Thirty-six states will elect governors next month, and we at Sports Handle wondered if sports betting was among the key issues in any states, or at least on the keychain.
In most cases, sports betting is not a hot topic and likely won’t be a deciding factor in electing a governor, but there are some states where legislatures have been actively exploring sports betting — and having a “friendly” governor will speed the process in those states. But in some cases, sports betting is a non-issue for the election.
Using the Mighty Mississippi as our divider, we present our findings in two parts. Today’s Part I focuses on where gubernatorial candidates in the East stand on sports betting:
Sports Betting Legalization’s Impact on Governor Races Across the U.S.: ‘East Coast’ Edition Looks Up and Down The Atlantic And Over to Central States
Alabama: Democrat Walt Maddox said in August that he believes sports betting should be part of the equation to solve the state’s financial troubles. After tweeting about that in August, he has not offered any additional thoughts on sports betting. The front-runner and incumbent, Republican Kay Ivey, has not weighed on sports betting, and for that matter, according to AL.com, has been avoiding debates or discussing the issues in general.
Sports wagering will be part of our calculus to address the lack of state troopers and the looming financial crisis for hospitals, mental health and corrections. Mississippi is taking full advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars without raising taxes #believe #alpolitics https://t.co/rcipSlBxPl
— Walt Maddox (@WaltMaddox) August 29, 2018
Connecticut: Lawmakers have been actively discussing sports betting and many see it as a great way to bolster the state’s finances, but no legislation was passed in 2018. Sitting governor Dannel Malloy is opposed to sports betting, but still tried negotiating on behalf of the legislature with the local Indian tribes, who own casinos in the state and contribute substantial revenues from slots. Malloy is not seeking re-election. Though sports betting doesn’t appear to be a key voting issue, the topic has been floating around the legislature all year and having a pro-sports betting governor would smooth that process of legalizing sports betting.
Florida: Sports betting doesn’t appear to be a critical topic in the Sunshine State, but in May Democrat Andrew Gillium told the Orlando Sentinel that any revenue from sports betting should be used for schools, though he didn’t appear to heavily favor sports betting. Sitting governor Ron DeSantis has not issued a stance on the subject.
Georgia: Democrat Stacey Abrams in June told the Macon Telegraph that she is “open to the topic” but only if tax revenue is earmarked for education while Republican Brian Kemp said “I do not support sports betting in Georgia.”
Illinois: It seemed Illinois would move on sports betting in 2018, but state lawmakers couldn’t come up with a bill to satisfy all sides. Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker says sports betting is worth considering while Republican governor Bruce Rauner didn’t say he opposes sports betting, but he’s certainly not a big proponent. He told the Chicago Tribune that sports betting preys on the poor, but he’s a realist and if sports betting is what Illinoisans want, it should be well regulated.
Maine: The state would need new legislation to legalize sports betting, but it hasn’t been a priority in the state and isn’t a topic in the governor’s race.
Maryland: Republican incumbent Larry Hogan and his Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous are on the same page on sports betting – the voters should decide the issue. Hogan elected not to call a special session on sports betting this year while Jealous says if sports betting is legalized, revenue should be earmarked for education.
Massachusetts: State lawmakers nibbled at the edges of legalizing sports betting and a white paper was commissioned in the Bay State, but no meaningful legislation was considered. Republican incumbent Charlie Baker hasn’t really taken a stance, but earlier this year told the Boston Herald that his office had met with a bevy of sports professionals. Challenger Jay Gonzalez hasn’t taken a firm public stance.
Michigan: The Michigan state legislature appears poised to bring passable sports betting legislation for a vote, but sports betting doesn’t appear to be a key issue in the governor’s race. State lawmakers have been actively meeting all summer and have been laying the groundwork for a comprehensive sports betting law.
New Hampshire: Sitting governor Chris Sununu would support sports betting in the Granite State and state senator Lou D’Allesandro promised that if he is re-elected, he’d introduce sports betting during the 2019 session. Democratic challenger Molly Kelly has not made sports betting a key issue of her campaign.
New York: Sitting governor Andrew Cuomo all but put the brakes on sports betting over the summer. State lawmakers, though not on the same page, put forth several sports betting bills only to have Cuomo say “nothing is going to happen this year … and this is a very big issue to tackle.” In a debate with Democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo said he supports sports betting “in the right places, under the right conditions.” Neither Republican candidate Marc Molinaro or Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins have taken a public stance on the issue.
Ohio: Both Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Corday favor sports betting, though it is not a key campaign issue. DeWine, the current attorney general, said he’s not a fan of gambling in general, but is a realist and believes that state lawmakers should move quickly on sports betting after the SCOTUS decision and Corday says he’ll support well-regulated sports betting. Lawmakers just this week held meetings to educate themselves on the possibility of sports betting in Ohio with plans to draft legislation later this month.
Pennsylvania: The first state to legalize sports betting before PASPA was struck down, it doesn’t matter if Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidates favor sports betting. That said, state lawmakers in 2017 made a law that requires at $10 million sports betting license application fee and a 36 percent tax rate, so the governor will have new revenue sources to put to use.
Rhode Island: The state legalized sports betting over the summer and it was no surprise. Sitting governor Gina Raimondo had already earmarked sports betting revenue for use in her budget. With Rhode Island’s sportsbooks set to open in November, sports betting isn’t a relevant campaign issue.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina M. Raimondo announces she will sign state budget at 12 p.m., Friday. Bill will allow the state to begin offering sports betting at its two casinos. Casinos expect to be up and running "this fall."
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) June 21, 2018
South Carolina: State lawmakers haven’t seriously entertained sports betting, and the state’s gubernatorial candidates are at odds about legalizing it. Incumbent Republican Harry McMaster opposed a state lottery and is on the record as being against any sort of legal gambling in his state. Democratic challenger James Smith told the Post and Courier in August, “It’s already going on every day. So we need to confront the issue, and make sure we keep the criminal element out. Failing to take action to regulate this activity could cost South Carolina tens of millions in lost revenue.”
Tennessee: The Volunteer State has taken no action on sports betting, and a new governor (incumbent Bill Haslam isn’t in the race), could drive — or not drive — what happens next. Republican Billie Lee opposes sports betting while Democratic candidate Karl Dean would support legal sports betting, but is mindful of roadblocks that must be removed.
Vermont: It’s unlikely that Vermont will move on sports betting in the near future, but Republican incumbent Phil Scott said he’d be “willing to listen” should the topic arise. Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist does not appear to have weighed in on the issue.
Wisconsin: It appears a constitutional amendment would be needed to make sports betting legal in Wisconsin. Republican incumbent Scott Walker has opposed gambling expansion across the board and didn’t seem supportive of legal sports betting immediately after the SCOTUS decision in May. Neither of the challengers has taken a stance on sports betting.
Come back next week for Part II: Covering the Midwest and Western states.