New York, Rhode Island pursue mobile sports betting

Sports Betting Legislative Lasso: I Spy With My Little Eye, A Buckeye!

Sports betting bills

Happy Friday, cowboys and cowgirls, and welcome back to another edition of our policymaking pull-together. In this recurring piece, we do our best to compile and condense all of the week’s legislative movement around sports betting in one place.

Here are the vitals for US sports betting right now:

  • States with regulated sports betting: 8
  • Jurisdictions pending launch: 3
  • States with bills on file: 34
  • Number of bills on file: 136

Some of those efforts are dead or mostly dead, as the hourglass is running out of sand in some legislatures.

The number of states considering legislation did increase this week, though, as a new bill appeared in the Buckeye State. Let’s begin our tour of state capitols in Columbus.

Ohio sports betting bill, now with language!

We focused on the Midwest last week, and Ohio appears to be among the leading candidates to move first in the neighboring region.

This week, Sen. John Eklund introduced his proposed Ohio sports betting legislation, as he did last year. The 2018 bill was just a placeholder, but the sponsor has filled out  S 111 this year with a basic framework for the industry.

Under the proposed language, the state’s 11 casinos and racinos would be allowed to offer sports betting — both retail and online — with licenses costing $100,000 apiece. The section regarding skins is somewhat vague, but the bill doesn’t appear to allow third-party brands like DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.

Ohio lawmakers stay in session all year long, and Eklund’s bill is currently awaiting its committee assignment(s).

Virginia bill heads to governor

It’s tough to explain whether or not Virginia is on the cusp of legal sports betting.

The bill in question is S 1126, which has passed both chambers of the legislature. It is a casino bill at its core, authorizing new commercial gambling establishments within the Commonwealth. Construction in eligible locations would be subject to a local referendum in each.

This is all very new for Virginia, and the proposed definition of “casino gaming” expressly includes sports betting. It is the only mention of the term within the 12-page bill, but it could be enough to move VA sports betting toward implementation.

The timetable is a long one, though. This bill requires a study of casino gambling prior to activation, and the first licenses will not be issued before July 1, 2020. Since it involves a referendum, it also requires another approval by next year’s legislature.

The bill now sits on the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam with a March 26 deadline for action.

How’s your sports betting hearing?

A busy week of lawmaking featured a few productive hearings, plus a promising one that didn’t ultimately materialize.

Connecticut

We don’t track hours worked, but there’s no way any state has spent as much time on sports betting as Connecticut. It has been the scene of numerous hearings over the past year, some of which have run deep into the evening.

Such was the case again on Tuesday, as Rep. Joe Verrengia and his Public Safety and Security Committee held a public hearing for the second consecutive week. This one was tougher sledding than the last, considering H 7331 would infringe on the exclusivity of the state’s two gaming tribes.

The crux of the issue is whether or not sports betting falls within the legal definition of a casino game. Tribes have exclusivity over those, and the general consensus is that the courts will ultimately need to decide on an appropriate definition.

The committee also filled S 17 with additional language and re-referred it to itself this week.

Michigan

Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but Michigan seems like a dead lock to legalize sports betting this year.

At the very least, it will pass the one line of MI sports betting language found in the online gambling bill from Rep. Brandt Iden. The relevant clause says that state regulators “may” allow licensees to offer online sports betting.

H 4311 was up for a hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Committee this week, and it went well for proponents. Members demonstrated their knowledge of the topic with a series of next-level questions, and pretty much every stakeholder testified in support. That includes Detroit commercial casinos, which were reluctant to join the chorus in the past.

Remember that both chambers of the Michigan legislature passed this bill last year before it ran into an unexpected veto from outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder. His successor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, is presumed to be more receptive to such legislation.

Iden also told LSR that he is still working to draft standalone Michigan sports betting legislation.

Elsewhere in sports betting legislation

Two states that have sports betting laws already in place are seeking expansion this year. One looks to have been successful, while the other is very much a coin-flip right now.

New York wants mobile betting

New York is one of those three jurisdictions with legal sports betting pending launch.

A 2013 law allows the four upstate casinos to open physical sportsbooks, and regulators are currently working through the rule-making process. Although implementation of NY sports betting is limited to in-person wagering, some lawmakers are working to expand those provisions.

This week, LSR learned that the NY Senate is poised to include online/mobile betting within its proposed budget. The state needs to erase a budget shortfall that has grown past $3 billion, and that gap might provide enough incentive to move forward.

Questions over constitutionality still linger, and it may ultimately be up to Attorney General Letitia James or the NY court system to sort it out. The NY budget is due by April 1, after which session continues until the end of June.

Rhode Island (nearly) gets mobile betting

NY lawmakers might look eastward to Rhode Island for some guidance. There, the legislature has passed a bill that will modernize the existing RI sports betting industry to include statewide mobile wagering.

Although S 37 expands the implementation of wagering, it doesn’t expand the marketplace. Sports betting in the state is administered by the RI Lottery, which has exclusive contracts with IGT and William Hill.

The bill now waits for a signature from Gov. Gina Raimondo, who has proven herself to be a supporter of RI sports betting.

Legislative loose ends

Here are some other bits of movement around the legislative map over the past week:

  • Hawaii: A bundle of study bills filed last week were assigned to their first committee stops.
  • Kentucky: It’s all over this year. Efforts to move H 175 forward have run up against the end of the legislative session.
  • Minnesota: The first committee report on SF 1894 came back with a favorable recommendation.
  • Missouri: A committee advanced S 327 with a Do Pass recommendation.
  • New Hampshire: A work session on H 480 yielded opposing recommendations. The majority group suggests passage, while the minority finds it inexpedient to legislate.
  • North Carolina: While H 302 is still on the docket, the matching S 154 was withdrawn from committee.
  • Tennessee: Senate Judiciary advanced S 1057 with a recommendation to pass.

Next week in sports betting bills

This week’s scheduled hearing in Tennessee was a no-go, so those bills are back on the calendar next week. Here’s what else we’ll be watching:

Monday, March 18

Tuesday, March 19

  • Michigan: H 4311 — House Regulatory Reform
  • Montana: S 330 — Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs
  • Tennessee: H 1, S 16 — House State Government

Wednesday, March 20

  • Tennessee: S 16 — Senate Government Operations

Thursday, March 21

  • Illinois: H 3308 — House Revenue & Finance

That’s everything you need to know to get yourself current on the legislative landscape. As always, check the map frequently for movement, and follow us on Twitter for real-time updates throughout the week.

Have a good weekend, y’all.

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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