2018 could be a big year on the legislative front in the United States when it comes to gaming.
We’re two weeks into the new year, and no less than seven states have introduced legislation to expand gambling within their borders. A number that will only continue to rise in the coming months.
The current crop of bills run the gamut, covering everything from online gaming to traditional lottery.
Three states have introduced online gaming legislation:
- West Virginia (a reintroduced version of a 2017 bill)
- New York (carried over from 2017)
- Michigan (carried over from 2017)
Four states are jumping on the sports betting train:
Two other states are exploring more traditional gaming expansion:
- Kentucky – casinos
- Mississippi – lottery
Here’s a summary of these efforts.
Mississippi takes another shot at a state lottery
State-run lotteries are currently available in 44 states. One of the six holdouts, Mississippi, has a new bill that would see the number of non-lottery states drop to five.
The big question is do these bills have a chance?
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves thinks so, even though he personally opposes the idea, as he told the local press:
“I will tell you that if it got to the floor of the Mississippi Senate, it would pass, and I believe if it got to the floor of the Mississippi House it would pass — in fact the House has passed three or four different versions in the past. I think it’s an issue we will have some debate on this session … I do think it’s something many legislators in both the House and Senate would love to talk about this year.”
Kentucky wants casinos and sports betting
Kentucky is one of only 10 states in the US without a casino industry – tribal or commercial. However, a new bill introduced in the House on Jan. 2, HB 41, seeks to change that.
A second gaming bill, SB 22, aimed at legalizing sports betting, was introduced in the Kentucky Senate.
Sports betting seems to have a chance, as it does in many states across the country. But, based on the rhetoric coming out of the Bluegrass State, the legalization of casino gambling seem like a long shot.
According to the Lexington Herald Leader, the Senate President and the Governor both oppose casinos:
“State Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he does not favor allowing casinos in Kentucky and sees little chance the legislature will approve a casino measure in 2018…And Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has said casino gambling is not going to happen in Kentucky.”
West Virginia eyes sports betting and online gaming
The West Virginia legislature reintroduced a couple pieces of legislation from 2017.
Online gaming’s chances have improved since last year’s rushed effort. In 2017, the bill was introduced just two weeks before the end of the legislative session. This time around the legislature has two months to consider the bill.
Another development that could spur on action in West Virginia was the legalization of online gaming in neighboring Pennsylvania in October. As more of its neighbors become online gaming states, West Virginia might have no choice but to tag along.
Sports betting legislation also appears more promising this time around. In fact, Legal Sports Report’s Eric Ramsey categorized last year’s bill as a positioning effort for 2018.
Online poker bills revived in New York and Michigan
Legislative rules allow Michigan and New York to carry over the online gaming bills the two states were working on in 2017.
Michigan and New York are two of the frontrunners to pass online gaming legislation in 2018, but both of these efforts will face significant challenges.
Sports betting efforts emerge in Indiana and Illinois
Two Midwestern states, Indiana and Illinois, have introduced sports betting bills.
Like other legislative efforts across the country, the bills – S 405 in Indiana and H 4214 in Illinois – would allow sports betting at authorized gaming establishments, but only if federal laws allow it.
That would necessitate a victory by New Jersey in its Supreme Court case, and the answer to that question is unlikely to be known before June.
The only other interesting aspect of the bills is the provision in Indiana’s legislation that requires an “integrity fee” be paid to the professional sports leagues. The fee is one percent of handle (the total amount wagered, not the amount of revenue the book generated), which works out to an additional 20 percent tax based on a five percent margin.