Hello friends and fellow fans of the lawmaking process! Welcome back for another weekly tour through the capitols of states that are fiddling with sports betting legislation. Some, of course, are fiddling more diligently than others.
Here are the vitals for US sports betting right this instant:
- States with regulated sports betting: 8
- Jurisdictions pending launch: 3
- States with bills on file: 27
- Number of bills on file: 74
By way of the usual disclaimer, those numbers might be wrong before dinner time. We update this sports betting bills tracker every day, though, and we post real-time updates on Twitter throughout the week.
How’s your (sports betting) hearing?
The majority of 2019 sports betting bills are likely filed by this point, though a few more should trickle in over the coming months. We’re now into the meat of the lawmaking session, with committee stops and chamber hearings lined up on the calendar.
This week …
Virginia sports betting bill clears Senate
Virginia is among the most ambitious states on the map, featuring no less than seven bills concerning VA sports betting.
S 1126 is the broadest of them all, and it’s the one making moves in the statehouse. This is actually a casino bill at its core, aimed at facilitating the first brick-and-mortar gambling facilities in the Commonwealth. It also, quite notably, includes provisions that would allow those properties to offer sports betting.
The bill already cleared its first two committee stops with relative ease prior to this week. Then on Monday, the full Senate passed it by a 28-12 vote, sending it to the House for consideration.
LSR sources maintain that full passage is unlikely, but this decisive half-passage is quite a step nonetheless. Should it end up becoming law, the proposal will also be subject to local voter referendums in relevant counties.
The bill now sits with the Committee on Rules for the lower chamber.
Rhode Island online sports betting?
We’ll have a story on Rhode Island posthaste, but here’s the short version:
RI sports betting is already legal, regulated, and live at the two Twin River casinos. It remains limited to physical, in-person wagering under the existing law, but the legislature has been working to authorize online/mobile betting too.
S 37 would allow people located within state lines to wager via their computers and mobile devices. Borrowing from Nevada sports betting policy, bettors would first need to register for an account in-person at one of the two casinos.
The bill cleared Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs on Wednesday, and the first floor vote could come as soon as next week. A matching House bill (H 5241) is up for its first consideration on Thursday, as well.
South Dakota sports betting heads to Senate
SJR 2 is designed to allow the Deadwood casinos to build sportsbooks within their properties. SD sports betting also has the support of the Crow Creek and Yankton Sioux, as authorization would extend to their tribal properties.
State Affairs considered the bill on Wednesday, advancing it on a 5-4 vote. It now heads out to the Senate floor for its first discussion before the full chamber.
As in many jurisdictions, such an expansion of gambling would be subject to a statewide voter referendum in the next general election (2020).
Intralot nearly in for DC sports betting
Although the District of Columbia has a law in place already, the nation’s capital was the site of a key sports betting hearing this week. There, Councilmember Jack Evans is spearheading an effort to bypass the standard procurement process for a supplier.
DC Lottery officials contend that retaining Intralot as the sole provider for DC sports betting is the path to maximum revenue. Opponents argue that competitive bidding is in taxpayers’ best interest to ensure a transparent and apolitical process.
The attempt to expedite the contract is nearing the finish line, though. After clearing Finance by one vote last week, Bill 23-25 passed its first Council vote this week by a similar 7-6 margin. Lawmakers will cast a second, decisive vote on Feb. 19.
The good news is that this saga is about to be resolved one way or another. Unfortunately for DC sports bettors, however, it looks like it will be resolved the wrong way for the market’s sake. Intralot aims to hold 20-30 percent of all money wagered, a lofty and likely unachievable goal.
Everything’s bigger in Texas sports betting
The number of states with bills on file has grown by one since last week’s lasso, and you’d never guess who the newcomer is.
Texas joined the party with H 1275, a bill that would authorize up to five TX sports betting permits at $250,000 apiece. Each licensee would be allowed to deploy up two online/mobile brands (or “skins”) under its umbrella, putting a maximum of 10 sportsbooks in the marketplace.
Notable among the bill’s provisions is one that would make it illegal to receive or place a wager on a Texas college sports team.
This bill serves as the enabling legislation for HJR 61, a joint resolution that proposes a 2019 voter referendum. The only real context we have to gauge its probability of passage is the reputation the Lone Star State maintains as one of the most conservative in the nation.
Elsewhere in legislation, regulation
Here’s another unexpected candidate for legal sports betting: Washington. A bill has appeared (H 1975) on the state legislature’s website, though it doesn’t yet have a date of introduction. Here’s a quick synopsis from one of the state’s gambling commissioners:
WA gets its first #SportsBetting bill this year. Only allows Tribes to be licensed operators. Creates exception to felony internet gambling law. Appears to allow mobile & internet but only on-premise.https://t.co/DgG2lv6mKB
— Chris Stearns (@stearnsauburn) February 7, 2019
Mississippi is another jurisdiction with an existing sports betting law — and a live industry for that matter. Like Rhode Island, MS sports betting is so far limited to retail sportsbooks. Here, though, efforts to change that officially failed for the year.
Bills that would have authorized statewide online/mobile wagering died in each chamber this week. Neither H 1481 nor S 2667 received a hearing before the Tuesday deadline for all bills to advance out of their committees. Better luck next season, Mississippi.