Dover, the fourth largest city in New Hampshire with a population of around 30,000 per the last U.S. census in 2010, will let voters decide this fall whether the city will put its name in the running to host one of the 10 potential retail sportsbooks the state.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a sports betting bill into law on July 12.
New Hampshire’s sports betting law legalized betting on professional sports and most Division I college sports, excluding bets on games involving New Hampshire colleges and universities.
Dover, the largest city in the New Hampshire Seacoast region, held a City Council meeting Aug. 14 to read through a measure and decide whether to add it to the November election ballot. The council voted 9-0 to do so after a brief discussion period. Now the voters in Dover, who turned down a similar proposition regarding Keno not long ago, have the chance to decide whether to allow the city the opportunity to host a retail sportsbook.
The result of that potential local vote would serve as the method of letting prospective sportsbook operators know whether the city is open to having a sportsbook. The passage of the measure by popular vote wouldn’t necessarily mean a sportsbook would be opening its doors in Dover.
It would only serve as one step in the larger process of discovering where sportsbooks are wanted within the state, and once that information is collected, give companies the chance to move forward with putting together possible paths forward.
This month, the New Hampshire Lottery asked for sports betting vendors to submit proposals as the state slowly moves toward implementing its new sports gambling program. Those proposals were requested to be sent in by Sept. 16, and the state hopes to approve final contracts by the end of November with the aim of fully launching its sports betting program early next year.
At least some in Dover hope history doesn’t repeat itself in regards to opening up its borders to the potential revenues that are inherent to the gaming industry. In November 2017, Dover voters rejected the state-approved Keno game that was rolled out across New Hampshire in an effort to help fund full-day kindergarten programs.
While the city still receives the educational funds that are generated from that state-wide Keno game, the city misses out on the directly related financial rewards that come from businesses hosting that type of gaming. Moreover, city businesses have seen other places, such as nearby Somersworth, reap financial rewards that could have been theirs.
“Many of the businesses in the area wish they had a second opportunity to support the Keno bill, because what happened was that it took away from the businesses that would have been dealing with Keno and many (of those potential customers) went to Somersworth,” Mayor Karen Weston said during the Aug. 14 City Council meeting.
So the next step for Dover in determining whether it might someday become one of the hosts of a retail sportsbook in New Hampshire is a public hearing set Oct. 9, followed by the November vote.