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US States Getting Behind Sports Betting Legalisation

February 05, 2020

- Grant Whittington

January 2020 saw a fresh flurry of sports betting legislation entering American state houses. Now, a total of 16 US states are considering legalising the wagering practice for the first time, while several others are mulling an expansion of their existing laws and regulations. The news comes after 8 states started accepting bets back in 2018 and another 12, including Washington DC and Puerto Rico, passed legalisation bills last year.

Some of the states considering sports gambling legalisation this year seem fairly certain of their decisions. They include the likes of Virginia and Maryland, the two remaining Mid-Atlantic regions that don’t yet have sports betting bills in place. Others seem less likely to pass such bills due to shareholder issues (as is the case with Florida and California) and political reservations (Vermont and Nebraska).

Legislative Bills to Watch

There are 3 states that should be watched closely over the next few months. They would not only change the face of sports betting at a state-wide level, but also a national one. The first of them is New York, which is poised to try and enter the mobile betting industry once again.

The bill that would permit mobile wagering in New York is arguably the most important piece of legislature on the table in the US right now. Legal mobile wagering in New York would open up a huge new customer base, while also bringing unparalleled industry exposure into the mix.

Sports betting proponents in the Empire State’s State Legislature are pushing for mobile betting legalisation in 2020 despite similar efforts having failed repeatedly over the past 2 years. The state’s 4 upstate casinos and its sovereign tribal gaming facilities are all permitted to accept in-person sports bets, but months after they began to do so, they earned a mere $15 billion in combined wagers since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA.

This perfectly illustrates why mobile betting is so crucial to New York’s sports betting scene. Analysts believe that over 90% of the state’s betting handle would stem from online sources if legalised. This could boost annual handle by billions of dollars, while also generating hundreds of millions in taxes. Supporters like Senator Joseph Addabbo and J. Gary Pretlow have pushed mobile betting bills onto the Committee on Finance. As for what happens, that remains to be seen.

 Missouri, Kansas on the Fence

Online sports betting for New York could be fantastic news for the market, but 2 proposals in Missouri could impact the market in a very different way. The Missouri House and Senate are mulling bills that would mandate betting operators to pay 0.25% of their handle to the leagues that organise sports events. The fee does not seem high, but in a low-margin industry like sports wagering, this could have a notable impact on operators’ final profits.

Regardless, lawmakers in Missouri spearheading sports betting in both chambers are pushing the bills and the royalty mandate, which have already passed out of its initial committee. There is, of course, no guarantee that league fees will remain legally sanctioned or if the sports betting bill will even be passed, but Missouri’s bills could pose a hazard for the industry and the many other states considering legalising betting in 2020.

Across the western border in Kansas, lawmakers are considering legalising sports betting without league royalties. Like many other states that have considered bills, Kansas is deliberating on competing gaming interests. Lawmakers seem comfortable with the concept of sports wagering, but the choice on who will be permitted to offer bets is a contentious one.

A recently introduced Senate bill would allow the state’s 4 commercial casinos to take retail and mobile sports bets. It would also allow the Kansas Lottery to hold online licenses should 2 or more casinos choose to as well. This is an unusual inclusion for a state gambling market with an already-strange relationship between its lottery and its casino regulations. It could also cause further division between the parties, but if a compromise can be found, the move could inspire other legislators nationwide

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