To say sports betting has made inroads since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA in May 2018 is an understatement. With Massachusetts, Maine, and Kansas adding their names to the list in 2022, the number of legal sports betting states currently stands at 35.
That number is likely to increase in 2023, but sports betting’s success leaves just 15 potential targets on the board:
- South Carolina
But not all candidates are equal. Like the first debate in a presidential primary, a lot of the candidate states listed above don’t belong on the stage, as they have little to no chance of legalizing sports betting in 2023 or the foreseeable future.
The question heading into 2023 is, can the industry replicate or even surpass 2022’s tally of three states?
The 5 Real Contenders
Heading into 2023, there are five solid contenders.
Georgia’s efforts to legalize sports betting have been tied to a larger gambling expansion package that includes land-based casinos. That doesn’t look to be changing in 2023.
“We walk away from $100 million every year in sports gambling, and other states, and places like Antigua, get that money from people here in Georgia,” Rep Ron Stephens told the Georgia Recorder. “Let’s regulate it, tax it, and put the money in Hope and pre-K.”
Stephens’s revenue tally is from a vast expansion of gambling, of which sports betting is one component, along with land-based casinos and horse racing.
What would it take to legalize sports betting in Georgia? Far more than other states. First, the Georgia legislature would need to pass two bills, one expanding gambling through a constitutional amendment and another to sort out the details.
Next, the measure would go before the voters in 2024 with no surety of success. According to an October poll, 45.6% of likely voters would support legalizing sports betting. 42.6% of respondents opposed legalization, with 11.8% undecided.
For a couple of years, Kentucky has flirted with legalizing sports betting and, to a lesser extent, online casinos and poker. So, where does the state stand in 2023? They are in the same place.
Kentucky lost one of its biggest sports betting advocates, with Rep. Adam Koenig losing to a primary challenger. The biggest hurdle is that the state’s vocal and influential religious organizations haven’t gone anywhere.
Minnesota came close to legalizing sports betting in 2022 before the legislature divided over expanding locations beyond tribal casinos. T
he inclusion of the state’s two commercial racetracks upended Minnesota sports betting, as the tribes can put forth a take-it-or-leave-it offer thanks to their favorable compacts with the state – Minnesota tribal gaming compacts require the tribes to pay the state zero dollars.
That said, as they continue to miss out on the sports betting opportunity, the tribes may become more flexible with the idea of retail betting at racetracks.
Legal sports betting in Missouri seemed like a done deal in 2022. But the reemergence of an old adversary, Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs), sunk the state’s sports betting hopes (a deeper dive into last year’s efforts can be found here).
The Show-Me State already has three sports betting bills filed for the 2023 legislative session:
- SB 1, pre-filed by State Sen. Denny Hoskins, links sports betting and VLTs.
- SB 30, pre-filed by State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, is a standalone sports betting bill.
- HB 556, pre-filed by Rep. Dan Houx, is a standalone sports betting bill. HB 556 is expected to be the vehicle for sports betting in Missouri.
At the end of the day, sports betting in Missouri hinges on a compromise with VLT supporters.
Wait, North Carolina isn’t on the list above? That’s because the Tarheel State already legalized sports betting, but only in-person betting, and it is now looking to expand into online betting.
Little has changed in North Carolina, but with the national landscape continuing to tip in favor of mobile legalization, 2023 might produce different results. Last year the state looked poised to legalize mobile betting, but a late change of heart caused the measure to fail by two votes.
Two Special Cases
California will spend 2023 arguing over mobile betting and trying to qualify another sports betting initiative for the 2024 ballot. But because of the low threshold to place an initiative on the ballot, the needle California needs to thread is to avoid the 2022 situation where competing sports betting measures made the ballot. There are two adverse outcomes when there are competing measures on the ballot:
- It divides the affirmative votes.
- Both sides will likely release negative ads against the other measure.
The results in California were catastrophic, with Prop 26 receiving 33% of the vote and Prop 27 just 17%.
Florida ostensibly legalized sports betting in 2021, and the Seminole Tribe even launched a mobile app at the end of the year. A legal challenge forced the app offline, with the case now weaving its way through the courts.
Depending on how the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rules, the Seminole Hard Rock app could go back online immediately, although an appeal is a distinct possibility.
An Industry Wishlist
And then there are a few longshot states. The industry would like to see each of the following four states shifted into the legal column, with Texas and its population of nearly 30 million the biggest prize. But, as complicated as the previous states are, these states are even more complicated.
Texas – The Lone Star State needs to convince the governor and lieutenant governor to hop aboard the sports betting train. They might be swayed to support retail betting as part of casino legalization, but mobile betting appears to be off the table.
Oklahoma – Some positive comments by Gov. Kevin Stitt on Twitter are getting people excited about Oklahoma. Still, the governor has already legalized sports betting once, and his idea of the structure doesn’t align with the state’s powerful gaming tribes.
South Carolina – South Carolina is about as anti-gambling as it gets, but some believe the state is in play for sports betting.
Vermont – Vermont is the only New England without legal sports betting, but despite a favorable study, there is no urgency in the Green Mountain State. The state has a sparse population (only Wyoming has fewer residents) and no gambling industry to speak of, which means sports betting is way down on its list of priorities.
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