If we had to choose one word to sum up New Hampshire’s position on gambling it would be
polarizing. On the pro-gambling side, New Hampshire was responsible for ushering in the modern lottery era. It also boasted the highest pre-Black Friday online poker participation rate in the United States. Yet despite multiple attempts, lawmakers have proven unwilling to legalize the construction of commercial casinos. That, and there hasn’t been a single horse race held in New Hampshire since 2010.
New Hampshire legislatures have held preliminary talks regarding regulated online poker, but to date, no bill has been drafted. Besides that, the state’s involvement in Internet gambling has been limited to a failed attempt to bring the lottery online in 2010 .
Given lawmakers’ tepid attitude towards online gaming and the state’s miniscule population of 1.3 million and it would seem that New Hampshire’s chances of legalizing online poker are hovering somewhere between slim to none. But with the Granite State, you never know.
Can Players from New Hampshire Play Real-Money Online Poker?
New Hampshire’s residents love their online poker, but these days their playing options are rather limited. Compare that to the situation in Europe, where there is an influx of online poker rooms to choose from.
Is Online Poker Legal in New Hampshire?
In 2010, news broke that New Hampshire’s Governor John Lynch was considering the merits of legalizing online gambling. Unfortunately, his attempt would prove rather fleeting, and to this day online poker is not regulated by the state. But that doesn’t necessarily mean playing online poker in New Hampshire is prohibited; just that its legality resides in a murky gray area.
New Hampshire’s gambling statutes do include a definition of gambling. However, its brevity renders it somewhat up to interpretation – Section 647.2(II) (d):
Gambling means to risk something of value upon a future contingent event not under one’s control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that something of value will be received in the event of a certain outcome.
The definition makes no allusion to whether or not games that involve an element of skill or where skill is the predominant factor are considered gambling games, leading us to believe that a valid argument could be made for poker’s legality. However, it is unknown if the argument that poker players rely more on wits than luck would hold up in a court of law.
When it comes to player and operator penalties the law is much clearer. A person who
gambles, or loans money or any thing of value for the purpose of aiding another to gamble, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Operators too are guilty of a misdemeanor for hosting an illicit gambling game. That is unless the house takes in more than
$2,000 in any single day,
remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of 10 days, or
accepts wagers exceeding $5,000 during any 30 day period on future contingent events, in which case they can be charged with a class B felony.
Yet, despite the clarity of the aforementioned, one still cannot reconcile if hosting a raked poker game, either live or online, is a crime. There is also no obvious social gambling exemption built into the law.
Compounding matters further the words
online gambling and
poker are not mentioned once in the statutes. Due to the ambiguous nature of the law, a player’s best bet is to consult a legal authority first before partaking in any poker related activity.
For more on this, please refer to the state’s revised statutes .
New Hampshire Gambling History
Despite its illegality, gambling remained a mainstay of New Hampshire’s culture throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. But it didn’t truly explode until Rockingham Park race track opened its doors in 1906. That is, until law authorities shut it down three days later . Shockingly, the next race held at the fabled track wouldn’t take place until 1933, when the Great Depression ravaged the state’s economy, forcing lawmakers to legalize pari-mutuel wagering.
In the decades that followed, the track thrives, and it remained one of the few places New Hampshire’s residents could get their fix until 1964, when a statewide sweepstakes was authorized. Shortly after, the sweepstakes would be rebranded as the lottery. It was the first of its kind in the United States.
In the wake of Atlantic City transforming itself into a gambler’s haven, New Hampshire began seriously considering the merits of legalizing casino gambling. But time after time, legislators rebuked the idea of building even a single facility. This fight continues to the present day. In March 2014, an effort to introduce a casino industry fell short 173-144 in the House . That was quickly followed by another vote, which ended in a dramatic tie – but alas, a tiebreaker ultimately did the bill in . On a brighter note, the door is still open for reconsideration.
Attempts to legalize the sale of online lottery tickets were made in 2011, but were promptly voted down by the Lottery Commission. It was around the same time that the struggling Rockingham Park held its last race. Yet, due to the popularity of the lottery and charitable gambling, the state still manages to bring in a significant take from gaming.
Regulated Gambling Options in New Hampshire
Outside of the lottery, simulcasting, limited Greyhound racing and a rather comprehensive charitable gambling schedule, New Hampshire boasts no form of regulated gambling. That means no commercial casinos, no tribal casinos and no horse racing. This is likely to change in the near future as more and more northeastern states relax their gambling stances.
The Future of Regulated Online Gambling in New Hampshire
New Hampshire is unlikely to regulate online gambling in the near future. However, should the right politicians be elected into office, it’s conceivable that an iGaming bill would make its way onto the committee floor. But even then, what kind of online poker community could New Hampshire realistically support without an interstate compact in place.
The good news is Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire have hosted a tri-state lottery for decades – a strong indicator that the three would be willing to readily establish a multi-jurisdiction iGaming regulatory framework should conditions become favorable. For now, New Hampshire is much more likely to enter the b&m casino industry.