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Can I Legally Bet on Sports in New Hampshire?

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News spread quickly that sports betting is now legal in New Hampshire—but is it that simple?

Many might have interpreted this news to mean that they’re free to make and take bets on the outcome of sporting events with anyone willing to wager. However, the law doesn’t “legalize” sports betting in the sense that it’s no longer illegal to do it. Rather, the law sets up a special division within the Lottery Commission that permits and oversees registered agents and vendors operate retail sports betting.

A court hearing a criminal case is going to rely on the age-old maxim “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” In other words, if you violate the law, no matter how complicated or incomprehensible, you can’t get away from the punishment by saying you didn’t know or understand what you were violating. Therefore, before you start sharing your big wins on social media, here’s some information that will help you determine if your posts could end up as evidence in a criminal case.

What is a sports bet?

First, let’s talk about what a bet is. It’s any cash (or equivalent) paid to another as a wager on the outcome or any portion of a sporting event or individual performance statistics. The law sets up three classes of bets: “Tier I” is a pre-match bet on the outcome; “Tier II” is a bet placed after a match starts but before it ends; and “Tier III” is something that’s neither Tier I or II.

This seems to cover everything from the classic win/loss betting to proposition bets, daily fantasy sports, and fantasy sports leagues so long as money is involved.

Who can take bets?

Sorry, but not your friends. And of course, not even the companies that people have been using outside the law anyway, such as Bovada. The Lottery Commission will authorize certain places to have retail locations that will take certain bets (Tier I and III) and certain vendors to host websites to offer all three tiers of bets.

Prohibited bets

Some bets will remain off-limits. They are college sporting events happening in New Hampshire; any college sporting event involving a school primarily located in New Hampshire; high school sporting events anywhere; and any amateur sporting event involving participants who are primarily under 18.

Prohibited bettors

Some people are still not allowed to bet. Anyone under 18, or placing a bet on behalf of someone under 18 is forbidden from sports betting. Also, an athlete, agent, owner, coach, referee, team employee, or nearly anyone involved in any aspect of a team’s operations cannot bet on a match involving teams that compete in the same league as them.


Participating in a lottery or wager that is not specifically authorized by this law is still a misdemeanor, which can be punished by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,000 fine. As you can see, that includes many of the activities that you or your friends might engage in. Those activities might include:

  • Using online sports betting website not authorized but New Hampshire;
  • Betting your friend dinner on the Patriots winning another Super Bowl;
  • Running a fantasy sports league that results in a cash prize;
  • Wagering your friend all the change in your pocket if Kemba Walker sinks the next three-pointer;
  • Betting a teammate that you can score a hat trick first;
  • And so much more.

Hopefully, you won’t be the one to Instagram your illegal activity. For any criminal matter, you need an experienced New Hampshire criminal attorney at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C., (603) 288-1403 or fill out our online contact form.