New Hampshire 'Poker Tax' Plans Edge Forward
A bill designed to take a 10% slice of monies raised through charitable gambling events including poker continues to work its way through that state's legislature, despite opposition from charitable groups. Though New Hampshire has no large-scale casinos, a 2007 law allows parimutuel and other selected facilities to offer low-limit poker ($2 max bet) as long as 35% of net proceeds are given to charity.
A proposal by state Sen. Robert Odell (R-Lempster) has proposed adding a 10% tax to poker games and events, a move which also has the support of NH Governor John Lynch. Lynch threw his support behind the measure recently when revealing a new budget with an increasing budget shortfall, and the governor described it as a way of "closing the loophole" regarding poker's current tax-free status. Other forms of gambling, such as bingo, are subject to a state tax. Governor Lynch projects such a new tax would add $5-6 million to state coffers annually.
The "poker tax" bill recently passed through a Senate sub-committee and will come up for debate on the New Hampshire Senate floor next week, though it is expected to receive stiff opposition. The newly popular poker rooms have already become a depending source of needed moneys for designated charities, and in the case of some parimutuel outlets, are one of the few entertainments consistently bringing customers through the doors. One alternative raised is to bump the maximum chip amount from $2 to $5, though that has a separate set of detractors in the New Hampshire House.
Poker's burgeoning popularity in New Hampshire faces an interesting future. On the one side are politicians eyeing the game as a potential revenue source, while on the other are the game providers who protest that adding the state tax on top of the mandated charitable donation – even though that donation would be computed differently under the new law – will make poker unprofitable to offer.