Sports Betting Legalization Efforts in 2020: The Second Wave

It has only been 18 months since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), and some 20 states are already active players in the burgeoning US sports betting industry.

Expect that number to swell in 2020.

Efforts to Legalize Sports Betting Already Underway

We’re less than two weeks into the new year, and there are already efforts to legalize or expand sports betting in several states, including some of the biggest sports betting prizes in the country such as California, Maryland, Ohio and Florida.

Here’s a look at where efforts stand in these states.

California

Whether it’s online poker or sports betting, California is the biggest prize.

An informational hearing was held in Sacramento on Wednesday that went about as well as a California hearing on gambling can go. Gaming attorney and friend of the program Vincent Oliver provided some terrific live analysis of the hearing on his Twitter account.

And Chris Grove, who testified during the hearing, summed it up quite succinctly:

Grove’s analysis is always spot on (and I suspect it is here too), but California might not need to pass a bill. The most likely vehicle for sports betting in the state is a proposed constitutional amendment that would bring retail sports betting to the state’s tribal casinos and racetracks.

The tribes and racetracks should be able to get the proposition on the 2020 ballot, which will almost certainly create a very expensive campaign on both sides, as the state’s cardrooms are already opposing the measure.

Florida

Florida isn’t California, but in the world of sports betting, its nearly 20 million residents make it a blue-chip prospect.

As we noted in a column last month, the path to legal sports betting in Florida will be a bumpy one, filled with legal arguments and debate surrounding the Sunshine State’s ability to pass a sports betting bill without the approval of voters.

Maryland

After a failed effort to bring sports betting to the Terrapin State through the state lottery in 2019, Maryland is taking the voter referendum approach to sports betting in 2020.

SB 58 would authorize sports betting at Maryland casinos and racetracks if approved by voters in a November 2020 referendum.

Vermont

Vermont added its name to the 2020 sports betting candidates list this week. Bill S 213 would authorize mobile sports betting (Vermont is one of the few states without commercial or tribal gaming) in the state.

Other interesting bits from the bill include a minimum age of 18 to wager, pro and college sports allowed, esports betting allowed, 10% tax rate, $10,000 operator’s license fee and $1,000 supplier’s license fee.

S 213 also opens the door to interstate wagering by allowing the Board of Liquor and Lottery to enter sports wagering agreements with other states or jurisdictions. Under such agreements, VT operators would be allowed to accept wagers from out of state. That could create Wire Act issues, but it seems Vermont wishes to be ready to move when those hurdles are cleared.

South Dakota

Casino owners in Deadwood, South Dakota are trying to get a voter referendum to legalize sports betting on the 2020 ballot.

Mike Rodman, Executive Director of the Deadwood Gaming Association, pushed for legal sports betting last year and watched a bill make it through the Senate before falling in the House. The Deadwood Gaming Association will try again this year to get a bill through that would put sports betting on the November 2020 ballot.

Ohio

Ohio engaged in sports betting discussions in 2018 and 2019, but the state doesn’t have anything to show for those efforts.

The Buckeye State will have at least two bills to choose from in 2020 – both are carryovers from the 2019 session. Both seek to legalize retail and online sports betting, but the House bill would grant oversight to the state lottery, while the Senate bill taps the casino control commission as the regulatory body of choice.

New York

Retail sports betting is already available in New York, but the state is eyeing a much bigger source of gambling revenue: mobile sports betting.

Online poker has been elusive in the Empire State for several years, and to date, online sports betting has proven just as slippery.

Pro-gaming Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. recently confirmed he will continue advocating for mobile sports betting in 2020 in his response to Governor Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State address:

 As we go into a very difficult fiscal year, facing a state budget deficit of more than $6 billion, and working on many initiatives mentioned in the governor’s State of the State, I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and my legislative colleagues to identify new sources of revenue to help close the budget gap, revitalize our economy, support local families and businesses, increase educational funding and continue to provide vital services to New Yorkers in need.

First and foremost, to address these issues, I will continue to advocate for the implementation of mobile sports betting in New York State, which will curb the flow of dollars to nearby states, that could be used – now and in the future – to balance the state budget and provide needed funding support for education and create jobs.

Georgia

Georgia is yet another state that is pinning its sports betting hopes on the voters. A pair of lawmakers, Sen. Brandon Beach and Rep. Ron Stephens, have been nothing if not persistent in trying to bring gaming to the state for several years running. Legislation hasn’t passed, but the measures have been steadily gaining momentum, and 2020 could be the year Georgia the ranks of gaming states.

The duo is expected to take another bite at the apple in 2020 with legislation that, if passed, would trigger a statewide referendum to legalize casinos, racetracks and sports betting.

Virginia

The Virginia legislature will try to reenact SB 1126, a gaming expansion package the state passed last year that would bring casinos to the state, along with sports betting and online gambling.

The state has no shortage of bills to choose from, as lawmakers have filed no fewer than five gaming expansion bills under consideration: HB 428, HB 4, HB 374, HB 560 and SB 102.

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