After a long December, there’s little reason to believe this year will be better than the last for online casinos and sports betting legislative efforts.
Few states enter 2024 with the momentum it takes to pass gaming legislation in a presidential election year. Gaming attorney Jeff Ifrah told PlayUSA:
“Legislators typically don’t want to take up gambling issues in a presidential election year, so we’re very likely not going to see any new states legalize iGaming in 2024. We’ll see legislation proposed and we may see some ballot measures, which will probably lead to some states coming on board in 2025.”
For most states, 2024 will be a set-up year for gambling legislation. But a few states could pass gaming expansion bills if everything goes right.
Here is PlayUSA’s gambling legislation preview with chances to legalize online casinos and online sports betting in each state expected to consider bills.
Impact of presidential election on gambling legislation
Lawmakers tend to shy away from controversial issues ahead of a presidential election, particularly in Bible Belt states.
But presidential elections can provide an opportunity for gambling measures on the ballot, which could be enticing to several states this year. Presidential elections bring out younger voters more likely to support online gambling. But ballot measures can also get less attention as the presidential race dominates discussion.
In 2020, South Dakota, Maryland and Louisiana passed ballot measures to legalize sports betting. Louisiana had passed legislation earlier in the year, while Maryland and South Dakota followed up with implementation bills the next year.
Virginia also legalized sports betting in 2020, while Washington passed a bill limited to in-person sports betting at tribal casinos. Industry lobbyist Bill Pascrell III told PlayUSA:
“Presidential election years often are times that politicians are not overly enthusiastic about these types of issues and will push them off to another year. But I think, if handled properly, it can be overcome. At the end of the day, I would argue the job creation, tax revenue and, most importantly in my opinion, the issue of the black market and responsible gaming should be a mover.”
2024 online casino legalization efforts
Online casino legalization efforts haven’t moved as quickly as sports betting. Only six states have online casinos:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
Rhode Island is expected to launch iGaming in March. Nevada has online poker.
As they run out of federal pandemic funds, more states will take a serious look at internet gaming. But PlayUSA doesn’t expect any state to legalize online casinos in 2024.
Online casino bills aren’t entering the year with momentum. And it turns out two states thought to be in the best position to legalize iGaming this year won’t even introduce bills.
Rhode Island, a state that wasn’t even mentioned in PlayUSA’s legislative preview ahead of the last session, came out of nowhere to legalize online casino in 2023. So there’s always hope for a new contender to emerge.
States with a chance of passing online casino legislation in 2024
Maryland – chance to legalize in 2024: 30%
Maryland voters approved sports betting during the last presidential election. Legislators could put a referendum on the ballot giving the voters the opportunity to approve online casinos this November. Sen. Ron Watson introduced an online casino bills last year and got a committee hearing.
Legislative leadership took the proposals seriously, ordering an iGaming study.
Released in November and conducted by the Innovation Group, the study projected $904.9 million in gross gaming revenue from internet gaming. Watson said he would increase the tax rate from 15% to 45% in the 2024 legislation, potentially producing more than $400 million annually for the state.
But the Innovation Group did warn of the potential of iGaming cannibalizing the brick-and-mortar market, costing casinos $218 million annually. Such cannibalization hasn’t been seen in other states. However, some Maryland casino operators, and according to a story by The Daily Record, unions are concerned too.
Strengthening efforts for 2024, Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, the House Ways and Means Committee Chair, will sponsor companion bills in the House.
Identifying how to handle minority participation is key to Maryland’s online casino passage. Maryland has the largest legislative black caucus in the nation and Watson is a member.
Complicating matters, Watson and his colleagues aren’t happy with the system in place for minority-owned businesses in sports betting. It could take longer than the three-month 2024 legislative session to find a more inclusive path forward for online casinos.
New York – chance to legalize in 2024: 25%
Online casino legislation didn’t get any real consideration in New York last year, but there’s momentum entering this session. The Empire State needs revenue to fill a budget deficit.
Online New York sports betting has been a big success, generating more than $700 million in annual tax revenue. Neighboring New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut already offer online casinos.
According to coverage by City & State New York, Sen. Joe Addabbo and Asm. Gary Pretlow make a good argument for producing another billion in state revenue by legalizing and regulating online casinos and internet lottery. They hope to get the gaming expansions in the state budget, which has an April 1 deadline.
Addabbo believes he has a solution to address one of the biggest impediments to passage, opposition from the Hotel & Gaming Trades Council, by using iGaming revenue for a $25 million annual fund for casino workers.
But the New York State Gaming Commission remains preoccupied with choosing downstate casino licensees, and there’s a feeling that the state wants to complete one big gaming issue before moving on to another.
Whether or not online casino legislation has a real shot this year should be known early. Gov. Kathy Hochul must file the executive budget by Jan. 16. Get in the executive budget and online casino chances shoot higher.
Something would have to change for Illinois to pass online casinos
Chance to legalize in 2024: 10%
Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. and Sen. Cristina Castro have filed online casino bills in Illinois in past years. But with Illinois, flush with cash and opposition from the state’s lucrative video gaming terminal (VGT) market, the effort to pass iGaming hasn’t started.
Illinois projects budget deficits on the horizon, which should increase attention on online Casinos. But those discussions could wait another year before revenue needs become pressing. Legislative leaders are open to internet gambling, according to sources.
When the time comes for a real push to pass online casinos, industry sources don’t believe VGT opposition is insurmountable. It’s up to lawmakers to find a compromise to make all parties happy.
A few states are laying the groundwork for online casinos
Maine – chance to legalize in 2024: 5%
Maine gave its Indian tribes exclusivity over online sports betting in 2022. Now tribes want exclusivity over online casinos as well.
Rep. Laura Supica’s LD 1777 carried over from last year, and the Senate President and House Speaker are co-sponsors. Lawmakers wasted no time hearing the bill the second day of the legislative session.
But the chairman of the Maine Gambling Control Board wants the state’s two commercial casinos included. And Gov. Janet Mills has been slow to move on gaming expansions in the past, vetoing a prior sports betting bill before negotiating the deal with tribes.
Louisiana – chance to legalize in 2024: 5%
Louisiana has a lot of positives for iGaming legalization. It’s a progressive gaming state with respected gaming regulators.
The land-based casino industry is aligned on pushing for online casinos, with Caesars leading the way. While Louisiana didn’t consider online casino legislation last year, industry sources expect a bill this year.
But a portion of the state is resistant to gaming expansion. Eight of 64 parishes are geofenced out of online sports betting due to local voter opposition.
Louisiana could be a dark horse candidate to be the state to come out of nowhere to pass legislation, but it’s more likely that discussions get more serious in 2025.
Ohio – chance to legalize in 2024: 0%
There’s no online casino legislation currently in the works in Ohio. But the Buckeye State will hold special committee hearings on gaming this year, beginning discussions on iGaming and iLottery to potentially set up a bill filing in 2025.
Neighboring Michigan and Pennsylvania are online casino success stories, and Ohio sports betting has exceeded revenue projections. So Ohio figures to expand its online gaming offerings sooner rather than later.
But the governor and legislature slapped operators on the wrist at the end of last session by doubling the sports betting tax rate, reportedly out of displeasure with marketing and advertising missteps. The legislature might need some time to embrace further online gaming expansions.
Iowa – chance to legalize in 2024: 0%
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann has introduced online casino legislation every year since 2021. But he says it won’t pass until land-based casinos are unanimous in their support.
Iowa Gaming Association President Wes Ehrecke tells PlayUSA that he doesn’t expect a bill to advance because the industry hasn’t reached a unified position. The sports betting scandal involving collegiate players in Iowa, as reported on by LSR, also hinders legislative appetite for gaming expansion.
Colorado – chance to legalize in 2024: 0%
In July at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States meeting in Denver, Mark Ferrandino, recently appointed as director of the Office of State Planning and Budget, stoked the fires by saying talks were underway between industry stakeholders and lawmakers about legalizing online casinos in Colorado.
It’s still unclear if those talks will lead to a bill introduced in 2024. Like with sports betting, any effort to legalize online casinos in Colorado will require voter approval.
A wild card: North Carolina – chance to legalize in 2024: 0%
When Senate leadership made a strong push for legalizing casinos and VGTs at the end of last session, online operators asked for iGaming too. That could happen again in 2024.
But this is a state with a strong Bible Belt presence where it was hard enough to pass sports betting, which has yet to launch. It’s likely going to take time for North Carolina lawmakers to embrace online casinos.
Online casinos are off the table in two states
Indiana – chance to legalize in 2024: 0%
Indiana was long expected to lead the charge of states legalizing online casinos coming out of the pandemic. Although bills were considered since 2021, they didn’t progress.
Lawmakers planned a more expansive gambling bill around internet gaming for 2024. However, legislative leaders said they would not consider gaming bills in 2024 after it was discovered a former Indiana lawmaker accepted a bribe from a previous Indiana casino company related to the last major gaming bill the Indiana legislature passed in 2019.
New Hampshire – chance to legalize in 2024: 0%
New Hampshire looked like the state with the most momentum to pass online casino legislation. The Senate passed Sen. Tim Lang’s iGaming bill last session.
The House rejected the bill, citing concerns from the state’s charitable casino industry. Lang said in July that charitable casinos came to him ready to support passage in 2024.
However, because the House used a procedural motion called “indefinite postponement” in rejecting the last iteration, Lang told PlayUSA that he is barred from bringing the topic back up in 2024. He plans to try again in 2025.
2024 sports betting legalization efforts
PlayUSA is confident in only one state legalizing sports betting in 2024. But the slow year is for very different reasons than online casino.
Sports betting legalization efforts have been so successful since the US Supreme Court overturned the Profesional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018 that few remain.
In all, 38 states and Washington DC have legalized sports betting in some form, with 26 states approving online sports betting. In 2023, Kentucky, North Carolina and Vermont were added to that list.
The remaining states haven’t legalized it for a reason. They all have faced substantial challenges or obstacles to legalization.
Minnesota has a strong chance of passing online sports betting
Chance to legalize in 2024: 85%
Minnesota came close to legalizing sports betting in the last two sessions, and now legislators in both chambers are prioritizing the issue like never before. House Speaker Melissa Hortman said at the end of the last session that sports betting legislation was left undone but she expected to finish it next year.
It will likely take bipartisan support to pass a sports betting bill, requiring an agreement between Indian tribes and horse racetracks. The stakeholders appeared close to reaching a compromise at the end of last session, with tribes getting sports betting exclusivity and sharing a percentage of revenue with racetracks.
Working out the percentage and restrictions around the revenue going to tracks is likely all that is needed to facilitate Minnesota sports betting passage. But sources tell PlayUSA there has been no progress in the discussions between tribes and tracks since the end of last session. They still have time to reach a compromise before the legislative session begins Feb. 12.
Legislation worked on by Rep. Zack Stephenson (HF 2000) and Sen. Matt Klein (SF 1949) carries over into 2024. But lawmakers will have a short, three-month session to get sports betting to the finish line.
Two states working toward online sports betting passage
Mississippi – chance to legalize in 2024: 50%
Mississippi legalized sports betting on casino properties in 2018.
The state held a Mobile Online Sports Betting Task Force in the fall to produce a report with recommendations for the legislature. The report could set the stage for online Mississippi sports betting legalization in 2024.
Rep. Casey Eure said he would introduce a bill. However, task force meetings revealed that not all Mississippi casinos support online expansion. Some are concerned about the possibility of cannibalization.
Georgia – chance to legalize in 2024: 40%
Georgia sports betting legalization was live entering the final day of the 2023 legislative session. But that doesn’t convey how messy the effort got.
This will be the sixth year Georgia has considered sports betting legislation, and there still isn’t a clear direction. Some want to put a constitutional amendment legalizing sports betting on the November ballot as a standalone question.
Sen. Brandon Beach said he would file a bill including brick-and-mortar casinos and pari-mutuel horse betting in the ballot question on sports betting. Many in the industry still push for running sports betting through the lottery to avoid the ballot risk.
There’s plenty of interest in legalizing sports betting in Georgia. Lawmakers will file multiple bills. Frustration appears to be building among legislators that it has taken this long, which could finally push a bill to the finish line.
But Georgia sports betting tends to get caught up in party politics by the end of sessions, and the Donald Trump trial beginning in March could complicate any legislative movement, especially in a presidential election year.
Something would have to change for online sports betting passage
Missouri – chance to legalize in 2024: 10%
Never has sports betting dominated discussion in the final days of a legislative session as it did in Missouri in 2023. Fed up with years of sports betting legislation filibusters from Sen. Denny Hoskins and a few other senators, legislative leaders forced the issue and gridlocked the Senate.
Following six years of legislative failure, Missouri sports teams led by the St. Louis Cardinals filed variations of a potential ballot initiative. But proponents haven’t begun collecting signatures.
The initiatives lack support from the casino industry, which doesn’t like the language, particularly the limit to a single skin and allowing untethered licenses. And initial polling isn’t encouraging.
It doesn’t look like there will be anything lucky about year seven of Missouri sports betting legislation. Hoskins, who insists on legalizing video lottery terminals (VLTs) along with sports betting, terms out after this year. He told PlayUSA that he won’t compromise on his way out.
Complicating matters further, Hoskins is running for Secretary of State against one of sports betting’s biggest proponents, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden. Lawmakers and the casino industry are prepared to wait until Hoskins leaves office and see if that clears the way for legislative passage in 2025.
Oklahoma – chance to legalize in 2024: 5%
Disagreement between Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Indian tribes has kept the state from authorizing sports betting in any form.
The Oklahoma House passed HB 1027 last year to allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos. Although the bill failed to make it out of Senate committee, it carried over into 2024. So Oklahoma legislation isn’t starting from scratch.
But Stitt released his own sports betting proposal in January that will make final passage of HB 1027 more difficult. Stitt’s proposal allows commercial entities to offer online sports betting in Oklahoma without tribal partnerships.
Oklahoma tribes want exclusivity over sports betting in the state. Stitt’s proposal only widened the rift between him and Oklahoma’s Indian tribes, which figures to delay sports betting passage another year.
Three states are laying the groundwork for sports betting
Alabama – chance to legalize in 2024: 5%
Three tribal casinos make up the entirety of the gaming industry in Alabama. It doesn’t have commercial casinos or a state lottery.
The legislature considered a bill in 2022 to legalize online sports betting and a state lottery. There’s increasing interest from legislators and the governor, but final passage would require a ballot measure.
A presidential election year isn’t the right time for gambling legislation to break through in a Bible Belt state.
South Carolina – chance to legalize in 2024: 0%
South Carolina has considered sports betting legislation since 2019, and the 2022 bill had bipartisan sponsors. But legislation has made little progress.
Lawmakers have expressed interest in putting the issue in front of voters. But Gov. Henry McMaster opposes sports betting and the Senate president has said there is no chance.
Hawaii – chance to legalize in 2024: 0%
Hawaii is one of two states with no legalized gambling. But that hasn’t stopped the Aloha State from considering seven sports betting bills over the past three years. There’s likely to be another bill and committee discussion in 2024, but Hawaiians have yet to show a real interest in moving forward with sports betting.
Texas takes 2024 off
Chance to legalize in 2024: 0%
Surprisingly, the Texas House passed sports betting legislation in 2023. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick quickly shut down any hopes of passage in the Senate.
Patrick spoke against casino and sports betting legalization again recently. But proponents have plenty of time to work to change the minds of Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott, as the Texas legislature won’t meet again until 2025.