The Week In Sports Betting: Michigan Becomes 20th State To Legalize Sportsbooks

Posted on December 23, 2019

Happy Monday, everyone. The entire team at Legal Sports Report would like to extend their best wishes and happy holidays to all. Yes, even to those that want integrity fees. Nobody’s perfect.

The second-to-last week in December is usually a quiet time for news. This year is clearly an exception, including Monday morning’s news about DraftKings going public.

But let’s recap the biggest stories of last week.

Michigan gifted sports betting, iGaming

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer‘s heart grew three sizes Friday when she turned from sports betting Grinch to giver and officially made Michigan the 20th state with legal sports betting.

Her signature also opened up iGaming including online poker and officially legalized daily fantasy sports. Michigan becomes the 13th state that has authorized statewide online sports betting.

Now all eyes turn toward how fast the state can implement regulations and get sports betting off the ground. The Super Bowl might be a bit ambitious, but March Madness looks like an achievable goal for retail, Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. told LSR.

Hertel didn’t attempt to guess when mobile sports betting might launch.

Pennsylvania breaks $300 million

Pennsylvania sports betting handle jumped to $316.5 million in November, passing $300 million for the first time as the state’s online sports betting market continues to ramp up.

November also marked PA’s one-year sports betting anniversary with another milestone: breaking the $1 billion handle mark.

Two new mobile operators, DraftKings Sportsbook and Kindred’s Unibet, launched in November to help PA hit a new monthly record. But Pennsylvania mostly has FanDuel Sportsbook’s mobile app to thank considering it accounted for 47.3% of the state’s total handle.

Kentucky bill flawed, but has hope

Rep. Adam Koenig prefiled a bill that will legalize online sports betting in Kentucky and, while it isn’t perfect, still has the potential to work out.

BR 364 would give Kentucky’s horse racing tracks and Kentucky Speedway one license each to give to online sports bettors. That makes it seven licenses total with Keeneland and Red Mile sharing a license.

The issue isn’t the proposed tax structure as operators would pay 10.25% of retail revenue and 14.25% online. Nor is it the license costs at $500,000 initially and $50,000 for annual renewal.

The bill loses its appeal due to in-person registration and a betting ban on in-state colleges.

It doesn’t sound like the in-person registration requirement is going anywhere. But Koenig did tell LSR the betting ban on Kentucky’s college teams is being looked at and could be changed.

That should be a huge sigh of relief to any operators eyeing the market. Kentucky has no professional sports teams, meaning the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals are the biggest shows in the state. A scenario where betting on either of them in March Madness is banned would drastically hurt handle. Even worse, it would be seen as a big win for offshore operators.

California tribes angling to sink cardrooms?

According to Kyle Kirkland of the California Gaming Association, California’s gaming tribes don’t just want to keep sports betting out of cardrooms: they want the cardrooms to close up shop.

It wasn’t surprising to see the cardrooms left out of the tribe’s sports betting initiative for 2020 given the testy relationship between the two. The tribes have never appreciated the cardrooms offering player-banked table games like blackjack after the tribes got house-banked game exclusivity nearly two decades ago.

But Kirkland alleges the sports betting initiative, which would grant sports betting to the retail tribal casinos and race tracks, is a “Trojan horse.” Part of the initiative includes changing a section of California’s regulations to let any person or entity aware of a violation to file civil action against a gaming establishment.

That would let the tribes go directly after the cardrooms instead of suing the state.

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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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