Legal Sports Betting: Five Key States to Watch in 2020

Legal sports betting made tremendous inroads throughout 2019, and the stage is set for another wild legislative ride in 2020.  Sports betting will be a hot topic of conversation in state legislatures across the nation next year, including the key states of New York and California.

But they’re not the only states in play.

In this column, Betting USA lists its five states to watch in 2020.

Five Key States Where Sports Betting Is on the Menu

Sports betting is already on the agenda in the following five states, and all five are expected to take a serious swing at legalization in 2020:

  1. California
  2. New York
  3. Virginia
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Florida

Contenders or Pretenders?

Keep in mind, these are not the five most likely states to pass sports betting, but they are the five biggest prizes among states with a legitimate chance to pass sports betting legislation.

And each of these states is at a different point in the process and has unique hurdles to overcome.

California

The vehicle for retail sports betting in California is a tribal proposal in the form of a constitutional amendment that cuts in California’s racetracks. The measure is otherwise short on specifics.

California has a low bar when it comes to getting a referendum in front of voters, so there’s a strong possibility sports betting will be on the November ballot in California. And it would be quite surprising if that measure didn’t pass.

But before Californians get too excited, remember this is a retail-only initiative, and this is California, where everything and anything is likely to go wrong.

Virginia

Historically anti-gambling, Virginia is suddenly a serious contender after the positive findings of the gambling expansion studies the legislature commissioned earlier this year.

As we reported last week, the study indicates that sports betting could bring in over $55 million annually to the state. It looked at a retail-online model tied to future Virginia casinos, as well as an online-only model should Virginia decide to forego expanding into casino gambling.

With online sports betting coming to Washington DC and neighboring Tennessee, and already up and running in West Virginia, Virginians won’t have any problem placing sports betting wagers. Now it’s up to Virginia to decide if they want to reap the rewards of the tax revenue.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts was one of the first states to regulate on DFS, but it’s been dragging its feet on sports betting.

Massachusetts is the home base of DFS turned sports betting juggernaut DraftKings, and with a nascent casino industry and surrounded by states that are already or soon will be offering sports betting, the state seems like the perfect candidate. But divides exist below the surface.

New York

Thanks to some pre-PASPA-repeal sports betting language included in a casino expansion bill passed in 2013, New York has sports betting at its four upstate casinos. But as was the case with online poker, online sports betting, and retail sports betting at tribal casinos and the state’s racinos, have proved elusive for the Empire State.

New York will need to overcome its recent history of finger-pointing when it fails to expand gambling, something that could prove difficult during a presidential election year. That said, the amount of money flowing into New Jersey from New York has to give New York lawmakers pause and have the industry wondering if 2020 will finally be the year New York gets its act together.

Florida

Florida is one of the most enigmatic gaming states. The Sunshine State seems like a perfect fit for online gaming, be it online poker, casino, or sports betting. Yet, thus far, no serious effort has presented itself. And that’s unlikely to change.

First it was anti-online-gambling Gov. Rick Scott that made any conversation about online poker DOA.

Scott may be gone, but an even larger hurdle now stands between Florida and online sports betting. A referendum passed in 2018 (backed by the Seminole Tribe and Disney) gave the voters, and only the voters, the power to expand gambling in Florida.

So, as it stands, the only way Florida will see legal sports betting is through a ballot referendum.

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