With most legislative sessions across the U.S. adjourned or headed into summer recess, it’s a good time to review and reflect on changes in the sports betting world through the first six months of 2023.
So far, only one state — Kentucky — has legalized this form of wagering, but lawmakers in North Carolina and Vermont have both approved digital sports betting bills that are now headed to their respective governors for approval. Those three states will likely represent the only three that will legalize in 2023.
Vermont’s bill, which will allow digital wagering only, got concurrence in the House May 12 after the Senate amended it. The bill was received by Gov. Phil Scott’s office Thursday and he now has five days, not including Sunday, to sign it. According to Scott’s press secretary, the bill is set to be signed Wednesday.
On Wednesday, North Carolina’s House concurred on a bill amended by the Senate, and it was transmitted to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office Thursday. Cooper now has 12 days to sign it, which he’s expected to do.
A handful of other states failed to legalize, which in some states was more of the same from previous years and in others was a laying of groundwork with the hope of future legalization. At least three states revisited and updated their existing statutes.
It’s unlikely that consumers in any of the newly legal or soon-to-be-legal states will be able to wager by the NFL season, but regulators in all three states are prepping for a busy fall and winter with eyes to launch in 2024. In addition, Mainers are hoping to be able to place their first bets early next year after lawmakers legalized in May 2022.
Below is a look at key states that entertained legal wagering in the first half of 2023.
States that legalized or are on the verge
KENTUCKY: The only state so far this session to legalize sports betting, Kentucky’s new law includes digital and retail locations, with wagering set to launch in 2024.
NORTH CAROLINA: After the Senate amended the House’s version of a wagering bill to include betting on horse racing and increase the tax rate, the House this week concurred. H347 will allow for digital and retail wagering, up to 12 licenses, and the earliest wagering could launch would be Jan. 8, 2024.
VERMONT: The new law will allow for digital sports betting only and up to six platforms. It’s unlikely that legal wagering will begin before 2024. Vermont is the last state in New England to legalize.
States that failed to legalize
GEORGIA: Sports betting continues to be used as a political football in Georgia, where legislators again failed to legalize. Debates over the morality of gambling and the potential need for a constitutional amendment to legalize it halted progress. Similar debates could hinder discussions again in 2024, as could political differences in an election year.
MINNESOTA: Lawmakers once again failed to come to a consensus and find a compromise that would get the backing of the state’s 11 tribes and somehow include the state’s horse tracks. On the House side, Rep. Zach Stephenson’s bill, which gives the tribes a monopoly, stalled in committee, and Sen. Matt Klein’s take on legalization met a similar fate in the upper chamber. Until lawmakers and stakeholders can sort out what works for everyone, Minnesotans won’t have the chance to wager legally.
MISSOURI: For the second consecutive session, Sen. Denny Hoskins was the architect of a filibuster to kill a legal wagering bill that had the backing of casinos and professional sports teams. Hoskins has one more term before he term-limits out of his Senate seat, and he plans to run for Secretary of State in 2024. While St. Louis Cardinals managing partner Bill DeWitt has suggested sports teams may try for legalization via initiative, it’s also possible that stakeholders will wait out Hoskins’ departure and revisit legal betting in 2025.
TEXAS: Legal wagering and casino gaming made it to votes on the House floor for the first time, which stakeholders considered reasonable progress. The Senate declined to bring bills on either to a vote, but the groundwork has been laid for meaningful discussions and negotiations going forward. The Texas legislature next convenes in 2025.
Wagering laws tweaked
ILLINOIS: Lawmakers made a minor change to the 2019 law, extending a provision that limits wagering on local college teams to brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and only pre-game bets. A second bill, which would remove the provision altogether, was also filed, but it died in committee.
MARYLAND: The legislature passed a bill preventing colleges from partnering with sportsbooks if the relationship includes a financial incentive for signups. PointsBet severed its relationship with the University of Maryland, though the legislation didn’t force that. Rather, PointsBet and Maryland were responding to the latest responsible gambling trend, which in some states bans such partnerships and in other states may limit them. Lawmakers passed a second bill that calls for the auditing of touts and handicappers.
TENNESSEE: Nearly four years after lawmakers legalized betting in the Volunteer State, they revisited the law and made some somewhat substantive changes, including removing the official league data mandate and changing the tax structure from a tax on adjusted gross revenue to a tax on handle. One bill, SB 475, incorporated both changes and goes into effect July 1.
Additional reporting by Bennett Conlin