Momentum building as more states legalize sports betting
Legal Sports Report

Who’s Got Next? Five States That Could Legalize Sports Betting In 2020

sports betting

It was a big year for sports betting in 2019 as nine states legalized the activity, bringing the total of states with legal sports betting to 20.

As neighboring states post increasing sports betting revenue, pressure builds for lawmakers to provide a regulated environment to bet on sports and capture money that could be put toward education or other programs.

By the end of this year, more than half of the US states could have sports wagering laws on the books. This week, American Gaming Association president and CEO Bill Miller said there could be as many as 30 US jurisdictions with legal sports betting at this time next year.

Counting Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, that would mean an additional eight states are coming on board this year. It’s challenging but possible.

For now, Legal Sports Report is eyeing these five states in 2020:

Kentucky

Sometimes governors say they support the regulation of sports betting in their annual state addresses. For a governor to endorse specific sports betting legislation so early in the year is unexpected.

But Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has a history of pushing for the legalization of sports betting during his campaign and as the state’s attorney general.

He came out strongly in favor of H 137 in his State of the Commonwealth address: “Rep. Adam Koenig has filed a sports betting bill. I fully support it, and we should pass it.” The camera flashed to Koenig, and even he appeared surprised.

The next day, Koenig advanced his bill to legalize sports betting for Kentucky’s racetracks, motorsports raceway and online. It would also legalize online poker and daily fantasy sports.

He said support is there in the House to pass the bill in short order, and the governor is eager to put his signature on it. That just leaves the Senate, which Koenig believes “isn’t there yet” on his bill, “but I don’t think they’re too far away.”

Ohio

Few states have spent more time working on crafting a bill than Ohio. H 194 received eight committee hearings, while S 111 got one.

It wasn’t all for nothing, as the sports betting legislation carried over to the second year of the two-year session in the Buckeye State.

Rep. Dave Greenspan tells LSR that his bill will advance through the committee and the House in short order.

However, it will then face a difficult negotiation in the Senate. Greenspan contends that 90% of the language of the bills is the same, but a big difference remains in what agency will oversee the activity.

A spokesman for the Ohio governor told LSR that he would rather see the legislature get sports betting regulation right than see special interests put together a ballot initiative.

The Ohio session goes to the end of the year, giving lawmakers plenty of time to figure it all out. Adding motivation, it’s likely every state bordering Ohio will have legal sports betting this year.

Connecticut

Sports betting legalization seemed far from becoming a reality in Connecticut last year.

The legislative effort focused on comprehensive gambling expansion, including sports betting, online gambling, and allowing commercial casino interests to be considered for a casino license. That had no chance in a state where gambling has been controlled by two Indian tribes for nearly 30 years.

Behind the scenes, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes were negotiating with new Gov. Ned Lamont. Those discussions broke down, resulting in Sen. Cathy Osten pushing for the ideal tribal bill to come up in a special session. Her colleagues balked.

But then the Hartford Courant released emails showing that discussions between the governor and tribal leaders were much closer than expected.

Lamont seems willing to punt on a comprehensive solution in order to get CT sports betting done this year, particularly if the tribes make concessions to the state on an online lottery.

It all bodes well the Constitution State to add sports betting. The legislative session, which begins next week, ends May 6.

Missouri

There is a lot of interest in legalizing sports betting in the Show-Me State. Legislators got a head-start on the session by holding a special committee on the topic in October.

In the opening month of the session, lawmakers have introduced six sports betting bills. The lack of consensus could be the reason for pause, but the enthusiasm portends well.

One bill already made the House floor, as Rep. Dan Shaul’s H 2088 advanced through the Special Committee on Government Oversight on Tuesday. The state’s legislative session runs until May 15.

Maryland

Legislative support appears to be there for Maryland to legalize sports betting, and lawmakers are wasting no time.

There are two sets of companion bills in the legislature, and they got a Senate hearing Wednesday with a House hearing coming next week.

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is lobbying legislators to allow sports betting at the team’s stadium.

Ultimately, though, sports betting in Maryland will come down to the voters. Adding new types of gambling in the state requires a constitutional amendment by referendum.

Before breaking on April 6, the Maryland Legislature will likely put a sports betting referendum on the November ballot. Referendums can only happen in even years, providing urgency for lawmakers to move.

Like many of the other states on this list, there’s also pressure for Maryland to join its neighbors and not get left behind. Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware have sports betting, while Washington, DC is coming soon.

Matthew Kredell
- Matthew started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, where he covered the NFL, Kobe-Shaq three-peat, Pete Carroll’s USC football teams, USC basketball, pro tennis, Kings hockey and fulfilled his childhood dream of sitting in the Dodgers’ dugout. His reporting on efforts to legalize sports betting began in 2010, when Playboy Magazine flew him to Prague to hang out with online sportsbook pioneer Calvin Ayre and show how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting expansion of regulated sports betting across the country. A USC journalism alum, Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.
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