New Hampshire joined states across America last week by starting a phased re-opening of its economy, a decision criticized as hasty by some but necessary by others who believe action is needed to save stumbling businesses.
The coronavirus, meanwhile, has also thrown a wrench into the state’s sports gambling landscape, which currently relies on mobile wagering but has seen momentum toward in-person parlors.
A phased re-opening
State officials gave the go-ahead to New Hampshire businesses – including retail stores, hair salons and barbershops – to welcome customers, albeit with restrictions.
As noted by WBUR, employees are required to wear masks (customers are encouraged to do the same), while capacity cannot rise above 50 percent. Hand sanitizer is now positioned at business entrances, and one-way aisles, often marked by duct-taped arrows, guide the customers.
The step, which the state assisted by providing 143,000 boxes of free masks to New Hampshire business owners, is the first of what Gov. Chris Sununu calls a “phased” reopening of the state’s economy, according to WBUR.
Like much of the nation, New Hampshire has been dealt a severe economic blow since the arrival of COVID-19, which included a stay-at-home order that left only essential businesses open – until Monday.
Battle far from over
The Nashua Telegraph reported Wednesday that 3,299 positive cases of COVID-19 have been tallied across New Hampshire; 170 people have died since March.
Some in the state, which saw eight new deaths announced Wednesday, believe businesses have been allowed to reopen too quickly and that Sununu is not following the guidance of state or federal health officials.
“Last week Governor Sununu suggested that he was basing early reopening decisions on a downward case trend he was seeing, when in fact the cases were not trending downwards,” said the New Hampshire Science and Public Health Task Force in a media release.
Sununu, however, has tried to allay concerns by saying the state can re-establish restrictions if needed.
“We can step forward; we can step backward. We can step forward quickly; we can get backwards quickly,” Sununu told media. “And if for some reason we get a second surge or something like that, we can always pull back if we have to.”
How has COVID-19 affected New Hampshire sports betting?
Unsurprisingly, New Hampshire has seen dramatic betting total declines since the outset of the coronavirus.
From February to March, for example, the state saw a 60 percent decline in handle, from $22 million to $8 million, and a 41 percent decline in revenue, from $671,000 to $394,000, according to numbers compiled by Legal Sports Report.
That followed a total wager amount in January of $17.3 million, resulting in $1.2 million in state revenue, the first full month New Hampshire experienced sports wagering.
That discrepancy becomes even more pronounced when considering the heavy betting month March was expected to be, from March Madness to NBA basketball and at the end of the month MLB Opening Day.
Along with the momentum in wagering growth, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the process undertaken by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and DraftKings to open in-person gambling parlors. DraftKings is the only sportsbook in the state.
Ten New Hampshire communities voted in March to allow in-person sports betting, a setup that would include the state receiving half of the revenue, with proceeds supporting education, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.
But that venture is now on hold.