As we entrench ourselves in the thick of the legislative season, it is now time to examine which states could legalize sports betting this year.
Much like the NCAA tournament, which kicked off last weekend, this time of year can bring with it great triumph or heart-breaking defeat.
In the spirit of March Madness, let’s break things down bracketology style.
First four in for legal sports betting?
Arizona sports betting has seen a recent surge in the last few months. Thought to have been a long shot, a sports betting bill, HB 2772, passed the House and is now awaiting discussion in the Senate.
There are two main details to iron out before making this a lock.
The first is fixing the number of available tribal sports betting licenses. Right now, at least six tribes will be on the outside looking in. There are 16 tribes in Arizona and only 10 licenses available. This could present friction unless there are six tribes out there that really don’t want sports betting. The second is figuring out if small businesses should be included. This may not be that big an issue, but thus far, only Washington DC has allowed small businesses to operate sports betting.
At one point in time, Connecticut was on the verge of expanding its gambling laws until a host of lawsuits came down and put a stop to everything. One of those laws would have been the introduction of sports betting in Connecticut.
Fast forward to 2021, and Gov. Ned Lamont has deals in place with the Mohegan Indians and Mashantucket Pequot tribes to conduct sports betting. On March 2, Lamont only struck a deal with the Mohegan tribe, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of the Mashantucket Pequot. But now, it appears all have been forgiven.
Is this a lock? Not just yet, but it’s close. These agreements must be finalized by the federal. Additionally, a bill packed full of details must also be passed through the state legislature.
In Maryland, the toughest part is already over. A referendum was passed last year, and voters approved sports betting in Maryland. That was the hard part, winning voter approval.
The things that are proving difficult now are establishing rules, regulations, and the proper framework. Luckily, lawmakers are working tirelessly to get these tasks completed so a product can debut sometime this year. All the pieces are there, licenses for casinos, horse tracks, stadiums, licenses for local businesses, and even mobile/online wagering.
The key is getting enough votes. But rest assured, Maryland will get the job done.
Out of left-field, the New York General Assembly went and put online sports betting in their state budget. What makes things interesting is, it’s a completely different framework than the one Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to install.
With the governor’s negotiating power at an all-time low, the odds of NY online sports betting appearing in 2021 are excellent.
The state must approve its budget by April 1, and both of the industry’s top defenders, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow and Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr., will be at the negotiating table.
The next four in?
The Georgia Senate is two-for-two when it comes to passing bills needed to legalize GA sports betting. A referendum, SR 135, would give Georgia voters the ability to decide if they want sports betting passed by a 41-10 vote. Then, SB 142, a bill establishing rules and regulations, passed by a 34-17 vote.
However, Georgia politicians don’t see eye-to-eye, which could lead to the downfall of sports betting.
According to the Associated Press, House Democrats are withholding their support on bills that need bipartisan backing, like online sports betting. It’s an infamous play from the political playbook but a useful one. Democrats are angry that Republicans have introduced a series of bills to end certain voting rights.
There is work left to do, but sports betting in Georgia is trending in the right direction.
Pretty much the only thing left for sports betting in Kansas to become a reality is to get enough votes to pass a bill.
So far, SB 84, passed through the state Senate by a 26-12 vote, has all the things you want to see in a sports betting bill and is supported by some of the industry’s top operators.
Much like the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team, this bill is well-rounded. Perhaps the only thing capable of stopping it is if lawmakers waste time debating the single lottery operator approach.
Sports betting in Wyoming has made it further than previous efforts putting it on the path to legalization. HB 133 passed through the House by a 32-28 vote and awaits discussion in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The bill legalizes online sports betting and would give authority to the Wyoming Gaming Commission, which could launch a product by July 1.
Wyoming appears to notice that it’s slowly being surrounded by states legalizing sports wagering and capitalizing on tax revenue. Sports betting isn’t an endless supply of revenue, but as Sen. Jeff Wasserburger said, “It’s not going to solve all the issues that we’re seeing in the mineral industry — but it’s going to help a little bit.”
Despite filing a handful of sports betting bills this year, Texas sports betting is still considered a long-shot. The Republican-controlled Senate must be swayed for sports betting to have a chance. Powerful gate-keepers like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick must be convinced, and on top of that, the state only meets once every two years. This means the clock is ticking.
But powerful influences like the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks are riding in on cash-strapped horses hoping to level the playing field.
No crystal ball, but all the signs are there
Of course, predicting what lawmakers will do is not an exact science. But Arizona, Connecticut, New York, and Maryland are heading down the right path. Based on our analysis, these states are locks to join the sports betting ranks unless some unforeseeable problems arise.
The other four, Georgia, Kansas, Texas, and Wyoming, all have work to do. But it’s not impossible. There is still time left, and anything can happen, which is why they remain on our watch list.