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Pro-gambling measures have come up in two more states to start the new year. Neither one of these efforts is likely to pass without significant outside help, but both show a trend that we are seeing around the country as increasing numbers of lawmakers agitate for US gambling legalization.
Legal Sports Betting in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, Representative Robert Matzie issued a memorandum on Monday urging his colleagues to support sports betting legislation he plans to introduce in the near future. This is just a memorandum that states his intent to introduce a bill, so details are lacking.
What we can gather from the memorandum is the Pennsylvania bill will seek to legalize sports betting “in all its forms,” but it does not intend to challenge the federal sports betting ban. That’s a battle they’re letting New Jersey fight for now. The Pennsylvania effort simply seeks to legalize sports betting if and when the federal ban is lifted and have the state ready to act on that day.
Monday’s memorandum reads in part:
“As you may know, the State of New Jersey has tried, several times, to legalize sports betting. Although their initial attempts were denied, their final appeal was scheduled to be heard by the US Supreme Court on January 17. The Court, however, announced that it would wait until a US Solicitor General was confirmed to weigh in on the issue. This is encouraging, given that President Trump has addressed his stance on the sports betting industry – and his support for legalization – on at least two occasions.
Our Commonwealth is uniquely positioned to oversee sports betting in all its forms, and should be ready to act should the federal ban be lifted. As evidenced by yet another record setting year of gaming revenues, our licensed facilities are thriving. Legalizing sports betting will simply enable Pennsylvania to regulate a multimillion dollar industry that already exists.”
We will have to wait a bit longer to see all the details, but the effort looks promising. The big catch here is that it needs outside help in the form of New Jersey successfully challenging the federal prohibition on sports betting.
New Jersey has been fighting an uphill battle from the beginning, but the state did just achieve a minor victory after the Supreme Court decided to postpone a ruling as to whether or not the Supreme Court will hear New Jersey’s appeal. The Supreme Court has since asked the incoming Solicitor General for an opinion on the case.
Hawaiian Senator Eyes Online Gambling
There are certain combinations of words that you don’t expect to often see grouped together in one headline. One of those combinations is anything involving the terms “Hawaii” and “online gambling.” Hawaii is one of the most anti-gambling states in the Union, but one lawmaker is looking to change that with a bill he introduced just after the turn of the year.
Senate Vice President Michelle Kidani introduced SB 677 on January 20th for the purpose of regulating internet gambling and establishing a gaming commission to oversee the activity in Hawaii. If passed, his bill would authorize online poker, casino and lottery games for Hawaiians over the age of 18. The bill also includes a compact clause that would permit poker sites in Hawaii to combine player pools with poker sites based out of other states.
In addition to legalizing online gambling in Hawaii, SB 677 seeks to establish a gaming commission called the Hawaii Internet Lottery and Gaming Corporation to oversee and regulate online gaming activities. The new gaming commission would also be tasked with partnering with a private firm to conduct online gambling.
SB 677 only mentions the selection of one “qualified internet gaming provider” to partner with the new commission to conduct gaming. This appears to set up a monopoly-type situation, but we’ll have to see if that holds true if and when the bill makes it through the legal process.
And speaking of which, that is a big “if.” The odds of this bill making it very far in Hawaii are exceedingly low. Hawaii is one of the most anti-gambling states in the USA. It is just one of two states (alongside Utah) with zero gambling options – that means no lottery, no casinos, no racetracks, no nothing. It seems like quite a jump to go straight from zero gambling to online gambling. Even so, it is promising to see that even some Hawaiian lawmakers are opening up to the possibility. One step at a time.