tate-sanctioned sports betting could arrive in Dover in early 2020 if voters approve a proposed ballot question that will be reviewed by the City Council on Wednesday.
New Hampshire became the ninth state to legalize sports betting last month when Gov. Chris Sununu signed House Bill 480, which legalizes betting on pro sports and most Division I college sports, excluding games involving New Hampshire schools.
The bill allows the state Lottery Commission to regulate, through a new Division of Sports Betting, up to 10 total licenses for sportsbook operations within new or existing retail operations, and up to five licenses for online betting.
“Instead of being behind the times ... if (the state’s) going to do that kind of betting, we want Dover to have that opportunity to be at the forefront,” said Mayor Karen Weston.
The wagering is projected to produce an estimated $7.5 million for education in fiscal year 2021 and $13.5 million two years later. A portion of the funds will also be used to support problem gaming education, prevention and treatment.
The resolution city councilors are slated to review Wednesday doesn’t guarantee Dover will have one of the 10 physical locations, Fosters reports. Rather, it’s designed as a way for Dover to tell prospective entities applying for the betting licenses that Dover would welcome them if they were interested in running a legal sports book in the city, either as a standalone retail operation or as a business co-located within a local restaurant.
“We just want to make sure it’s not a missed opportunity for the city of Dover,” said Weston.
After Wednesday’s first reading, Dover’s resolution must go before an official public hearing and City Council vote before the city can put a sports betting question on the ballot. That public hearing and vote are both scheduled for the Oct. 9 City Council meeting.
The process, as well as the state’s regulation of sports betting, is similar to what occurred with Keno gaming last year. Dover voters rejected allowing Keno in local pouring establishments at the 2017 municipal polls, however, the Dover City Council recently voted to bring the Keno question forward again this fall after businesses in Somersworth and other enabling communities reported strong revenue boosts.
Rochester and Portsmouth will also put a second Keno question on their ballots this fall two years after their first attempts also failed.
“Instead of being behind the line, we want to put it out there again and let the people decide,” said Weston.
Lottery Commissioner Charles McIntyre and other supporters of HB 480 have said illegal betting on sporting events is rampant, from taking action from a bookie to participating in a college-basketball tournament bracket pool to playing Super Bowl squares. They’ve also said it can only be controlled under a government authority.