More than two months before the start of 2024 state legislative sessions, it appears that stakeholders, pundits, and anyone else with an interest in legal sports betting is pinning their hopes on Georgia, the biggest state with potential to legalize next year.
In mid-October, a contingent from Entain visited with Georgia lawmakers in an effort to begin crafting a wagering bill that could pass the legislature in a state that has struggled to come to a consensus for at least three years. The closest call was in 2021 with a bill that would have allowed statewide mobile betting, but the effort was quashed when the Democrats pulled support over separate issues with the state’s voting rights bill.
Since then, lawmakers have been debating the same issues — whether to allow betting on college sports; whether legalization requires a constitutional amendment that voters must pass; and where the state’s share of revenue from wagering would be directed. None have been solved, and without compromises being reached, it’s hard to see how Georgia will move forward.
There does appear to be support in Georgia for legal betting. The state’s professional sports teams have formed a coalition pushing for it, and at least one survey has shown that residents support the idea.
But what about the other 11 states where sports betting has not been legalized?
Lawmakers in Minnesota and Missouri have been pushing up against similar roadblocks for years, but discussion continues. In Minnesota, the fact that it is an election year could be just the push that lawmakers need to make a decision. Democratic Rep. Zach Stephenson has been championing a legal betting structure that would give the state’s 11 tribes a monopoly, but if the scales tip in November and Stephenson’s party loses the majority, legal betting could be back at square one.
In Missouri, it’s a waiting game, as operators have said they won’t spend the time or money to pursue legalization until Sen. Denny Hoskins term-limits out and sports betting can be run as a standalone issue.
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There’s one state that doesn’t fit into either the legal or not-yet-legal category: Florida. As of today, the 2021 compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe has authority to proceed, but parimutuel operators have plans to file a case to block it in the U.S. Supreme Court and have already done so in Florida Supreme Court. So, while the Seminoles could go live with Hard Rock Bet, it’s likely they won’t until both cases are resolved.
While the fate of live wagering remains in flux in Florida, here’s a look at the status of remaining non-legal states:
Alabama: Lawmakers last considered legal betting during the 2022 session and there doesn’t seem to be much appetite for it. That said, Sen. Greg Albritton, who has championed legal wagering in the past, told CBS 42 in August that he thinks a good proposal would have enough votes to pass out of the Senate in 2024.
Alaska: Lawmakers haven’t shown much interest in legal wagering in a state that doesn’t have casinos or any professional sports teams, so the expectation is more of the same in 2024. However, the state did commission a study in 2021 to explore how wagering would affect the state.
Proposition 27 didn’t just fail to legalize online sports betting in California — it took one of the worst Election Day defeats of any initiative in state history.
Here’s a look at history, via @markasaxon https://t.co/7gk4KqnYJp
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) November 16, 2022
California: After two wagering initiatives failed miserably in statewide voting in 2022, the plan was for commercial sportsbook operators and state tribes to regroup, potentially finding some middle ground. Despite no such progress having taken place, two new initiatives were filed Friday that taken together would allow for statewide mobile betting using a hub-and-spoke model. It’s not known what entities filed the initiatives, but Indian Country quickly responded with a statement saying that tribal gaming issues should be handled by tribes, and suggesting that the authors “engage with Indian Country and ask, rather than dictate.” The biggest operators in the U.S. evidently knew nothing about the proposal. Should the initiatives move forward, meeting many requirements, they would appear on the November 2024 ballot.
Hawaii: In a state that has plenty of nonstop flights to Las Vegas, which residents often refer to as the “ninth island,” the idea of legal sports betting — or any gambling — has been slow to catch on. According to KITV 4, Sen. Angus McKelvey will file a bill for the 2024 session, but there’s no consensus or bipartisan backing, so consider next year more about laying a foundation.
Idaho: Lawmakers have never seriously broached the subject of legal betting, and that posture doesn’t look to change in 2024.
Minnesota: Rep. Stephenson has repeatedly tried to shepherd legal sports betting through the legislature, but Minnesota’s 11 Indian tribes want a monopoly and Republicans in both chambers have repeatedly pushed to add horse race tracks into the mix. Stephenson’s bill this year included language that would allow for bets placed anywhere in the state to be considered placed in Indian Country if they flow through a tribal server, a concept that is the focus of the Florida legal fight. If the Florida compact is deemed invalid, the concept wouldn’t fly in Minnesota, either.
Very good article by @sports_handle on the legislative situation in Missouri around sports betting. Much like Texas…it’s insane how much power a singular person can wield in state government. https://t.co/AjtydjNIyX
— Dan Back (@dan_back) April 25, 2023
Missouri: Professional sports teams have banded together to try to bring to voters the question of whether to allow legal sports betting. Four petitions, all of which would set a 10% tax rate and allow for retail and digital betting, were filed in September. The filing represented a break between the state’s professional sports franchises and existing casinos, which had previously formed an alliance to craft passable legislation. The status of that alliance, though, is likely moot, as Sen. Hoskins, who singlehandedly killed legal wagering during the 2022 and 2023 sessions, has said he’ll again insist that betting be tied to legalizing gray machines, which is a non-starter for casinos. In order to get on the ballot, the initiative proponents would need to collect and submit 171,592 verified signatures to the secretary of state six months ahead of Election Day.
Oklahoma: Sports betting isn’t coming to the second-biggest tribal gaming state in the nation anytime soon. Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is Cherokee, and the state’s tribes remain at odds over many, many things related to gambling. The tribes, which operate more than 100 casinos in the state, distrust Stitt, who in 2020 tried to fracture the Oklahoma tribal gaming association by making a deal with only a handful of tribes. As recently as September, Senate leadership told KOCO News 5 that it is willing to take compact negotiating power from Stitt if the governor can’t make a deal with the tribes. The House did send a digital wagering bill to the Senate early this year, but that body took no action.
South Carolina: Lawmakers have been dabbling with the idea of legal wagering for several years. A digital bill got through a House subcommittee in 2023, but conservative values and a governor who opposes legal gambling will likely keep sports betting sidelined in the near future. Maybe once North Carolina goes live, the pressure will be on — especially if Georgia lawmakers manage a consensus and proceed.
ICYMI: If you think Texas is going to legalize sports betting in 2023, you may want to think again.
Our Jill Dorson examined why the Lone Star State likely will not be legalizing sports betting in this calendar year.
Read More👇 https://t.co/33TDc02dLV pic.twitter.com/SbhLfzwKjL
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) April 5, 2023
Texas: A sports betting resolution cleared one chamber for the first time this spring in a House-passed proposal that would send the decision on legalization to the voters. The measure languished in the Senate. Legislatures traditionally need multiple sessions to come to a compromise on wagering, and the 2023 session was the second in which sports betting was discussed. The Texas legislature meets only in odd years, so 2024 will be a year for lobbyists to make their case and for legislative advocates to seek a sweet spot enabling a bill to move.
Utah: Mormonism doesn’t marry up with wagering, so Utah remains the one state in the U.S. that is unlikely to ever have legal sports betting.
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