Over the past four years since the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA, a flurry of states legalized sports betting. For the 14 states that remain without any legal sports betting, it figures that passage is not going to be easy.
These stragglers have each faced some significant hurdles to passing sports betting legislation. Such obstacles don’t just suddenly disappear, either.
So 2023 is likely to be a slow year in sports betting legalization and online casino efforts. But there are a couple states that PlayUSA thinks could reach the finish line.
States most likely to legalize sports betting in 2023
Rarely does the legislature call a bill for a vote only to have it fail. That happened with sports betting last year in the North Carolina House. One representative changed his vote and the bill failed. It would have still needed to go back to the Senate and a conference committee, but when both chambers pass a bill it usually gets worked out.
Rep. Jason Saine will soon reintroduce a sports betting bill for 2023, and it shouldn’t be too hard to find a single additional vote for passage, right? Well, there’s no guarantee in North Carolina, where the near-passage seemed to generate backlash from the religious right. The Senate, which barely approved last year’s bill, could end up being the harder push this session. But North Carolina already allows sports wagering at two tribal casinos, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians supports expanding to commercial and online sports betting.
The Minnesota House passed sports betting legislation last session. Minnesota Senators asked the state’s Indian tribes and horse racetracks to reach a compromise on how to proceed with sports betting at the end of last session. A few legislators told PlayUSA that some tribes and one track did float a potential deal in the final days to give tribes exclusivity over sports betting while tracks got expanded table games. But sources indicate that Senate author Roger Chamberlain wouldn’t accept any deal that gave tribes exclusivity.
The momentum from last year isn’t necessarily carrying over. Chamberlain wasn’t re-elected but that deal isn’t on the table as the new session begins. Rep. Zack Stephenson’s coming bill will be a starting point with what tribes in the state want from sports betting legislation. The Senate still wants horse racetracks involved. And a wildcard for this year is that Canterbury Park is now free to join the negotiations after sitting out last year as part of a marketing agreement with a tribe.
States seriously considering sports betting legislation
Texas professional sports teams and national sportsbook operators joined together in 2021 to push for sports betting legislation. That went nowhere with opposition from Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The legislature didn’t meet in 2022, as the Texas legislature only meets in odd years.
Entering 2023, there is reason for optimism in Texas. The Sports Betting Alliance added former Gov. Rick Perry as a spokesperson, influential team owners are speaking out and lobbying money flowing freely. But Abbott and Patrick remain as potential obstacles.
With the money being thrown around in Texas, big moves can happen behind the scenes. There’s a scenario where brick-and-mortar casino legislation could carry sports wagering across the goal line as well. But any passage would be a proposed constitutional amendment that would need to go in front of voters in November 2024. Constitutional amendments need to reach a high threshold of two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber, too.
The Senate passed a Georgia sports betting bill and constitutional amendment resolution in 2021. That passage carried over to the second year of the two-year session in 2022. The House moved the bills through committee at the end of last year but didn’t call them for a floor vote after hearing objections from religious organizations.
Rep. Ron Stephens plans to file sports betting legislation next week. Senators appear content to sit back and see if the House sends legislation their way this time. Stephens tried to include casinos and parimutuel wagering with sports betting in a catch-all constitutional amendment last year in committee. Sen. Bill Cowsert told PlayUSA that a standalone sports betting constitutional amendment would fair better in the Senate. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote from each chamber before going in front of state voters in November 2024.
Missouri is a veteran at this, in its sixth year of considering sports betting legislation. But that doesn’t mean it’s any closer to passage. The intertwining of sports betting with video lottery terminal regulation remains. A majority of Missouri lawmakers support legalizing sports wagering but not video lottery terminals. Sen. Denny Hoskins, the longest-serving Senator in the state, refuses to let a standalone sports betting bill pass without video lottery terminals. He has filibustered such efforts the past two years and told PlayUSA that he will do so again in 2023. Missouri casinos won’t budget on opposing video lottery terminals and Hoskins won’t budge on handling the two gaming issues together. So it appears the stalemate will continue.
The Kentucky House passed sports betting legislation for the first time last year. The Senate didn’t call it for a vote, despite support from Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer. House champion Rep. Adam Koenig lost his re-election campaign, but Rep. Michael Meredith is taking over and tells PlayUSA that he will soon introduce legislation that he hopes will be more amenable to the Senate. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear wants the legislature to put a sports betting bill on his desk. But Senate President Robert Stivers and a conservative Senate Republican caucus are impediments.
Indian tribes in North Dakota already are allowed to offer sports betting at tribal casinos. The North Dakota House wasted no time passing a proposed constitutional amendment from Rep. Greg Stemen this month. If the Senate approves the bill, it would go in front of voters in November 2024.
Gov. Kevin Stitt wants legal sports betting through Oklahoma’s Indian tribes. Rep. Ken Luttrell has prefiled HB 1027 to authorize retail and online sports betting through the tribes. The session begins Feb. 6. But animosity between tribes and the governor over other issues likely will derail any effort.
Other states with sports betting bills
Other states considering sports betting legislation in 2023 but unlikely to legalize include South Carolina, Vermont, Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi (expanding online).
In California, there could be sports betting discussions in the legislature and tribal and/or commercial operators are likely to file initiatives late in the summer. But any proposal would have to go in front of voters in November 2024.
States most likely to legalize online casino in 2023
There are none.
Back in 2020 when brick-and-mortar casinos were closed by the pandemic, New Jersey and Pennsylvania continued to bring in gaming dollars from legal online casino. It figured that other states would follow in legalizing online casino platforms to fortify their industries.
But with the world getting back to normal, states still flush with federal cash from the pandemic and a backlash from the heavy lobbying efforts for sports betting, online casino efforts haven’t yet taken off at statehouses. It doesn’t appear any states have momentum to pass legislation this year.
States seriously considering online casino legislation
Indiana was at the forefront of the new wave of online casino legalization efforts coming from the pandemic but has yet to make any progress.
Rep. Ethan Manning filed HB 1536 to legalize online casino play in Indiana this session. Manning chairs the House Public Policy Committee where the bill will start. The legislation has a Senate champion in Sen. Jon Ford. However, a spokesperson for Senate President Rodric Bray has said he didn’t anticipate the Senate moving an online gambling bill this session. If the House passes the legislation, that will be good progress.
Sen. Joe Addabbo and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow are expected to refile online casino legislation next week. Although it’s unlikely to pass this year, there’s reason to believe New York could legalize online casinos soon. The legalization of online sports betting has been a great success in The Empire State. No longer can New Yorkers complain that sports betting revenue is going out of state. But that same argument can now be used for online casino apps. Surrounding states Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all offer them. The pressure to legalize online casino is there but movement in 2024 could be a better bet.
Other states likely to have online casino bills
In Iowa, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann filed an online casino bill last session. He might refile the bill. But Iowa casinos aren’t unanimously behind the idea and the Iowa Gaming Association executive director tells PlayUSA that there won’t be serious consideration from the legislature this year.
Sen. Cristina Castro plans to refile an online casino bill in Illinois. But video lottery terminal operators in the state oppose online casino and the state has a budget surplus of more than $1 billion. It’s going to take time to do online casino legislation in Illinois.
Maryland just launched sports betting in November. Now the state will consider online casino for the first time. Sens. Ron Watson and Nancy King introduced SB 267 to authorize online casino for the state’s six video lottery facilities. Lawmakers would need to approve the bill at a 60% level to put the issue in front of Maryland voters in November 2024.