6 More States with 2021 Sports Betting Hopes Begin Legislative Sessions

6 More States with 2021 Sports Betting Hopes Begin Legislative Sessions article feature image
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Seven states with 2021 sports betting hopes began their respective legislative sessions last week. Six more have kicked off their sessions in the past few days.

Here is what to expect from the latest group of sports betting hopefuls as they begin their legislative work for 2021:

Maryland

  • Date Started: Jan. 13
  • Date Ending: By April 12, 2021

What to Expect: Maryland retail and online sports betting legislation passing is a safe bet in 2021. The key questions are how and when.

2021 Outlook: After voters overwhelmingly backed a sports betting constitutional amendment in November, lawmakers now must pass key regulatory, taxation and access rules before wagering can begin. Elected officials will also consider how many licenses will be allotted to state gaming interest and, as directed by a 2020 bill, how to ensure minority stakeholder participation in the upcoming sports betting market.

Despite the challenges, Maryland sports betting is set to pass in 2021 and legal wagering could begin before the end of the year.

South Dakota

  • Date Started: Jan. 12
  • Date Ending: By March 29, 2021

What to Expect: South Dakota voters also approved legal sports betting in the 2020 elections, setting up lawmakers to answer key follow-up regulatory questions before wagering can begin. The biggest decisions surround mobile wagering, but preliminary legislation makes it seem that issue may already be resolved.

2021 Outlook: The state constitution permits gambling exclusively within the historic gaming community of Deadwood (and, by a separate tribal agreement, sovereign Native American casinos). Some backers had argued this would allow statewide mobile wagering as long as internet servers were physically within Deadwood limits, but the first bill on the matter makes no mention of online betting.

A tough legislative endeavor in one of the nation’s most politically conservative states, it appears, at least early on in the 2021 session, that betting will be confined to retail sportsbooks.

Kansas

  • Date Started: Jan. 11
  • Date Ending: By May 30, 2021

What to Expect: Kansas lawmakers debated sports betting in 2020 before it was pushed to the backburner when the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed the legislative session. With a new wave of states taking legal bets since the 2020 session needed – and Missouri already considering at least a half dozen wagering bills in 2021 – expect Kansas to once again take up legal sports betting.

2021 Outlook: Though key lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature as well as Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly support the idea of legal wagering, there are major logistical hurdles that must be settled. Kansas has an unusual gaming infrastructure with state lottery regulation over individual casinos, creating a possible conflict that could delay or derail 2021 legislation efforts.

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Georgia

  • Date Started: Jan. 11
  • Date Ending: By April 4, 2021

What to Expect: Georgia came surprisingly close to legal sports betting in 2021, only to have a proposal left out of final budget deliberations in the 2020 session’s final hours. Backers are again proposing sports betting among a larger package of gaming bills that they hope can gain more traction as the state faces a looming budget deficit.

2021 Outlook: The state’s leading sports leagues as well as some top Republican lawmakers have supported legal gaming options but any such legislation is a tough task in a state that has long opposed most forms of gambling. The battle between more fiscally-oriented Republicans and those opposed to gambling in any shape (including conservative Gov. Brian Kemp) will determine 2021 hopes in the GOP-dominated legislature.

Arizona

  • Date Started: Jan. 11
  • Date Ending: By May 28, 2021

What to Expect: Native American gaming stakeholders and state lawmakers have flirted with legal sports betting for several years. Supporters are hoping nationwide proliferation and dwindling revenues for both tribal casinos and government coffers can reignite sports betting in 2021.

2021 Outlook: Any legal sportsbooks would almost assuredly run through the tribes, which operate roughly two-dozen casinos throughout the state. However, tribal-government negotiations can be complex and key questions such as tax rates and online access would need to be resolved before legislation could get a serious look in the statehouse.

Texas

  • Date Started: Jan. 12
  • Date Ending: By May 6, 2021

What to Expect: For decades, Texas has avoided nearly all gaming expansions now common in much of the country. That opposition may be thawing as a flurry of gaming measures are expected to be introduced, partially designed to ameliorate a major budget shortfall.

2021 Outlook: Any new gaming form faces a tough political haul but leading stakeholders are investing in Texas with hopes something can materialize in the state’s biennial legislative session. Though long-shot commercial casino hopes seem unlikely, an “untethered” online sports betting market — possibly championed by the state’s high-profile professional sports organizations — could gain traction in the statehouse.

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