Six states—North Carolina, Minnesota, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Kentucky—are taking steps to make sports betting legal but some are finding the process to be more complex than others.
Below is a synopsis of the chances of the six states to see sports betting legalized by the end of the year.
North Carolina readies new bill on sports betting
Governor Roy Cooper stood outside a recent Carolina Hurricanes hockey game and was feeling crisper than the winter weather in the Tar Heel state.
The optimism from the Democratic governor was palpable. He was talking about sports betting and told reporters he liked its chances to clear both the House and Senate by the end of 2023.
“You know, I think it’s going to pass, from what I hear,” Cooper said.
Legal sports wagering is already in place at casinos in the western part of the state, but lawmakers are trying to expand that to everywhere in North Carolina, as well the ability to bet outside of casinos and on mobile devices.
Republican Rep. Jason Saine agreed with Cooper’s prediction.
“I believe Gov. Cooper is right in his optimism about sports betting,” Saine said. “Last session’s process helped identify matters that needed to be worked on with the legislation, as well as giving members (time) to talk to their constituents about the possibility of legalized sports betting.”
Alabama longshot to get gaming passed
The odds of Alabama getting any type of gaming passed this year appears to be slim.
Rep. Chris Blackshear, who sponsored a gaming bill last year that almost passed, said he will not introduce similar legislation this year, telling the Birmingham News that a large number of new lawmakers might make it difficult to get majority support. Thirty-one of 105 House members are new.
Senator Greg Albritton said the senate will wait for the House since they have passed gaming legislation in the past, only to see the House fail to advance it.
Minnesota lawmakers intend to push sports betting over finish line
Lawmaker Zach Stephenson was disappointed Minnesota didn’t get sports betting last year, but that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm to get it done in 2023.
“Last year, legalized sports betting passed the House with a bipartisan majority, but stalled out in the Senate,” Stephenson said. “We are back this year and intend to finish the job.”
It would seem the Democrats have not only the support of some Republicans, but some key allies, including the state’s five professional sports teams, as well as the nine Native American Tribes.
The tribes would be the ones that would be operating sports betting under the current bill. Not only at retail locations but online, presumably with sportsbook operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings.
Stephenson estimated the state would see $12 million a year in taxes. That money would be used for problem gambling, policing the activity and youth sports.
A similar bill backed by Republicans would also allow professional sports teams and horse racing tracks to take wagers.
Georgia sports betting bill advances to Senate
One of the bills to legalize sports betting in Georgia as an extension of the state lottery appears to be headed to the full Senate.
SB 57 would legalize both mobile and retail sports betting. It passed the Economic Development Committee and is now before the Rules Committee for scheduling for a vote of the full Senate.
The bill also calls for 18 mobile licenses with nine going to professional teams, the PGA and NASCAR. The tax rate would be set at 20 percent.
SB 57 has some competition, however. The House’s version, HB 380, would have a 15 percent tax rate and 15 licenses.
One thing the bills have in common is claiming the legislation wouldn’t need a change to the state’s constitution and could be regulated through the state’s lottery.
Both the House and Senate are hedging their bet and have legislation that would legalize mobile-only sports betting through a constitutional amendment.
Kentucky lawmaker’s Hail Mary keeps sports betting bill alive
On the last possible day, Kentucky Rep. Michael Meredith filed a bill to legalize sports betting, keeping alive hopes that the Bluegrass State will have legal wagering in 2023.
Meredith said the bill removes online poker and fantasy sports, provisions that may have caused it to fail last year.
“Over the last two or three months, we have developed a little further, working with the industry, working with the tracks, working with the horse racing commission to make sure the regulation is done correctly,” Meredith said. “I feel like with just sports wagering, we were able to pick up some votes in the Senate.”
Highlights of the new bill include the Horse Racing Commission’s Regulatory Authority and Structure to be the main license holders and giving them the ability to partner with three sportsbook operators. Tax rates will be 9.75 percent for retail bets and 14.25 percent for mobile wagers.
Missouri gas station slots fuel fears of sports betting bill defeat
Many Missouri lawmakers would like to see sports betting legalized in the Show Me State but something unrelated to the wagering on sports might derail any legislation.
Several legislators believe any bill should also include lottery machines or video lottery terminals (VLTs), often found in gas stations. The machines have been controversial as the debate has been whether they are legal.
Of the two competing bills in the Senate, one addresses VLTs and one ignores the issue.
Senator Denny Hoskins is a supporter of the video lottery machines and said the proposed 36 percent tax that would be collected would be a financial boon to the state. Hoskins estimated $250 million would be collected annually.
The state’s professional sports teams much prefer Senator Tony Luetkemeyer’s legislation, which omits the VLT and still imposes a 10 percent tax rate on sports betting.
There is also stiff opposition from Missouri’s 13 casinos. Mike Winter, president of the Missouri Gaming Association, told lawmakers that his group is vehemently opposed to VLTs.
“We need an even playing field,” Winter said. “There is nothing in this bill that puts the VLT slot machines on an even playing field with the existing slot machines in Missouri casinos.”
Many small restaurants and bars have VLTs in their establishment and some came to tell lawmakers that the machines have helped their business.
For the time being, the issue is being debated but soon lawmakers will have to come to a decision on sports betting and whether VLTs are part of any legislation.