Coronavirus is impacting state legislatures across the country, including several still debating sports betting legislation. Here are the latest updates from these statehouses as they consider their next legislative steps during the outbreak.
Maryland To End Early
Maryland will suspend its 2020 session Wednesday, likely ending hopes for any of several pieces of sports betting legislation in a state that seemed well positioned to pass a bill into law. Lawmakers will have to consider hundreds of bills in just a few days, including critical budget matters and precautions for coronavirus, almost assuredly putting sports betting on the back burner.
Lawmakers had considered multiple sports betting bills, with a Senate bill to allow statewide mobile betting as well as retail wagering at licensed casinos advancing to the House. The bill was set to for a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday, but with the General Assembly set to adjourn, that hearing is off, and so too are the bill’s chances of passing into law before the break.
Even if passed by elected officials, that bill was still subject to voter approval in the 2020 election. The legislation to put the question about sports betting legalization has so far failed to advance out of committee, making it unlikely to pass both the House and Senate before Wednesday’s deadline.
The Baltimore Sun reports elected officials plan to hold a special session in May to consider legislation that wasn’t addressed in the abbreviated regular session. Still, with the duration and impact of coronavirus unknown, and sports betting legislation near the bottom of the General Assembly’s legislative priorities, hopes for Maryland legal wagering approval in 2020 are likely dashed.
Kentucky Future Uncertain
The Kentucky General Assembly didn’t meet March 13 or March 16 in response to the coronavirus but as of Monday was scheduled to reconvene March 17. A bill to legalize in-person sports betting is still awaiting further action before the House floor, but the past (and potential future) delays due to the virus could effectively kill the bill in 2020.
Despite unanimous, bipartisan support in the House Licensing, Occupations, & Administrative Regulations Committee, House leaders have not brought the bill up for a formal vote before the floor. Skeptics in the House have introduced 18 amendments to the bill, ostensibly to defeat the measure. Though championed by Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature, conservative opposition remains to gambling measures in all forms. Religious and anti-gambling groups have testified against the measure, and that opposition has carried over to pockets of the legislature.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has aggressively pushed for the bill, which has strong support from members of his own party. However, Republican opposition has delayed the proposal for several months. With the 2020 regular session set to end next month, and the threat of further interruptions from coronavirus looming, sports betting faces long odds in Kentucky for 2020.
Missouri Hiatus Coming
The Missouri Senate has canceled its meetings through March 20, delaying progress on several bills on its dockets to permit video lottery terminals and sports betting. It will have a pre-scheduled breakthrough March 30th, though the outbreak could extend this further. In either scenario, the Senate won’t take any significant action on sports betting this month.
However, the House will remain in session until the scheduled March 20th break. Three bills to permit sports betting have advanced through at least one House committee and await further action before the full House floor. By staying in session, it could give lawmakers a chance to advance these bills to the Senate, though these sports betting measures, like in other states, remain low on the list of legislative priorities. House members are set to exclusively address the state’s budget, which likely won’t include the sports betting or VLT measures.
As of Monday, Missouri lawmakers from both chambers are scheduled to return to Jefferson City by the end of the month. That timeline, along with the sports betting legislation, remains in jeopardy.
Kansas Pushes Forward
The last best hope for sports betting in 2020 may be in Kansas. As of Monday, lawmakers have announced no plans to adjourn early and may even take up a sports betting bill this week. Rep. Stephanie Clayton tweeted Monday that House Federal and State Affairs Chair John Barker intends to discuss the measure in his committee Tuesday.
SB 283 would allow mobile wagering as well as retail bets at the state’s four casinos. Passed by the Senate earlier this month, it contrasts with a House bill on multiple fronts. The House proposal, which hasn’t advanced out of committee, would allow wagering at the casinos as well as more than 1,000 lottery retailers.
If House committee meetings go on as scheduled, it could be a bone for the Senate measure. Already further along in the legislative process, a favorable report out of committee could help propel the casino-centric bill. However, the legislation could still be delayed or killed entirely on the House floor by the more lottery-friendly measure. Though remaining in session undoubtedly gives both measures a better chance to advance, there’s still a long way to go before either could head to the governor’s desk.
That’s also without taking into account the impacts of coronavirus. With the statehouse already shutdown to visitors, and some lawmakers already expressing reservations about continuing the session, time may be short for Kansas sports betting in 2020.