This month is the beginning of the end for the possible advancement of legal sports betting in seven states where state legislatures are set to close by the end of the month. Of those seven, Virginia and Washington could well legalize.
In Virginia, lawmakers are conferencing ahead of the March 8 adjournment in an effort to agree on what the sports betting law and framework should look like. Lawmakers in both chambers clearly support legalization and each chamber approved its own bills early in the session, but there are some differences that must be reconciled.
In Washington, the country’s first sweeping tribal-only bill without statewide mobile wagering is poised to head to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk. The bill, which would allow for retail sports betting and give the state’s tribes exclusivity, has met excited opposition, but on balance has sailed through the House and the Senate on its way to the Senate floor. Sources say a vote could come as early as Thursday. The session is set to close on March 13.
Status of sports betting legislation as adjournments near
Here’s a status check in the seven states with adjournments fast approaching:
Virginia, March 8: It’s been watch and wait for the last week or two in Virginia, as representatives from both the Senate and General Assembly are conferencing to try to come to a consensus on what sports betting should look like, and they’ve only got a few more days to figure it out and get a bill to a vote. According to sources, there have not yet been formal meetings, rather behind-the-scenes discussions. The sides were close with their original bills, both of which allow state-wide mobile and retail sports betting. The key difference is whether or not to allow betting on college sports. HB 896 prohibits betting on college sports while SB 384 allows for it. See a breakdown/comparison of both bills here.
Washington, March 13: Washington is on the cusp of becoming the first state to legalize in 2020. HB 2836, a tribal-only bill, has been approved by the House and is currently on the Senate floor. A vote could come as early as today. The bill has met some opposition from card-room owner Maverick Gaming, which has promised legal action should the bill pass, with a large bankroll behind the effort.
Florida, March 13: There’s been mostly conversation but not much action in the Sunshine State. Any expansion of gaming will have to go through the Seminole tribe, and to date, it hasn’t been able to come to any kind of agreement with lawmakers. A trio of bills was introduced in January in the state legislature, but they gained no traction. The bills would have allowed for state-wide mobile run by the Florida Lottery. With just over a week left in the session, it’s unlikely any action will be taken.
Idaho, March 27: No sports betting bills have been filed this session.
Georgia, March 27: A handful of bills have been filed and referred to the House Regulated Industries Committee and Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee. The bills appear to be related, with HB 570 and SB 403 laying out a framework for sports betting and creation of the Georgia Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Commission, and HR 380 and SR 821 handling taxation and other fiscal matters. A recent survey in Georgia showed 57% of Georgians support sports betting, and the owners of the Georgia’s major professional sports teams have gotten together to push for legal sports betting. Lawmakers discussed SB 403 at a hearing on Tuesday when bill sponsor Burt Jones (R-Jackson) said, “It’s found money, in the scheme of things,” adding that while there are some concerns about comporting with the state’s constitution, “I’ve got some legal minds that think this does fit into our code section.”
South Dakota, March 30: A South Dakota referendum bill that would allow for retail sports betting in Deadwood only passed out of the House on Tuesday, 36-27, and will go on the November ballot. Gaming is currently only legal in Deadwood, so the bill would simply add sports betting to the offerings there. The bill passed out of the Senate in February.