Legal Online Sports Betting Update: Busy Week for California, New York, Texas & Florida

Legal Online Sports Betting Update: Busy Week for California, New York, Texas & Florida article feature image
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Photos via Getty Images. Pictured, from top left to bottom right: Miami Marlins logo, Brooklyn Nets logo, Los Angeles Dodgers logo and Texas Longhorns logo.

This week, the nation’s four most-populated states all made steps toward legal online sports betting. Here’s where things stand in California, Texas, Florida and New York:


California

The state’s card rooms, horse tracks and professional sports teams introduced a proposed 2022 voter referendum that could bring statewide mobile wagering by 2023.

Key Details: The referendum is competing with a separate 2022 Native American casino-backed amendment that would only permit betting at tribal casinos and certain horse tracks.

Already approved for that year’s ballot, tribal groups will likely work to prevent the statewide mobile referendum — even though it gives the tribes mobile betting access as well.

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Many California tribes see retail betting as a way to draw bettors to their physical casinos and more lucrative options such as slots, restaurants and hotel stays.

If the card room-backed amendment overcomes tribal opposition, garners roughly 1 million valid signatures and is approved for the ballot, California voters could see two separate sports betting referendums in 2022.

Key Dates: The statewide mobile amendment backers have several months to earn the necessary signatures, which must be validated by the state. If approved, the new measure would be on the ballot on Nov. 8, 2022.


Texas

Though legal sports betting is likely years away, major operators are already staking out what would be one of the nation’s most consequential markets.

Key Details: DraftKings announced its acquisition of Golden Nugget Online Gaming, a massive gaming industry move that consolidates one of the nation’s sports betting market share leaders with a marquee online and retail casino brand.

As a corollary of the move, DraftKings earned rights to an in-stadium sportsbook at the Toyota Center (home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets) and presumably an accompanying statewide mobile license — if Texas legalizes sports betting.

Caesars, which itself launched a massive rebrand of former William Hill sportsbooks and announced a multibillion-dollar player acquisition initiative, followed the DraftKings move by striking a similar deal with the NFL’s Houston Texans.

After major gaming groups lobbied Texas lawmakers heavily during the 2021 legislative session for the state’s first sportsbooks and commercial casinos, leading industry players are carving out spots in the future potential market.

Key Dates: The Texas Legislature isn’t set to meet for a regular session until 2023. If (and that’s a big if) lawmakers pass sports betting legislation that year, it would still need voter approval on the 2024 ballot.

That means — in a best-case scenario — legal sports betting couldn’t begin in Texas until 2025.


Florida

Federal officials allowed a groundbreaking gaming compact to advance, but legal challenges are already in the works.

Key Details: The federal Department of the Interior allowed a compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and policymakers to pass, opening the door for the state’s first legal online sportsbook. However, the compact was already facing legal challenges before the feds signed off — and more are pending.

A Florida pari-mutuel operator has sought to prevent the authorization of the online components, a legal challenge analysts believe will at least result in a preliminary injunction (a temporary stoppage) and could further delay or derail online gaming entirely.

Other groups, including advocacy organization No Casinos, are also pursuing legal avenues to prevent the compact’s online provisions.

As it stands today, the Seminoles would be the first Native American tribe ever allowed under the auspicious of the federal government to offer online sports betting. It remains to be seen if that will hold up several weeks from now.

Key Dates: The compact also allowed the Seminoles to offer craps, roulette and retail sportsbooks at their brick-and-mortar casinos, a component of the deal no group is challenging.

In-person betting will begin Oct. 15; the first major ruling on the pari-mutuel operator’s online lawsuit should come in early September.


New York

State officials unveiled bids for highly coveted online sports betting licenses, though the winners remain perhaps the industry’s biggest question.

Key Details: Instead of a “divide-and-conquer” strategy for the limited number of eligible licenses, the nation’s leading sportsbook operators teamed up. DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Bally Bet combined for arguably the strongest bid.

A second major bid featuring BetRivers, WynnBet, PointsBet, Resorts World and Caesars could, potentially, mean nine of America’s best-known (and lucrative) sportsbooks launch in New York.

That is far from a guarantee.

The bids themselves have not been disclosed publicly, leaving many key details such as tax rate unknown and making it impossible to handicap the winners. Notably, many of the top brands have applied for multiple licensing categories, creating a scenario in which only four customer-facing brands (the minimum required by state law) are available.

Key Dates: Regulators expect to award licenses in December. State officials are anticipating a launch before Super Bowl LVI in February 2022.


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