There’s no debate over whether legal sports betting in New Hampshire will be unique. One of those reasons is the state’s sports betting age requirement.
Unlike all other states that have legalized sports betting to this point, the Granite State only requires residents and visitors to be at least 18 years of age. The question is whether that will be a strength of New Hampshire’s system.
Why New Hampshire’s sports betting age requirement differs
The new law in the Granite State authorizes the state’s lottery to regulate legal sports betting. Because the lottery is offering that product in partnership with DraftKings, the minimum age differs.
The New Hampshire lottery only requires players to be at least 18 years of age. In all other states with legal sports betting, bettors have to be at least 21 years of age.
The Granite State isn’t the only one to integrate the state’s lottery into its legal sports wagering framework. For example, the Tennessee lottery will also regulate that state’s legal sports betting product.
Tennessee’s regulations include a tenet that requires bettors to be at least 21 years old, however. New Hampshire’s lower minimum age has some upsides as well as one looming concern.
The perceived benefits and drawbacks to this peculiarity
The first benefit of this situation is quite obvious. A lower minimum age allows more people to participate, thus increasing the potential for revenue.
That not only applies to Granite State residents but people in nearby states. Even when Maine rolls out its legal market, residents of that state who are at least 18 but under 21 could cross the border to place bets.
Another benefit is that it allows the state to bring more of the action currently on the “black market” into the regulated sphere. That not only helps with responsible gaming but limits the potential for match-fixing.
There is a potential downside, however, based on perception. The ideology is that people under the age of 21 may lack the cognitive skills and life experience to bet on sports responsibly.
The real question is whether those aged 18-20 are more susceptible to gambling addiction than individuals 21 and up. While the tradition of requiring gamblers to be at least 21 years of age isn’t necessarily flawed, age alone is no guarantee that everyone who is at least that old will play responsibly.
It is yet unclear whether adults who have yet to turn 21 are more likely to become problem gamblers if they have access to legal sports betting. New Hampshire will be the first state to test those waters.
New Hampshire’s ‘experiment’ is worth watching
If New Hampshire’s product reaps a great return for the state given the population available, that might suggest a lower minimum age could be a winning strategy in other markets.
The frequency at which people under 21 in New Hampshire access problem gambling resources will act as the flip side of that coin, however. If the state finds that the 18-20 demographic experiences higher rates of problem gambling, that would outweigh the benefits of extra revenue. In that case, the lower age requirement “experiment” would have failed.
Time will tell whether this regulation is a strength or weakness for the Granite State. Right now, it definitely makes New Hampshire unique.
Other states, especially those that have yet to legalize sports betting within their borders, should pay attention.