Will There Ever Be A Retail Sportsbook In Nashua? Timing Is Key

Written By Derek Helling on August 24, 2020 - Last Updated on September 23, 2020

The push for a Nashua, NH, retail sportsbook has to change the minds of voters in the city, and has to do so quickly. As of now, it looks like other New Hampshire cities may succeed where sports betting proponents have failed in Nashua.

Despite being the future home of corporate offices for DraftKings, putting a brick-and-mortar book in Nashua faces an uphill climb. The primary reason is that the state has limited those opportunities.

Why a Nashua retail sportsbook faces challenges

The current situation is the result of past events. When New Hampshire expanded legal gambling to include sports wagering, it gave room for up to 10 retail sportsbooks.

The first of those has already opened at The Brook in Seabrook. To date, most of those 10 licenses are still available. It’s uncertain how long that will remain the case, however.

If seeing is believing, then the new book at The Brook might trigger a rush on acquiring those licenses. Other cities may be in a better position to nab them than Nashua.

In order to obtain a license, voters in New Hampshire cities have to give their consent. Last year, Nashua voters declined to give that approval at the polls.

On the other hand, Franklin became the first New Hampshire city to welcome retail sports betting via the ballot in October of last year.

Last November, voters in five other cities gave a nod to retail sports betting:

  • Berlin
  • Claremont
  • Laconia
  • Manchester
  • Somersworth

This past May, 10 more New Hampshire cities did the same, including Derry, Hudson, and Salem.

Those three are some of the most populous towns in the state, which might bode well for them in acquiring the next licenses from the New Hampshire Lottery.

From Nashua’s perspective, then, 16 other cities have a head start on it in the race for the nine remaining sportsbook licenses. The question is whether Nashua will be able to make up the necessary ground in time.

Will a second chance come in time for Nashua?

Proponents of a retail sportsbook in Nashua have pushed for a second vote. While a state bill would have opened the door for that to take place next month, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed the bill.

Now, the best-case scenario is late 2021. There’s no guarantee that the city’s populace will vote differently at that point, but DraftKings’ presence in the city might aid in that cause.

DraftKings does not need a license in order to run their office in Nashua, and says it is looking forward to welcoming employees to the new space soon.

It’s typical for gambling companies with an interest in a particular city to fund voter education campaigns to sway referendums their way. For example, several potential casino operators are currently engaged in that activity in Virginia.

On the other hand, it may not matter. If other cities scoop up the remaining nine licenses over the next year, there would be little reason to hold a referendum in Nashua.

Naturally, the state legislature could at some point expand the number of licenses. That may not come for years, however.

Right now, the best hope for a DraftKings retail sportsbook to accompany its offices in Nashua relies on changing minds in time.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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