Sports Betting Regulators, Officials Urge Patience– to Avoid FumblingBy Jill R. Dorson | Published: July 9, 2018 at 10:23 am
Don’t rush! If there is one thing that regulators in states that have legal sports betting want to share, that’s it.
“I wouldn’t rush into this,” Delaware Lottery director Vernon Kirk said. “The world is still going to be there tomorrow. If you get started a little late, be thorough, talk to people who have experience with this and just be careful in your legislation and execution.”
On June 5, Delaware became the first state since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) to offer legal sports betting. Delaware had company upon the debut of New Jersey sports betting on June 14, while Mississippi, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are currently developing regulations, accepting applications and preparing with licensees to begin accepting wagers in the next few months.
DE, PA and NJ Sports Betting Officials Agree: Rolling out Sports Betting Regulations Requires Patience, and States Want to Get It Right the First Time.
Delaware was particularly quick in debuting full-fledged wagering at its licensed properties, but the same facilities already were experienced in offering NFL parlay wagering in years passed, plus it had many of its rules, regulations and technology in place after attempting to offer full-fledged sports betting in 2009. One month in, things are going smoothly.
Other states may not have the luxury of past experience, or the ability to be as nimble as Delaware, the second smallest state by population in the nation.
But every state regulating body is likely feeling at least a little bit of pressure. Some lawmakers across the country have been touting sports betting as a windfall for their state budgets. In fact, Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo earmarked $23.5 million in sports betting revenue in her latest budget. Rhode Island made sports betting legal in late June.
To help get there, the state is taking 51 percent of all sports wagering revenue — by far the largest cut in the country. The state will still need to generate an awful lot of wagering and will not be allowing mobile betting off premises, either.
New Jersey will celebrate its first month anniversary of legal sports betting on July 14, which coincides with the first day that The Meadowlands will accept sports wagers. Currently, licensed sportsbooks are operating in three locations in New Jersey.
The Garden State was the driver of Murphy v NCAA, the case that escalated to the Supreme Court and resulted in the high court ruling PASPA unconstitutional. Monmouth Park, a key driver in the lawsuit, was the first to open for business.
“We are pleased with the rollout of sports wagering in New Jersey,” said David L. Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. “While actual wagering only started in June, the Division was preparing for this possibility well in advance. My advice for other jurisdictions would be to have good communication with the industry and look to strong regulatory models such as New Jersey as you move forward.”
‘Don’t Let Your Legislators Go Crazy and Make Ridiculous Projections,’ Warned Delaware Lottery Directory Vernon Kirk.
In Pennsylvania, which passed its enabling legislation in 2017, the state gaming commission is in the process of rolling out regulations to get started. And just as in any other state, regulators know the whole endeavor is driven by money.
“We understand that the expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania is being undertaken to raise more money for the commonwealth,” said Doug Harbach, Director of Communications for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. “We’re trying to get a potentially lucrative market up and running as soon as possible, but we want to make sure it has all of the necessary regulations to protect the public.”
Harbach’s sentiment was also echoed by Kirk in Delaware and down south, by Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.
“The one thing I would say is to tamp down expectations,” Kirk said. “We’re doing really well, but don’t let your legislators go crazy and make ridiculous projections and saddle you with unrealistic expectations.”
Said Godfrey: “The numbers out there are so out of whack, I wouldn’t want to quote them,” Godfrey said of lawmakers’ pie-in-the-sky expectations. “Anything we get will be more than we’re getting now.”
Mississippi, Pennsylvania and West Virginia Are Aiming to Take First Legal Sports Bets During or Even Before, Football Season.
In Mississippi, sports betting regulations will go into effect on July 21. The state’s gaming commission has already received at least a handful of applications from potential operators and it appears that every commercial casino in the state will offer sports betting. The gaming commission, which has been overseeing the state’s 28 casinos for more than 25 years, moved swiftly to put out its regulations.
In West Virginia, the goal, according to West Virginia Lottery general counsel Danielle Boyd, is for the Mountaineer State to accept its first sports bet by football season, but no later than Sept. 1. West Virginia has five casinos. The state will roll out regulations under “emergency status.”
“It’s a different animal than anything that we’ve dealt with before and so knowing that, we’ve tried to surround ourselves with the best and the brightest consultants,” Boyd told Sports Handle in June. “One of the challenges has been making sure that we have the legislative rules we need, but avoiding ones we don’t. So we’ll need some flexibility.”
“We do have ’emergency status’ until early December as far as these legislative rules are concerned. So we can change them, we can add to them if we need to until December, but after that point, they would have to go through the legislative rule making process.”
Back in Pennsylvania, Harbach says the goal is slow and steady.
Focus of PA Sports Betting Regulations Is to Protect the Public.
“We know our chief role is to protect the public,” he said. “So we’re going to make sure we have it right. We’re not rushing anything.”
Pennsylvania lawmakers made sports betting legal in 2017 pending the status of PASPA. Since the Supreme Court decision came down, state regulators have rolled out draft regulations for sports betting and opened them to public comment. Those comments — from the professional sports leagues, Penn State University, Pitt and potential gaming operators — are under review. But the comment period is an example of why regulators can’t rush — it takes time to hear from stakeholders and then open conversations based on concerns.
Harbach thinks his group, similar to Delaware, has a bit of a leg up on other states. In the recent past, the gaming commission has had to develop regulations for fantasy sports and iGaming, among other issues, making sports betting legal a sixth new set of regulations to develop, he said.
Whether it’s sports betting or iGaming, Pennsylvania regulators would rather get it right the first time.
“The potential for revenue will be there when we are ready,” Harbach said. “We’re not feeling the pressure from the legislators. They understand that we need to get it right. There are some who see it as being beneficial as being ready before the football season, but we are not [aiming] for a particular sports season.”