Nearly 30 states considering sports betting bills
Legal Sports Report

Sports Betting Legislative Lasso: We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Rope

Sports betting bills

Howdy, y’all!

Welcome to the latest edition of our weekly roundup of all the sports betting goings-on in statehouses across the country. And there have been plenty of goings-on over the last week, including the addition of two more states to our map.

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: 29
  • Number of bills on file: 83

As always, we post those numbers with the disclaimer that they are probably outdated by the time you read them. More states and bills will no doubt be added to this fluid list over the coming weeks. (We’re looking at you, Michigan.)

Reminder: We update our sports betting bill tracker every single day just for you. And for us. But also for you.

New sports betting bills on file

Fans of this lasso who’ve been loyal readers since day one (two weeks ago) might notice that state counter increased by two this week. While a couple that considered 2018 bills have yet to refile again in 2019, one just did.

There’s also a brand new entry to the conversation for 2019: a midwestern state considering its first sports betting bill.

Maryland sports betting without referendum?

Lawmakers in Maryland dipped their toes in the water last year with proposals for a voter referendum that never materialized. This year, a pair of Republican representatives look to bypass that process altogether.

Del. Jason Buckel and Del. Kevin Hornberger are pushing a bill (H 1132) that would expand the state lottery program to include sports betting, a la Delaware and Rhode Island. The state would administer the industry and provide licensure to the six racetracks and six VLT operators, including Maryland Live! and MGM National Harbor.

Whether or not this approach sticks remains to be seen, but it does have key support from the Senate president. There are also three mostly matching bills on file proposing a 2020 referendum:

All of these bills will be considered in committee hearings on March 6 — the House bills in Ways and Means and the Senate bill in Budget and Taxation.

Minnesota sports betting bill finally drops

Rep. Pat Garofalo has been threatening to introduce a sports betting bill for a couple of years, even while the federal ban was still on the books. With PASPA now gone and appetite building across the midwest, the time has come in Minnesota.

The inaugural MN sports betting bill is not yet listed as filed, but we know what’s in it.

Garofalo held a news conference Wednesday, arriving with a briefcase full of draft copies to distribute to the press. His proposal would allow the state’s 19 tribal casinos to offer on-site sports betting, including via mobile devices.

Taxes and fees would be manageable, and there are no provisions for an integrity fee or the use of official league data.

Passage will primarily hinge on the support of tribes, which historically has been hard to come by. Garofalo has long maintained he would not file legislation without all stakeholders on board, however, so this step could be cause for optimism.

The sponsor considers his bill a favorite to pass during the current biennial session, but 2020 seems more likely than 2019.

This week in sports betting hearings

Did you spend your whole week watching committee hearings so you could keep your own bill tracker updated? You didn’t?! Well you’re in luck, because we did.

Here’s a rundown of the states in which sports betting recently came up for discussion.

Indiana sports betting bills in committee

A measure that would legalize Indiana sports betting cleared its first committee stop this week.

The bill from Sen. Mark Messmer and Sen. Jon Ford (S 552) proposes a medium-sized expansion of the state’s regulated gambling industry. It would, in addition to authorizing a new casino near Terre Haute, legalize sports betting at all wagering facilities statewide.

That list currently includes 13 riverboat casinos, two race track casinos, and several off-track betting parlors.

The Committee on Public Policy considered the bill first, passing an amended version off to Appropriations with a 10-0 vote Monday. The former also has a more limited IN sports betting bill (S 439) — authored by the same two senators — still sitting on its desk.

Montana sports tabs, pools, coin flipping

It’s not exactly sports betting, but a proposal to legalize sports pools in Montana is finding some traction.

Sen. Mark Blasdel introduced his bill (S 25) late last year, and it quickly cleared the Senate once the 2019 session began. This week, the Business and Labor Committee for the lower chamber took up the bill in a scheduled hearing.

No vote is recorded, but context on the legislature’s website seems to indicate passage onto a second committee.

Bonus fact: This bill also includes provisions that would allow nonprofit organization to conduct legal, regulated “heads or tails” coin-flipping games — just not over the internet.

But wait, there’s more. Another bill (H 475) popped up in the House this week which would allow pari-mutuel sports betting under the oversight of the Montana Board of Horse Racing. It was only introduced by Rep. Brad Tschida on Thursday, so it has not yet seen any action.

LSR has also learned that Blasdel is working to draft a separate bill that would legalize full-scale MT sports betting.

What’s up with Washington sports betting?

A surprise effort in Washington got a quick mention last week, but we have enough to dig a little deeper this time around. Two WA sports betting bills, actually, have appeared over the past few days.

Rep. Eric Pettigrew is the primary sponsor of one (H 1975), which would allow legal sports betting via the state’s 28 tribal casinos. Like that Minnesota bill, this one allows for online/mobile betting only within the walls of those venues.

The sponsor presented his proposal during a public hearing before the Commerce & Gaming Committee on Thursday.

The executive director of the Washington Horse Racing Commission was among those who testified in opposition during the hour-long meeting. According to Doug Moore, however, the commission would support efforts to legalize sports betting which include the state’s horse racing industry.

He and the majority of stakeholders stand behind the second WA sports betting bill (H 1992), instead.

The committee took no action on H 1975, so both House bills remain with the committee for the time being.

Looking ahead

There is, as you can probably tell, a lot to monitor on a day-to-day basis. In the spirit of trying to get ahead, here’s what the calendar shows for the upcoming week:

  • Feb. 18: Missouri (S 44) — On tentative Senate calendar for perfection
  • Feb. 19: District of Columbia (Bill 23-25) — Council vote
  • Feb. 19: New Hampshire (S 310) – Senate Finance Committee

Uh, what else? It seems like there’s a fair chance we forgot about something somewhere, but … maybe just let us know on Twitter if we did? We’ll try to remedy any oversights when we do this again next week.

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.

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