Where you need to watch for sports betting bills in 2019

Searching For Clues About Which States Will Pass New Sports Betting Bills In 2019

Sports betting bill

Congress will go back into session this week and state legislatures throughout the country will follow shortly thereafter.

When they do, legal sports betting will slot into the the legislative agenda for many. Which states look ready to give sports betting a try? Which ones might surprise?

Read on to find out which states might join those that passed legislation last year. (Hereafter, you can keep tabs on every piece of legislation using our sports betting bill tracker.)

States with bills on file

Kentucky

Kentucky is high on the list of ambition for sports betting.

Although 2018 bills did not garner any real traction, lawmakers in June formed a nine-member panel to study the issue and draft legislation. A subsequent public hearing in October spurred the horses into action, and the state attorney general offered his blessings in November.

Two KY sports betting bills are already up for consideration in 2019, BR 15 and BR 320. A third, BR 29, appeared to have some significant flaws as filed and was apparently withdrawn.

The two that remain propose similar frameworks, both via the Kentucky Lottery Corporation. One would create a separate Kentucky Gaming Commission to regulate the industry, while a separate effort would leave regulation to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Much of the work in 2019 will focus on specifics of potential implementation.

Missouri

Missouri was among the most active states with sports betting legislation in 2018. Lawmakers ran no less than six bills up the flagpole without much progress, though a clear appetite exists.

As with its Kentucky neighbor, many of the outstanding details in Missouri center on specifics, such as whether to include an integrity fee in legislation. Only one of the previous six bills included such a fee.

S 44 is the one pre-filed for 2019. It does not include a fee payable to any league, but it would reserve 0.5 percent of handle for construction and maintenance of sports (and other) facilities.

Ohio

Ohio is one of the few on this list that did not consider a sports betting bill in 2018. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Sens. John Eklund and Sean O’Brien did introduce a shell of a bill in August. It is short enough to cite the full text here:

Section 1. It is the intent of the General Assembly to develop and enact legislation legalizing sports wagering.

Though that bill didn’t move, lawmakers are expressing an ongoing interest. Sen. Bill Coley, for example, attended a sports betting policy summit in Washington DC in November, where he spoke favorably regarding regulation in 2019.

The conversation in Ohio should be an interesting one given the competing interests in the state. If and when it joins the industry, though, its Cleveland and Cincinnati sports teams, and its population of 11 million make it a potential market mover.

Ohio lawmakers have reintroduced that one-line bill into both chambers for the upcoming session, H 714 and S 316.

Tennessee

Tennessee law prohibits all forms of gambling, with changes requiring a voter referendum at the county level. That’s happened twice before — once for lottery and once for pari-mutuel horse betting.

A third opportunity could come before voters in 2020, it seems.

After radio silence most of the year, the two gubernatorial candidates saw fit to weigh in on sports betting during their 2018 campaigns. And a new bill has suddenly appeared on the calendar for 2019.

The Tennessee sports betting bill (H 1 / S 16) is the first bill pre-filed in the House for next year. It would create a new agency, the Tennessee Gaming Commission, to regulate both retail and online/mobile wagering.

Virginia

Back in July, state officials were publicly predicting a movement to legalize sports betting. Here’s the Secretary of Finance:

“You’re going to see a big push in the General Assembly session, probably the beginning of this year. Because, as you all know, there are significant monies involved in (sports gambling) – very significant.” (Virginian-Pilot)

Geographical peer pressure could light a fire under Virginia lawmakers, too. Its neighbors to the north and west have either passed or considered sports betting legislation, including mighty Washington D.C.

Del. Marcus Simon appeared to be the early champion, expressing plans to introduce a bill in this coming session. However, it was Del. Mark Sickles who made the first move.

His bill, H 1638, is the only Virginia sports betting bill on file for 2019 so far. It is unique in that it is an online-only bill; Virginia does not currently have any gambling establishments.

Other states likely to move

A number of other states could be grouped into a third tier of legislative appetite. Each has shown some level of interest for sports betting in recent years, and each will no doubt resume the conversation in 2019.

  • Illinois: Illinois sports betting has been simmering for quite some time now, including a handful of bills in 2018. It could rightly be considered a prime candidate for legalization in 2019, even ahead of some states with bills already in the hopper. More than Ohio, the sports culture and population of Illinois would create an enormous market if/when legalized.
  • Indiana: Ah, the origin point for the integrity fee we’ve come to know and … love? Indiana sports betting bills did not garner enough support to pass in 2018, but there was a clear interest. State officials have hired gaming consultants and explored the issue at length, and it would be a surprise to see those efforts abandoned in the upcoming year.
  • Louisiana: Louisiana legalized daily fantasy sports via referendum in 2018, providing clues about the potential appetite for sports betting. It seems the latter could chart a similar path toward 2020, given the consideration of two sports betting bills last year. Expect to see new legislation appear this year.
  • Massachusetts: Massachusetts passed a study bill during the 2018 session, which will almost certainly spawn legislation in 2019. Like the Mid-Atlantic, states in the Northeast have some geographical pressure to keep up with their neighbors. DraftKings, which is headquartered in Boston, has already begun running local ads in support of Massachusetts sports betting.

That’s pretty much the list of states we’re tracking to begin 2019, but there will no doubt be a few surprise additions as the legislative calendar resumes.

(We’re looking at you, California.)

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.