening of the Rockingham Park horse track and later the Seabrook dog track.*
We were the first state to have a lottery, which was established in 1964, and in 2017 it generated net revenue of $76 million.
State revenue for gambling goes towards education programs, and since our official lottery began over $1.8 billion has been generated for this purpose.
New Hampshire also permits several other forms of gambling, such as bingo and poker, with a portion of proceeds benefitting charities. An undetermined number of residents also gamble online on illegal gambling websites that are not state regulated.
To deal with the state's budgetary stresses, worsened by the recent recession, several bills were introduced in the Legislature during the 2009-2012 sessions to legalize video slot machines at race tracks (racinos), certain hotels and resorts, or at state-owned facilities. None of the bills passed in the Legislature, but the issue is still hotly debated because of continuing state budget problems.
A gaming commission formed by then-Gov. John Lynch in 2009 studied the issue for several months and reached the following conclusions in its final report:
- Expanded gaming would generate additional revenues and economic activity, but it would also generate additional societal and economic costs.
- Expansion will increase the number of problem gamblers.
- Proliferation of gaming is a concern, but one with no clear solution.
- New Hampshire needs to review its regulation of gaming.
- A data-driven, proactive analysis about the impact of expanded legalized gaming on the state's image and brand is needed in order to better determine and manage potential risks and opportunities.
Latest push for a casino
As part of the budget compromise in June 2013, the House and Senate convened the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority to study and recommend a regulatory structure for gambling. On December 9, 2013 the Authority revealed a 2014 bill, HB 1633, that included a regulatory structure and the authorization for a 5,000-slot casino. Despite the significant effort legislators dedicated to HB 1633, the House killed the bill in March 2014. Future casino proposals have similarly failed in the House.
In recent years New Hampshire has expanded some forms of gambling without authorizing a full casino.
Keno became legal in New Hampshire in 2017, with funds going to support full-day kindergarten programs. Keno is played at restaurants at bars.
Gov. Sununu signed a bill to legalize sports betting in 2019, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting. Sports betting takes place at various locations across the state, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity.
In 2021 New Hampshire legalized historic horse racing, a form of gaming done at an electronic terminal similar to a slot machine. These terminals will be at New Hampshire's pre-existing charitable gaming locations, and once again a portion of proceeds will go to nonprofits. Learn more here.
*A law banning live dog racing was passed in 2010.
"New Hampshire should authorize one or more casinos."
The state needs the revenue and the alternatives are worse:
- Our legislature began work on our state budget for 2010-2011 facing a budget deficit from existing taxes and expenses estimated at $400 million to $500 million. The final approved and balanced budget included numerous tax increases and spending cuts, but also significant one-time benefits that went away next time around.
- Expanded gambling has the potential to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and solve our budget problems once and for all without any new taxes (such as a sales or income tax) and without bumping up the rates on the many other taxes we have in the state.
- Expanded gambling will create lots of new jobs and draw tourists.
- Expanded gambling with new licenses will generate a large numbers of good jobs in our state. Millennium Gaming of Nevada proposed to modernize Rockingham Park at a cost of $450 million creating thousands of jobs, and that was just an estimate from one project.
- Locating gambling sites in various regions of the state will draw tourists to those areas, and could be a major improvement to the economy of the North Country.
The fear of increased crime rates is overblown:
- The fear that a large increase in crime will accompany expanded gambling is not backed up by the facts. FBI data of 2005 show that the crime rate of Las Vegas is below the comparable rates of cities such as Phoenix, Arizona, Orlando, Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In addition, recent proposed legislation would devote some of the funds from gambling to recovery programs for problem gamblers.
- A GAO report in 2000 concluded that "in general, existing data were not sufficient to quantify or define the relationship between gambling and crime... Although numerous studies have explored the relationship between gambling and crime, the reliability of many of these studies is questionable."
"New Hampshire should not authorize one or more casinos."
The gambling revenues are overstated and will not solve our state budget problems:
- Casino tax revenues have not fixed budget problems in other states. Casino states have budget problems no less severe than New Hampshire's and casino revenues are declining nationwide. In fact, racinos may become a tax drain in some states. Maryland passed a racino law and that state has considered using taxpayer money to prop up two bankrupt racetracks — and as of 2011, casino developers had purchased licenses for only half the number of authorized slot machines.
- Of all states with legalized slot machines or casinos, every one has either a sales or income tax: all but five have both.
- Gambling interests are overstating revenue projections. Slots revenue may not arrive in time to fix immediate budget deficits. First license and operating revenues would be received no earlier than about 24 months after a legalization vote (the typical elapsed time in the seven most recent racino states).
Gambling businesses may not be additive - they cannibalize other local businesses:
- Slot casinos of the type being proposed for New Hampshire may not benefit the state's economy and simply cannibalize existing local businesses. A literature survey done for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston states, "[c]asinos that cater to a local market generally do not bring outside money into the economy... [and] may have no net ancillary economic impacts. Residents patronizing such casinos may simply substitute gambling for other goods and services."
Gambling creates many negative social problems and increases crime rates:
- Multiple casino locations may force negative social and economic impacts on many New Hampshire communities. These impacts include: higher rates of gambling addiction, violent crime, domestic abuse, suicide, and increased welfare, social service and criminal justice costs.
- A 2006 study published in The Review of Economics and Statistics found that, by the fifth year after the introduction of a casino, host counties saw rates of robbery, aggravated assault, auto theft, burglary, larceny, and rape increase by an average of 10 percent. The casino-crime link has been shown in several additional studies, with the Review of Economics and Statistics study now used to assess casino impacts in most independent gambling cost-benefit analyses. Gambling advocates often cite older studies which use small sample sizes and less rigorous statistical methods and report no definite link between casinos and crime.
- Gambling addiction treatment fails to solve the problem created by casinos. Six casinos spread around the state would increase baseline pathological gambling disorder by about 1 percent of New Hampshire's adult population. Only 7-12 percent of gambling addicts even attempt to access available addiction treatment services. About half or more of revenue at a typical slots casino is extracted from problem and pathological gamblers, meaning that the state budget would be built around the continuous creation of new gambling addicts to replace those who gamble themselves and their families into bankruptcy.
- Slots are several times more addictive and harmful than existing New Hampshire gambling. Gambling addiction onset is over 3 times faster with slot machines compared with table games, lotteries, or betting on animal racing. Here are the intake statistics from the Rhode Island Gambling Treatment Program: 69% slots, 10% horses or dogs, 9% table games, 8% lottery. Through frequent display of "near misses," slot machines are designed to make players think that they are winning 2 to 5 times more than in reality. Recent brain science shows how these near misses promote gambling addiction.