Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma among states joining sports betting conversation

Interest In Legalizing Sports Betting Is Ramping Up In These Eight States

Eight states sports betting copy
There’s been new chatter about the possibility of legalizing sports betting in more than half a dozen states since Christie vs. NCAA got its day in the US Supreme Court earlier this month.

Since 1992, single-game sports wagering has been federally illegal under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). That may change soon, though.

New Jersey is challenging that law via Christie in the nation’s highest court, having presented oral arguments at the start of December. A full victory could see the federal ban struck down and the decision on sports betting legality left to the states.

Here’s a snapshot of the states where there has been movement in recent weeks. This list is in addition to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, which have already passed sports wagering laws.

Iowa

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Cobett is running for Iowa governor, and he’s on “team sports betting.” Just last week, Corbett indicated that he’s favorable to legalized betting in his state.

The adoption of sports betting would seem logical for a state with a regulated gaming infrastructure already in place. Iowa is home to 19 state-licensed casinos and runs a lottery, too.

Corbett expects the state could realize between $13 million and $24 million in annual revenue from a regulated sports betting industry. He’s already thinking about how things might work from a logistical standpoint:

I’m not hostile to the casinos maybe playing a role going forward, but I think the Lottery would be the better approach for the state of Iowa. It’s the way to maximize the most from the transaction fees.

His support seems to fall in line with that of Iowa Gaming Association President Wes Ehrecke. “To have [sports betting] here, I believe, will be a positive,” he’s quoted as saying.

Interestingly, Iowa is one of the states where daily fantasy sports has always been considered illegal.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts has yet to consider sports betting legislation, but that may change in 2018. A lot, of course, hinges on the outcome of Christie vs. NCAA.

Stephen Crosby, the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, told local news outlets that he supports sports betting legislation. Crosby noted that the illegal betting market might spark legislative action so that the state can collect its piece of the pie.

This is a fanatic sports community, and nobody knows for sure, but the illegal sports betting in Massachusetts is very high, everybody thinks. The logic would be, hey, there’s already a lot of sports betting, it’s all illegal, now we could make it legal and we could regulate it, and we could tax it.

MGC Commissioner Lloyd Macdonald pulled back the reins and tempered those ambitions just a bit.

I would underscore the word ‘cautious’ as being the characterization of our approach here. Before we spend significant resources on this I think we should wait and see what happens with the case before the court.

Nevertheless, the MGC is going to prepare a white paper on the subject that could set the stage for legislation next year.

Michigan

Michigan Rep. Rob Kosowski has been pushing to legalize sports betting in recent years. But now the push is taking a different tack.

Rep. Brandt Iden is working on his own bill regarding online poker and gambling, and the current version includes language permitting online sports betting, specifically. Iden said that the inclusion is a conversation starter for the time being:

That language is in there to start the next round of conversations. I don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves, but we know that is coming – the repeal of PASPA is likely coming in the spring – and we want to put Michigan in position to put our best foot forward as it related to sports gaming.

It’s not clear whether the bill will continue to move forward in 2018 or if the sports betting language will be retained. But Iden seems to think the outlook is favorable:

We’ll make sure we can shepherd through and get to the governor’s desk an agreement to do online gaming, and I think from there the next step will be sports gaming.

Minnesota

Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo has been threatening to introduce sports betting legislation for the past few months. It looks like his efforts may come to fruition in 2018.

In his pitch, Garofalo noted that illegal sports betting is occurring without consumer protections, and potential revenue is leaving the state’s borders. He said he wants the industry to be safe and regulated within his state.

It is time for Minnesota’s sports gambling laws to move out of the caveman era and into the 21st century.

Although there are no state casinos in Minnesota, there are tribal interests which could complicate the issue as the conversation moves forward.

Mississippi

Apart from New Jersey, Mississippi is perhaps the most anxious for a decision in Christie vs. NCAA. The state has already taken steps toward legalizing sports betting pending the outcome of the case.

The potential for regulation exists due to a details of a fantasy sports bill that was signed into law in June. The law repealed a portion of the Mississippi Gaming Control Act that prohibited sports betting. The removal of that passage seems to clear the way for lawmakers to act.

Although some lawmakers have backpedaled a bit on the idea of sports betting, the state’s gaming commission is making preparations to move forward. This according to executive director Allen Godfrey:

Should the Supreme Court issue a favorable ruling, the Mississippi Gaming Commission will be ready to address sports gambling. The time would be determined more by how long it takes the operators to get ready to offer it as a regulated game.

New York

The Empire State already has a placeholder sports betting law on the books.

New York’s law arose from a 2013 amendment to its constitution, which allowed for the construction of four new commercial casinos within the state. Enabling legislation also legalized sports betting at those four casinos, should the federal law change.

Lawmakers seem to think a broader authorization is needed to move forward, though. As written, the law excludes tribal casinos, racetracks and off-track betting facilities. That would require a new law.

Sen. John Bonacic and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow are the two key players in the arena. Both are the chairs of the relevant committees in their chambers, and both were responsible for the passage of daily fantasy sports legislation last year.

According to reports, the duo will take another look at more widespread sports betting legislation in 2018.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma is a gambling state; most of the casinos there are operated by the state’s Native American tribes. That could be the hold-up on sports betting progress at the moment.

In 2017, Rep. Jon Echols introduced a bill that would have paved the way for sports betting in the state. The tribes pushed back, though, arguing that new laws would violate existing compacts. Legislation has not advanced through the impasse so far.

Lawmakers are optimistic about their chances in 2018, though. Rep. Leslie Osborn co-authored a new bill, and she told local media that it will have a decent chance when it resurfaces in the new year.

“My belief is, from what most people are saying, that will probably pass,” Osborn said.

Rhode Island

The smallest state in the country joined the sports betting conversation at the tail end of 2017.

In an interview with WPRI, Senate Finance Committee chairman William Conley was optimistic about New Jersey’s odds in the Supreme Court.

“The lawyer in me says that the states are going to prevail,” Conley said. “And that’s going to be an opportunity for Rhode Island.”

Conley said that he believes the legislative leadership is open to the idea of legalization. The state already has a lottery and a pair of land-based casinos, either of which could support the framework for sports betting.

Eric Ramsey
- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.