Hello, ladies and gents, and welcome back to your regularly scheduled tour of the US sports betting landscape.
It’s been too long since we last spun our lasso in the air, so we figured we’d toss out a surprise Tuesday edition for you. Considering what has transpired in recent weeks, an unusual maneuver like this only seems fitting.
Several state legislatures have recently reached their adjournment deadlines, giving us a fair picture of what to expect by the end of the year. Here’s the situation for sports betting legislation right now:
- States with regulated sports betting: 8
- Jurisdictions pending launch: 9
- States with bills on file: 38
- Number of bills on file: 161
Astute readers may notice that the numbers on the board have changed a bit since the last time we counted. Two additional states are now in the “pending launch” category, including the largest market in the hungry Midwest.
This piece pairs well with the latest episode of the LSR Podcast, if you’re so inclined to listen while you read.
Illinois sports betting gets there
An effort to legalize sports betting in Illinois came together during the final hours of session last weekend. Lawmakers actually needed two extra days of work to pass the enabling language within a huge funding package for vertical infrastructure.
The framework for IL sports betting creates multiple implementations — both in-person and online — via casinos, tracks, sports venues, and lottery retailers. An 18-month waiting period for online-only platforms represents an attempt to appease casino interests, the first in a long list of suboptimal provisions.
The law prohibits all wagering on in-state collegiate athletics, for example, while also empowering teams and leagues to impose further restrictions. What’s more, language requiring the use of official league data represents an unwelcome extension of a bad precedent established recently in Tennessee.
Although lawmakers softened the final tax rate down to 15%, that’s still one of the highest rates in the country. And licenses still cost up to $20 million for online operators.
What we’re trying to say is that it’s not the best sports betting law we’ve ever seen.
It is law, though, with the last-minute push allowing the Prairie State to join Indiana and Iowa at the finish line. Of the states with regulated sports betting today, only Pennsylvania is (just barely) more populous than Illinois.
Down the stretch comes New York sports betting
Regulators in New York approved the rules for retail sports betting on Monday, which is generating far less buzz than it should. But sportsbooks are coming.
The focus is on Albany, where lawmakers only have a week left authorize online sports betting under a new piece of legislation. Last week, the sponsors filed new versions of their matching bill in each chamber.
Sen. Joseph Addabbo and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow are the state’s two biggest optimists and the chief proponents of expanded NY sports betting. While most of their framework is unchanged, the new language adds tracks, OTBs and sports venues to the list of eligible licensees. It also includes the integrity fee nobody wants and the official data requirement that might not even be legal.
The session is scheduled to end on June 19, and opposition within the Assembly and the governor’s office remain the most significant hurdles.
New reporting from the Wall Street Journal indicates that lawmakers may lump sports betting into a “big ugly” bill alongside a number of other pivotal issues, including climate change, rent control and marijuana. Such a calculated gamble might provide the only opportunity for passage this year.
But then there was this:
Then, later in the day, the Senate sponsor promised a vote in his chamber. So, right now, who knows what will happen in NY.
Louisiana sports betting doesn’t happen
Like Illinois, sports betting came right down to the wire in Louisiana. Unfortunately for bettors, though, it went the other way in the Pelican State.
The proposal from Sen. Danny Martiny looked promising for a while, an effort to bring on-site sports gambling to the casinos and tracks in the state. As was the case with daily fantasy sports last year, voters would need to approve LA sports betting at the ballot box in each of the eligible parishes.
After clearing the Senate with ease, the bill ran into a world of trouble in the House Appropriations committee. Members inserted two poison-pill amendments — one related to video poker parlors and another mandating the use of official league data — then voted not to advance it to the floor.
The sponsor continued to work the angles as the last few days of session ticked away, hoping to hitch his language to another vehicle. His last-minute attempt to load gambling provisions into the DFS tax mechanism went awry, though, sinking sports betting and possibly even fantasy sports.
Martiny will term out of office in 2020, and he used his final few minutes on the floor to express his frustration with the process.
Elsewhere in sports betting
The legislative calendar is growing mercifully quiet these days, though there is still some unfinished business related to sports betting in a few states.
Colorado definitely deserves mention, as voters will have the chance to decide on sports betting in their state this fall. Lawmakers recently passed a CO sports betting bill, though the ridiculous phrasing for the ballot question dampens its prospects.
Oregon also gets a shoutout for moving itself up onto the “legal pending launch” line this week. The state lottery is preparing to launch an OR sports betting product powered by SBTech, with a rollout possible before football season.
Other candidates for legal sports betting
Beyond those two, these states remain in contention to legalize sports betting this year:
- Massachusetts: After two long days of hearings, lawmakers are hammering out the specifics for MA sports betting. The conversation is still in its formative stages, but stakeholders and policymakers have all year to draft an agreeable framework.
- Michigan: We’re still waiting for an MI sports betting bill to appear, but Rep. Brandt Iden says it’s coming soon. Considering state officials are not yet on board with the sponsor’s other gambling bills, this one looks like a pick’em for 2019.
- New Hampshire: The fate of NH sports betting will be decided during its final two steps this week. House Ways and Means will consider H 480 on Wednesday before the full chamber casts a Thursday vote on concurrence.
- Ohio: Two competing bills are working to shape the structure of OH sports betting — one via the lottery and the other via casinos. Neither has moved in more than two months, but a recent committee hearing may provide the spark needed to reignite progress.
Barring any big surprises, that’s pretty much the list.
Efforts in Connecticut, on the other hand, are officially dead for the second consecutive year. It’s hard to imagine CT sports betting becoming legal until the relationship between the state and the tribes smooths over a bit.
Map of legal US sports betting
Green = legal Yellow = pending launch