3 States Have Sports Betting Legalization On Their Ballots. But Will They Pass?

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on October 8, 2020 - Last Updated on November 18, 2020

*Updated: November 4, 2020*

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that everything, and I mean everything, can change overnight. This theory also applies to the legalization of sports betting.

Ever since the repeal of PASPA in May 2018, individual states have been given the liberty to decide if sports betting should be legal. New Jersey set the pace, and one by one, states saw themselves introducing bills and passing laws to govern the activity. Needless to say, it’s been a huge boon for the states.

As of today, over a US dozen states have legal sports betting, and it’s expected that many more will follow.

As November elections creep up, here are three states that feature a legal sports betting question on their voting ballots.

Louisiana

The Bayou State has discussed the idea of sports betting ever since 2018. But like the Houston Rockets, they can never get over the hump.

This year, a referendum is finally on the ballot that gives voters the opportunity to decide if sports betting is something they want. Voters will only be voting to approve or deny sports betting in their respective parishes.

The initiative is similar to the daily fantasy sports (DFS) vote in 2018. That year, 47 of the state’s 64 parishes voted to approve DFS contests. Experts anticipate a similar (if not better) outcome for sports betting.

A “yes” vote doesn’t mean people can begin betting. The state legislature would still need to pass a bill enabling legalization and a taxation bill, both to be completed in 2021. Although sports betting isn’t in the state’s immediate future, it does look promising.

Chance of sports betting legalization: HIGH

*Election results: Fifty-five of 64 parishes in Louisiana voted “yes” on legalizing sports betting. Lawmakers will get to work on drafting a bill to govern and regulate the activity, with sports wagering most likely making its debut in 2021.

Maryland

Talk about a state coming so close, only to have everything crash and burn at the last minute. The professional sports equivalent of the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI — that’s Maryland.

Back in March, Del. Nick Mosby led an eleventh-hour rally in Tom Brady-like fashion, which ended with the licensing language being stripped from S 4, a bill to legalize sports betting in Maryland. However, Mosby’s concerns were valid. He and other members of the House Legislative Black Caucus felt the bill didn’t do enough to benefit minority- and women-owned businesses.

But because of this, when election time rolls around, voters will simply be deciding on whether lawmakers should proceed with creating and passing a bill. If voters approve, lawmakers will get back to the drawing board and attempt to craft a new sports betting bill.

Sen. Craig Zucker, the architect behind S 4, indicated that should everything go according to plan, the proper authorities could determine how to conduct sports betting as early as January 2021.

Given the time lawmakers will have to sit down and iron out details, don’t expect any more eleventh-hour roadblocks.

Chance of sports betting legalization: HIGH

*Election results: Residents in Maryland approved the expansion of gaming by a 2-to-1 margin on Election Night. After 66% voted “yes,” lawmakers will return to Annapolis and get to work constructing a new sports betting bill.

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South Dakota

The last state we are keeping tabs on is South Dakota. It may not have the largest population, but the Mount Rushmore State is similar to this year’s San Diego Padres — irrelevant for over 14 years, but now fun to watch.

All jokes aside, South Dakota has a chance to legalize sports betting, but only in the city of Deadwood near the Wyoming border. For this reason, it’s at a disadvantage and low on the list. Regardless, should voters approve sports betting, it could look similar to how it’s done in Washington, D.C., and Delaware.

With limited locations, it would hard to speculate on whether big-name operations like DraftKings Sportsbook or FanDuel Sportsbook would try to enter the state. The bright side is, tribal casinos would be lumped in with Deadwood, giving customers a few more options.

South Dakota is known for its scenery, but perhaps there’s a chance it can also be known as a state that legalized sports betting in 2020.

Chance of sports betting legalization: MEDIUM

*Election results: With 95% of the votes counted, sports betting legalization within the city limits of Deadwood has a commanding lead (58.5–41.5).

Recapping the November activity

Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota will each look to legalize sports betting in ways best suited for their respective states. There is not one generic model that fits every jurisdiction. Case in point: Not all states have online sports betting, only a few.

Louisiana has not discussed the option of online wagering, and South Dakota has all but put the issue to bed. Maryland, on the other hand, with its relative proximity to other states with sports betting, would benefit greatly from mobile wagering.

November will bring numerous political and financial implications. But, harkening back to our original theory, things can change in an instant.

*Check back after the November elections to find out the results for each state.

Photo by Andrey Burmakin / Dreamstime
Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
Written by
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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