Four States That Missed Out On Legalizing Sports Betting In 2021

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on July 9, 2021 - Last Updated on July 8, 2021

Since the fall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, many, many states have been trying to pass laws to govern legal, regulated sports betting. But much like gambling, each year there are winners and losers.

Some states get it; they know sports betting is an amenity; it’s part of a bigger picture. Those who understand this are winners. The losers are states with failed bills that attempted to wring sports betting for every last cent.

With the legislative season coming to an end, let’s examine four states that came up short – and why.

States that didn’t legalize sports betting in 2021

Texas

Easily the most-watched state of the legislative season, the Lone Star State made a sizable effort to legalize sports betting in 2021.

Some of the power moves include:

However, none of these were able to break the state’s conservative vice grip on gambling and persuade political tacticians like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who said sports betting would “not see the light of day.”

Ultimately TX sports betting never gained enough support within the state legislature and was shut down for the year. However, regardless of the 2021 outcome, momentum is present, and there is a possibility that lawmakers can capitalize on it and pick up where they left off in 2023.

Missouri

Missouri sports betting saw its hopes vanish after a bill failed to advance through the state Senate in early May.

Sen. Denny Hoskins authored a bill that would have allowed for retail and online sports betting at state casinos, but it failed to gain momentum in 2021.

One of the reasons Hoskins’ bill failed was due to language that would have also legalized video lottery terminals. These gaming machines were opposed by the casino industry and have been an ongoing source of debate from state lawmakers.

The failure in Missouri is another example of the difficulties of passing sports betting legislation when it’s attached to other forms of gaming.

Kentucky

Lawmakers have attempted several times to pass sports betting in Kentucky.

You would think that in a state with such a rich history of horse racing and college basketball, betting on sports would be a no-brainer. But for some odd reason, lawmakers can never get it done.

A major obstacle other than the short legislative session (30-days) is the GOP-controlled legislature which has opposed the expansion of gambling for many years. But that didn’t stop Rep. Adam Koenig from introducing a bill to legalize sports betting in 2021.

Even the support of Gov. Andy Beshear wasn’t enough. Simply put, the effects of COVID-19 took priority, and the state just ran out of time.

Until lawmakers can get on the same page, residents will have to head to neighboring states – Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia – to get their sports betting fix.

Alabama

Our last state narrowly missing the cut this year is Alabama.

The ambitious plan would have legalized Alabama sports betting and six new casinos, and a state lottery. The expanded gambling package even had the support of Gov. Kay Ivey. However, there were not enough House votes for Speaker Mac McCutcheon to call the bill to the floor.

Another issue was Democratic lawmakers wanting specific language in the bill that diverted profits from gambling to expand Medicaid, which Republicans opposed.

By the last day of the session, sports betting and other forms of gambling were on a sinking ship.

Odds are lawmakers will take another comprehensive look at gambling in 2022 with the hopes of legalization the following year.

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The 2022 sports betting outlook

There is no magic crystal ball. There is no definitive answer as to when sports betting will arrive in states that haven’t passed it already. Lawmakers are the key holders and will do what’s in the best interest of their respective states.

If odds had to be placed today, at least two states – Missouri and Alabama – have the best shot at legalization in 2022.

Texas has time working against it; lawmakers only meet every other year. Kentucky remains a relic of the old ways. It’s a place where GOP lawmakers need convincing that neighboring states are siphoning off tax dollars.

In the end, states will legalize when they choose because sports betting isn’t going away anytime soon.

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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago and Washington, D.C., writing about politics, financial markets, and sports betting. He graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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