Sports Betting Legalization: Updates on 4 Key States After Another Busy Week

Sports Betting Legalization: Updates on 4 Key States After Another Busy Week article feature image
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Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images. Pictured: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Two Northeastern states took their most important steps yet toward legal online sports betting, and two Midwestern states are also getting closer to statewide mobile wagering.

Here’s the latest on these four 2021 legalization hopefuls after another frantic week for U.S. sports betting.

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New York

The biggest 2021 sports betting prize is closer than ever to legal betting after lawmakers in both the Assembly and Senate included mobile wagering within their respective budget proposals for the first time ever. Both chambers easily advanced their budget legislation, setting up a frenetic two week-stretch before each has to pass identical spending plans ahead of the April 1 deadline.

New York legislators’ proposals would allow as many as 14 online sports betting licensees to be shared between the state’s four upstate commercial casinos and three Native American gaming tribes. The Senate budget would also expedite licensing three downstate casinos, which could mean an additional six online sportsbook licenses, assuming the three facilities are also eligible for two skins apiece.

The different gaming frameworks are just one small issue in the $200 billion budget lawmakers must resolve before the bill (and legal sports betting) can pass. The bigger issue remains Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo has been largely silent about mobile sports betting since announcing his preferred single or limited-operator model that contrasted the competitive operator model plans from lawmakers in his own party. Competitive model backers believe Cuomo, facing multiple political and legal crises, will back down from his plan, but industry stakeholders are still not sure how the budget will shape out the next few weeks — and how (or if) sports betting will be included.

Connecticut

After years seemingly as one of the likeliest candidates for sports betting legalization, Connecticut is finally on its way to legal online and retail sportsbooks.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and Gov. Ned Lamont announced a new gaming deal Thursday that will allow online casino gaming and sports betting in Connecticut. The agreement comes two weeks after the Mohegan Tribe, the state’s other major tribal gaming body, agreed to a similar deal.

The arrangement is a massive compromise between the state’s two powerful gaming tribes and its other gambling interests. Both tribes can offer online sportsbooks, as can the state lottery. The Connecticut Lottery will also be able to open 15 retail sportsbooks. Two retail locations will be in the cities of Bridgeport and Hartford, and the lottery can also sublicense these sportsbooks to off-track betting facilities.

Lawmakers must still approve follow-up legislation now seems like a formality. A bipartisan, bicameral legislative panel already has a sports betting legalization bill in committee that can now advance with support from Lamont and the state’s leading gaming interests.

Ohio

Ohio hasn’t introduced a 2021 sports betting bill, but lawmakers are hinting legislation is on the way.

A select committee on gaming has heard sports betting testimony at weekly meetings for the better part of two months. Officials indicated Wednesday that a bill partially shaped by these meetings could come by the end of the month.

Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature seem largely supportive of legal wagering. So too does Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who earlier this year called legal wagering an inevitability.

The larger issues are which entities would have sportsbook licensing eligibility. The state’s casinos and hybrid racetrack “racinos” would assuredly be able to take bets under any bill, but there are questions around how many online skins they’d be able to have. Other possible stakeholders such as the state lottery, fraternal organizations, restaurants and bowling alleys have all sought sportsbook eligibility, creating a complex set of competing interests.

Ensuing gaming committee meetings, and the first draft of the bill, should help clarify Ohio’s sports betting trajectory. Passing a bill won’t come easy, especially after Ohio failed to do so in each of the past two legislative sessions, but the political capital and time already invested in sports betting has industry observers hopeful meaningful action can come shortly.

Kansas

The Kansas Senate has already passed a 2021 sports betting bill but a House committee hearing shows it won’t advance through the lower chamber without opposition.

The Senate bill allows three mobile sports betting licenses to the state’s four lottery-run commercial casinos. It contrasts a House bill that expands in-person wagering to horse tracks as well as hundreds of lottery retailers statewide.

Rep. Francis Awerkamp questioned the Senate bill’s revenue projections during the House Federal and State Affairs Committee meeting Thursday, underscoring the political opposition to the more limited Senate bill. Notably, Rep. John Barker, sponsor of the House sports betting bill, chairs that committee.

Kansas sports betting backers are still hopeful the industry-backed Senate bill can pass the House. That includes Rep. Samantha Poetter Parshall, who wore a hoodie from Penn National’s Barstool Sports during Thursday’s hearing.

It could be several more weeks before the House committee takes a vote on either the Senate sports betting bill or its own. In the meantime, industry stakeholders led by Penn are hoping to push through a casino-friendly bill.

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