Indiana, Iowa, Montana on the verge of legal sports betting
Legal Sports Report

Sports Betting Legislative Lasso: Three States Knocking At The Door

sports betting bills

Hello, friends, neighbors and fellow fans of the lawmaking process! We hope you’re ready for a busy week. After months of slow progress, bills creating legal sports betting are suddenly approaching the finish line in multiple states.

For starters, here’s your current snapshot of US sports betting:

  • States with regulated sports betting: 8
  • Jurisdictions pending launch: 3
  • States with bills on file: 38
  • Number of bills on file: 152

If you want a verbal summary of the landscape, check out the latest episode of the LSR Podcast. This eighth (and best) episode also includes a Betting on Sports America conference debrief.

Listen to “LSR Podcast Ep.8 – Tales From The BOS America, Good Week To Live In An ‘I’ State, & T-Shirts…Probably” on Spreaker.

It’s worth conceding that several sports betting bills are no longer in the mix for 2019.

Lawmakers in Arkansas and Mississippi, for example, tried unsuccessfully to expand their existing laws before adjournment, joining their colleagues in Maryland and Kentucky on the sidelines — out of session and out of luck for the year.

Three states, however, now stand on the proverbial doorstep of regulated sports betting. We’ll begin our weekly recap in the Midwest, a ravenous region that could be one first-mover away from a groundswell.

Indiana sports betting almost there

Lawmakers in Indiana managed to get a repackaged sports betting and gaming bill (H 1015) fully passed on the last day of session.

The legislature approved a conference report Wednesday, sending the bill to the governor for his final decision. The chambers both passed conflicting versions in recent weeks, forcing a bicameral group of conferees to draft a unified version.

Licenses to offer IN sports betting will cost $100,000 apiece under the joint proposal, and revenue will be taxed at rate of 9.5%. After being removed in the House version, language permitting statewide mobile betting was reinserted in conference.

There are no statutory provisions for integrity fees or official data.

There’s also no indication Gov. Eric Holcomb will veto the bill, but nothing is done until it’s done. The final vote counts were 59-36 in the House and 37-12 in the Senate if you’re keeping score at home.

Iowa sports betting almost too

A couple states over, Iowa also finds itself on the cusp of legal sports betting.

House lawmakers voted 67-31 to approve S 617 on Monday, five days after the Senate passed it by a 31-18 margin. Like the proposal in Indiana, this one is off to the governor’s desk for signature.

The bill will allow casinos to offer both retail and mobile wagering with up to two statewide skins apiece. In-person registration for mobile apps will be required until Jan. 1, 2021.

Licenses to offer IA sports betting will cost a modest $45,000 each, and revenue will be taxed at a base rate of 6.75%.

Lawmakers in Iowa also omitted the major provisions sought by professional sports leagues.

Final action now rests in the hands of Gov. Kim Reynolds, but her approval is no sure thing. Although Reynolds made sports betting a talking point on the campaign trail, she recently indicated she’ll consider the lukewarm public response when weighing the decision.

Incidentally, this bill would also legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports in Iowa.

Montana sports betting twice?

There are actually two sports betting bills at the finish line in Montana, one administered by the lottery (H 725) and the other via local taverns (S 330).

We wrote about them last week, so we’ll keep this week’s summary brief. The updated version of the story by Matt Kredell has the full rundown on the competing (complementary?) models.

In short, both bills have completed the legislative process and both now await a signature from the chief executive. Sources on the ground think Gov. Steve Bullock prefers the lottery model but will sign both into law.

Florida coming to the table?

There’s only one state in the Southeast yet to enter the ring, and it’s the biggest one in the region. A constitutional amendment restricts the possible paths to legal sports betting in Florida, but recent reporting indicates that an effort is afoot.

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis held closed-door meetings with gaming lobbyists and stakeholders, including the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The tribe holds exclusive rights to offer most forms of gambling in the Sunshine State, making it the primary gatekeeper for legal sports betting.

According to the News Service of Florida, a proposed 31-year agreement would allow the Seminole to administer sports betting at casinos, horse racing tracks, and sports stadiums. Although such an expansion would require a new compact, it’s likely the only way to skirt the 2018 referendum.

Nothing tangible has materialized yet, however, and sports betting doesn’t seem to be an immediate legislative priority. Session is scheduled to end when this work week does on May 3.

Two key sports betting hearings

Last week turned out to be a fairly busy one for sports betting bills, including a pair of important hearings in the middle of the country. Both featured states that are medium-high on the list of candidates to get something done in 2019.

Illinois is large, complex

The conversation in Illinois has matured over the course of the last year, but the status of sports betting legislation remains complicated.

Last week in the House, the Sales, Amusement & Other Taxes Subcommittee conducted an informational hearing on the subject. Stakeholders from all corners of the industry appeared to offer testimony in Springfield, each working to shape the final language of the IL sports betting bill.

H 3308 is just a shell for now, a vehicle waiting to be loaded with the fruitage of these committee proceedings. Rep. Mike Zalewski offered four distinct amendments to the bill he sponsors, allowing his colleagues to choose their own adventure going forward.

The proposed licensing fee and the specifics of mobile wagering were among the key topics of Thursday’s hearing, which did not yield a vote. Lawmakers have until May 31 to iron out the details before they adjourn for the summer.

Tennessee is online-only, angry

Companion online sports betting bills in Tennessee are winding their way toward the governor’s desk, too. There has been a lot of activity on H 1 and S 16 in recent weeks — and plenty of contentious debate.

This week was no exception, as the House version came up for consideration before the full chamber on Wednesday. Racial overtones and forced parallels between drugs and gambling tainted the hearing, which culminated in a 58-37 vote in favor of passage.

Unlike the bills in other central states, this one is not particularly attractive.

Each license to offer TN sports betting would cost $750,000 annually, and revenue would be taxed at a minimum rate of 20%. The bill also mandates the use of official data, which would represent an unwelcome first for US sports betting.

Meanwhile, the Senate bill is also on the move. Having cleared committee last week, it’s assigned to the floor calendar for this upcoming Tuesday. There is no hard deadline for Tennessee legislation this year, but lawmakers intend to adjourn imminently.

Elsewhere in the US

We should probably have a full section about Colorado, but things are happening too quickly for the story to have developed. The House passed a CO sports betting bill (H 1327) less than a week after introduction, sending it to the Senate for consideration. The bill would only move sports betting to the ballot for voter approval.

Louisiana deserves a quick mention, too. The LA sports betting bill (S 153) cleared committee in the Senate last week and moved to the floor for a vote.

This week in sports betting bills

As of right now, the calendar for the upcoming week is sparse.

A New Hampshire gambling bill (S 310) has a date with House Ways and Means on Tuesday, but we don’t expect it to go well. The last one sure didn’t.

There will be plenty to monitor elsewhere, though, with several of those aforementioned bills approaching their goal.

As always, keep an eye on our map of sports betting bills for movement, and follow @LSPReport for real-time updates on Twitter throughout the week. Have a happy Monday, 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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