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How 2024 Elections Could Shape Gambling’s Future

Written By Derek Helling | Updated:
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While 2024 has been a dud for online casino legislation in the United States, the trip around the sun could still have a major impact on that arena going forward. That’s because 2024 is an election year not only on the federal level in the US but in many states.

To wit, 78% of state-level legislative seats across the US are up for grabs in November 2024, along with 11 governorships. While many of those elections might not have apparent and significant consequences for the gaming industry in those states, many could bear substantial consequences.

Gubernatorial races will have stark implications for online casino bills

In November, residents of 11 states will decide on their next governor. Among those states that will be deciding on their next governors with anticipated or potential gaming expansion bills to come during the next terms are:

    • Indiana
    • Missouri
    • New Hampshire
    • North Carolina

    These races are as individual as the states they pertain to.

    Indiana

    Current US Sen. Mike Braun is the next presumptive governor of Indiana, cast as a heavy favorite against former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick. Present Indiana Gov. Kelly Holcomb has run into a term limit.

    Braun hasn’t made many public statements on his feelings toward expanded gambling. In 2019, he called the legalization of online sports betting1 “a natural progression” from the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos.

    It’s difficult to say with certainty whether he would view the legalization of online casinos in Indiana with the same lens.

    Missouri

    In Missouri, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is among the leading candidates to win the Republican nomination for governor. Incumbent Gov. Mike Parsons is facing a term limit. Missouri’s primary is Aug. 6.

    While Ashcroft has not made many public statements regarding his sentiments on expanded gambling in the state, he has taken action in his current role. Ashcroft certified sports betting ballot questions earlier this year in Missouri with no resistance.

    Ashcroft faces a serious challenge2 from Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who has been the fundraising leader among the four candidates. Akin to Ashcroft, Kehoe and candidate Chris Wright have been mostly mum on the subject of gaming expansion in Missouri.

    Perhaps the most active on the issue of the four candidates has been Missouri Sen. Bill Eigel. Eigel has been among the leaders of one faction in the Missouri Senate, infamously filibustering a bill to legalize sports betting3 and video lottery terminals in 2023.

    Missourians should note that Eigel’s opposition to that legislation was actually about the inclusion of the terminals in the bill, not sports wagering. He has supported bills to legalize sports betting as a standalone issue.

    New Hampshire

    New Hampshire’s primary will take place on Sept. 10, one of the latest in the nation. There are currently three candidates for each party’s nomination4, as current Gov. Chris Sununu has foregone seeking another term.

    The latest polling5 shows Joyce Craig (Democratic) and Kelly Ayotte (Republican) as leaders for their respective primary races.

    North Carolina

    In North Carolina, there doesn’t seem to be an upside for the gaming industry with either candidate in November’s general election. The Democratic and Republican primary winners, Attorney General Josh Stein and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, have expressed hesitancy toward further expansion6 of gambling in the state.

    At the same time, neither candidate opposed the idea of more gambling in North Carolina. Thus, whether the winner will see any such bills become pertinent for his term will more likely depend on the composition of the state legislature.

    North Carolina isn’t the only place where state legislative races will determine the existence or fate of any gambling expansion bills in the near future. A total of 16 states fit this bill.

    Influential seats up for grabs in various states

    In many of these states, every seat of the lower chamber is technically up for grabs, even if the incumbent or one candidate is a heavy favorite. However, it seems unlikely that the partisan composition of any of these bodies is likely to change as a result of the 2024 elections.

    That doesn’t necessarily guarantee continuity in terms of legislative bodies’ stances on online casino legislation and other gambling-related matters, however. Certain members choosing not to run for reelection in their seats and how others fare in their bids could have drastic consequences for gambling interests even if the party that controls the chambers is not changing.

    Running through the list of these states alphabetically by name, the implications of certain races are varied.

    California

    While gambling expansion in California could mostly circumvent the legislature by going the ballot measure route, the composition of the legislature could still play a key role in any future expansion.

    That body could be responsible for approving any amended tribal gaming compacts that would involve online gambling. Additionally, the body could bear the burden of passing any necessary enabling legislation to implement the will of the voters should they approve gambling expansion amendments to the state’s constitution.

    In November, half of California’s 40 Senate seats are up for grabs while all 80 seats in the state House are part of the election. The Senate could see the most change, as only nine incumbents are running to keep their seats.

    Colorado

    Holding its primary on June 25, the question of whether to expand gambling to include online casinos is not on the ballot for Coloradans in 2024. That doesn’t mean that won’t be the case soon, though.

    In July 2023, Colorado Office of State Planning and Budget Director Mark Ferrandino shared that discussions were underway between lawmakers in the state and industry stakeholders on that very subject. However, no legislation on the topic has yet surfaced.

    That lack of an open push for online casinos in Denver has made analyzing the impact of the 2024 elections on this issue difficult. To whatever end, Coloradans will begin to make their decisions on the composition of that body in late June.

    Florida

    Currently, the action regarding the future of gambling in Florida is in the courts, not the legislature. That might change within the next legislative term in the state, though.

    Potentially before the United States Supreme Court and, further, the Florida Supreme Court is the legality of the current framework for legal online sports betting in the state. Should court decisions uphold that framework, the legislature may have work to do soon.

    The Seminole Tribe of Florida may seek to expand that framework to give itself exclusivity over legal online casino play in the state as well. In that event, the legislature would need to approve an amendment to the existing gaming compact.

    Florida’s primary will happen Aug. 20. That will give the Seminole Tribe and other stakeholders some idea of whether a legislature favorable to the Tribe’s interest remains in place.

    Georgia

    Georgia’s primary is May 21 and it might be the state where partisan divides have the most effect on gambling expansion projects. In recent years, the Democrat minority in Atlanta has been significant enough that, joined with Republican dissenters to gambling expansion proposals, it has been able to block such initiatives.

    Thus, the questions that will begin to be answered on May 21 are whether the Democrat minority will grow in November and whether the majority Republican component will represent fewer or more faces friendly to gaming interests.

    Hawaii

    In each of the past two years, Hawaii’s legislature has seen short-lived attempts to introduce regulated gambling to the state. The state has scheduled its primaries for Aug. 10.

    After those races conclude, the picture will become clearer in regard to whether members like Rep. John Mizuno will be part of the bodies going forward. Mizuno proposed a bill to legalize online poker and sports betting earlier in 2024.

    Illinois

    In November, 20 of 59 Illinois Senate Seats and all 188 House seats will be decided for the next term. Proponents of online casino legalization in the state should be in place for that session.

    Illinois Sen. Cristina Castro and Rep. Edgar Gonzalez are both running for reelection unopposed in their districts. Both have submitted bills to legalize online casino play in the state, although they have not pushed for the bills’ consideration.

    Whether Castro and Gonzalez will re-file such legislation in 2025 and/or mount a more serious effort behind the bills is currently uncertain. If any members of the Illinois legislature are apt to do so, however, it seems to be them.

    Indiana

    While this legislature’s leadership punted on any gambling expansion discussions whatsoever in 2024, it wasn’t necessarily because they found fault with that idea on its merits. Rather, an instance of corruption tied to the last round of Indiana gaming expansion left a sour taste in their mouths.

    For better or for worse, the faces housing those mouths could mostly be staying put in Indianapolis. Half of Indiana’s Senate faces reelection in November and the entire Indiana House of Representatives is taking on the same task.

    However, 24 of the 25 incumbent Senators whose terms are ending are running as well as 92 of 100 incumbent members of the House. Among them is Rep. Ethan Manning, who sponsored the last online casino bill in Indiana.

    Also, House Speaker Todd Huston is running unopposed in his district. Huston has been amenable to gaming expansion proposals in the past.

    Iowa

    Like across the Mississippi River in Illinois, proponents of online casino legalization in Iowa knew they were facing a slim chance of that happening in 2024. Two of the most notable such lawmakers will be in place for 2025.

    While half of Iowa’s 50 Senate seats are up for grabs in November, those races don’t bear as heavy consequences on this issue as the House races do. All 100 seats in that chamber are part of November’s elections.

    Rep. Jacob Bossman and Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who have lightly pushed for online casino legalization in Iowa recently, are running for unopposed re-election. Rather than retaining their seats, their challenges in the next term will include convincing their colleagues in Des Moines, along with existing casino licensees, to get on board with their proposal.

    Maine

    Maine probably came the closest to actually legalizing online casinos in 2024, falling just a few votes short. The biggest proponent of that push, Maine Rep. Laura D. Supica, could return to Augusta.

    Supica does face a challenger in November’s general election, however. From a broader view, the composition of the Maine legislature should look similar in the next term.

    While all 35 Senate seats and all 151 House seats are available in November, 29 incumbents in the Senate and 119 incumbents in the House have qualified. Thus, Supica could see familiar faces, for better or worse.

    Minnesota

    Minnesota’s primary is Aug. 13. In those votes, whether Rep. Zack Stephenson, Rep. Anne Brindley, Rep. Isaac Schutlz and others will be returning to St. Paul should start to become more apparent. They have been among the most vocal on the issue of online gambling legalization.

    All 134 seats in the Minnesota House are up for grabs in November. At the same time, this is not an election year for any members of the Minnesota Senate.

    Missouri

    The end of the tenure of Denny Hoskins in the Missouri Senate is a substantial development for gambling interests in Missouri. While he maintains that he has not been the only person in Jefferson City to oppose gambling expansion that focused only on sports betting, he has been the most vocal.

    Half of Missouri’s Senators and every Missouri House of Representatives member will face voter scrutiny in November. August’s primary will determine whether those candidates will largely represent amenable candidates for gaming expansion or not.

    New Hampshire

    New Hampshire legislators kicked around the idea of rolling out a limited online casino product in late 2023 before punting on the concept. No similar bills saw the light of day in 2024.

    September’s primary will determine whether key figures in that discussion stay in Concord. Every seat in both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature is up for grabs in November.

    With the state assured of a new governor and its partisan makeup being among the most competitive in the US, it’s hard to gauge how things will shake out before September.

    New York

    Georgia isn’t the only state holding its primary elections on June 25. New Yorkers will go to the polls for the same reason on that date.

    At that time, voters will determine candidates for each seat in Albany. That includes New York Sen. Joe Addabbo, who has been the biggest supporter of online casino legalization in the state.

    Assembly member Gary Pretlow will also campaign for reelection pending the result of June’s primary. As the issue of online casino play has taken a back seat to the issuance of licenses for downstate brick-and-mortar casinos in New York, having Addabbo and Pretlow in place for years to come may prove crucial.

    North Carolina

    In the wake of North Carolina rolling out legal online sports betting, conversations regarding online casino play might seem premature. However, that was a short-lived consideration in a broader gambling expansion package in 2023.

    With the assurance of a new governor (Roy Cooper is facing a term limit) and every seat in the state legislature available in November, the possibilities seem myriad. Other details point toward an unpredictable situation.

    Sen. Jim Perry, who opposed the inclusion of online casinos in the 2023 bill, is retiring. At the same time, current House Speaker Tim Moore is running for a US Congress seat.

    Moore’s likely replacement7, Rep. Destin Hall, has been open to, if not enthusiastic about8, gaming interests in the state. It’s uncertain how he would consider a bill to include online casino play in the state’s regulated gambling industry.

    Ohio

    Ohio’s “room” might be one of the most difficult to read currently regarding the legalization of online casinos. That’s partially because which faction of the state’s Republican Party9 will hold sway in Columbus is up in the air.

    While Ohio legislators took a look at the ramifications of online casino legalization earlier this year, that is by no means a surefire sign that an actual bill toward that end is coming in 2025. Further muddying the situation is that there are just 77 incumbents running for re-election out of the 99 seats in the Ohio House of Representatives in 2024.

    Texas

    The good news for those supporting gambling expansion in Texas for the 2025 session is that key figures could be back. For example, Texas Sen. Lois Kolkhorst is not among the 15 Senators facing reelection this November. Kolkhorst sponsored legislation in that chamber to legalize several forms of gambling in the 2023 session.

    While every member of the Texas House of Representatives will have to earn their way to Austin in November, 2023 gambling bill sponsors Rep. Jeff Leach and Rep. Charlie Geren are among the incumbents vying to keep their seats.

    Even if Geren and Leach do maintain their spots, such legislation will still face an upward battle in Kolkhorst’s body for 2025, though.

    Little intrigue on the federal level

    The Biden Administration has mostly been inactive when it’s come to online gambling regulation through its first three years. That seems unlikely to change as it faces a challenge in November. Congress has largely avoided the issue as well in recent years.

    The biggest exception to that norm has been US Rep. Paul Tonko from New York’s 20th district.

    Tonko has for the past two years filed legislation to regulate online gambling across the country. However, those bills have not gained traction in the US House.

    Tonko is facing two primary opponents10 in his district in June. Whether or not he wins then and in the general election could play a large part in whether Congress addresses gaming on any level soon.

    With several outstanding primaries and all of November’s general elections yet to play out, gambling industry stakeholders have many races to watch across the US. The results of these races could determine who the key players are and where gaming companies will devote their lobbying resources for the next few years.

    Sources

    1. Mike Braun on healthcare, gamblings, and guns ↩︎
    2. Who’s running for Missouri governor in 2024? ↩︎
    3. Sports wagering impasse upends the Missouri Senate a day before adjournment ↩︎
    4. New Hampshire Gubernatorial Election, 2024 ↩︎
    5. Latest Polls — FiveThirtyEight ↩︎
    6. Casino Expansion is a Hot Topic For NC Voters — Gubernatorial Candidates Weigh In ↩︎
    7. Scoop: Top NC Republicans will support Rep. Destin Hall to replace Tim Moore ↩︎
    8. Follow the Money: Lawmakers and lobbyists place their bets ↩︎
    9. Analysis: How Ohio GOP infighting is causing messy primaries, but the speaker could keep the gavel ↩︎
    10. New York 2024 elections ↩︎
    Photo by Matt Rourke/AP file photo
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    Written by
    Derek Helling

    Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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