With optimism rising for a United States in which sports betting is legal outside Nevada — or at least it’s up to individual states to decide — two more states are pondering how to prepare for a changed legal terrain.
Those states are Iowa and Rhode Island, which both have existing casinos and incidentally both saw lawmakers make pro-sports betting efforts in 2010.
Now that the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral argument in New Jersey’s sports betting case (Christie v NCAA) on December 4, both states, like a dozen more, have lawmakers and other officials looking to tee up sports betting legislation.
Iowa and Rhode Island Among Dozen-Plus Gaming States Eyeing Legal Sports Betting In Upcoming Legislative Sessions
First, Iowa, which has 19 state-licensed casinos. “I think a lot of people enjoy sports, watching sports, and the opportunity to bet on it,” said Wes Ehrecke on Friday, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association (IGA). “Especially in a legalized environment, and set the standards by our Racing and Gaming Commission and high levels of integrity, assure that you’re going to be paid and to have it here, I believe will be a positive.”
Setting aside the possibility of a narrow Supreme Court decision that allows legal sports betting only in New Jersey, or, of course, the upholding of the 1992 federal law banning sports wagering outside Nevada (PASPA), Ehrecke imagined how Iowa might operate legal sportsbooks.
“I believe it would be much like what you’d see in a Las Vegas sports book” he said, per WHOtv.com in Iowa. “To come into a casino to do that first and foremost, (would) probably be the way that it would initially be structured to get this going.”
That’s the prevailing idea among most states and observers: Let the licenses and operations flow through existing casinos, and let them derive the revenue and ancillary benefits. Online and mobile gaming would likely follow as it has in Nevada.
As for Rhode Island, state Senate Finance Chairman William Conley expressed optimism for legal sports wagering as well as online gaming, which is a separate issue, but seems to be conflated a bit in this interview (video below). Rhode Island currently has two casinos — Twin River and Newport Grand Casino.
“The lawyer in me says the states are going to prevail here and so that’s going to be an opportunity for Rhode Island,” Conley told WRPI on Friday. Asked if he would be open to online gambling, Conley said “absolutely,” adding that “I do think the senate president thinks that that’s something we should look at seriously and would bring in revenue.”
“It wouldn’t be impossible to get a piece of legislation through this session if the Supreme Court rules that the states have the ability to do it.” Conley said.
Per Ozy.com’s report, the IGA hopes to advance bills “enabling and regulating sports betting” through the state legislature in the upcoming upcoming January to April session. A decision in Christie v NCAA will come in the spring, likely in April or May.
As Ehrecke put it, working out legislation early in 2018 is akin to “filling the well before you’re thirsty.”
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