Few embrace the “there’s no minute like the last minute” concept better than state legislatures.
Often, a flurry of bills will pass when the urgency of a legislative session’s end presses the point for lawmakers. As it relates to sports betting, the most recent example just unfolded in Michigan. Wolverine State legislators overwhelmingly approved House Bill 4926, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, in the wee hours of Dec. 21. The legislation passed the state’s Senate by a 33-5 margin and then cleared the hurdle in the House, 71-35. The bill now sits on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk for signature.
Despite the monumental progress, the full implementation of Michigan online gaming isn’t likely before 2020. But several states are not only expected to legalize sports betting in 2019 but could potentially launch a legal market in time for football season.
Plenty in the wings for 2019
In the wake of 10 states now either having active regulated sports betting markets or in preparation for such following the passage of legislation, five more have already placed themselves in the on-deck circle for 2019 by pre-filing bills. The outlook for each is as follows:
There are currently three pre-filed bills ahead of the 2019 legislative session: BR 15, BR 29 and BR 320. That’s indicative of what’s expected to be a legitimately serious push for legalization of various forms gaming in the Bluegrass State in the coming year. Notably, BR 15 calls for the Kentucky Lottery Corporation to establish a sports wagering regulatory infrastructure.
The groundwork was laid during the last few months with the creation of an unofficial panel intended to study the issue. Then, lawmakers heard from various stakeholders in October regarding various pertinent components of any future gaming legislation: tax rates, integrity monitoring and mobile wagering among them.
The most recent development in Kentucky is particularly interesting. State Attorney General Andy Beshear, publicly threw his support behind the idea of legislators passing an expansive gaming bill in 2019 that would encompass not just sports betting, but daily fantasy sports, casinos and online poker as well. The impetus for Beshear’s stance is relatively straightforward — much-needed revenue for the state coffers, including an estimated $30 million annually from sports betting that would help fully fund the state’s pension systems.
The Show Me State seems intent on showing it can get comprehensive sports betting legislation passed in 2019. But what form that will take is still very much in the air, considering there are two slightly different pre-filed bills.
Sen. Denny Hoskins’ (R-MO) piece of proposed legislation, SB 44, includes a 1 percent royalty or integrity fee, but with half of it earmarked toward an Entertainment Facilities Infrastructure Fund that would be used for the upkeep of sports or cultural facilities within Missouri. The bill sets a tax on adjusted sports betting gross revenue at 6.25 percent. A $5,000 annual administrative fee and $10,000 “reinvestigation fee” that sounds more ominous than intended would also apply. The latter would go into a fund that would eventually mature every fifth year when the licensee is re-vetted.
Then, Representative Cody Smith stepped into the picture with his pre-filed bill, HB 119, in early December.
Smith’s bill does include a 1 percent integrity fee, although there’s a tweak with that aspect in his legislation as well — 75 percent is paid to registered professional sports leagues, while 25 percent would be paid to the NCAA on wagers that involve major college teams. The bill would include a $10,000 application fee and $5,000 annual renewal fee for “interactive gaming licenses,” aka on-site mobile wagering. Traditional brick-and-mortar licenses would also be subject to a $10,000 application fee.
Notably, under the terms of Smith’s proposal, gaming operators would be required to use official data from the sports leagues if the ”sports governing bodies” informed the operators they wanted them to do so — a veritable slam dunk.
One of two current placeholder bills, S 316, was filed in July by the bipartisan duo of Sens. John Eklund and Sean O’Brien. Another, H 714, also sits at the ready for potential deliberation once the 2019 legislative session kicks off.
The Buckeye State has a total of 11 land-based and racetrack casinos. One of its lawmakers, Sen. Bill Coley, notably advocated for interstate sports betting compacts that would include data sharing between jurisdictions at a U.S. Sports Betting Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. in November. That concept is deemed too ambitious by many at the moment, especially given recent rumblings about a forthcoming revised legal opinion on the reach of the Wire Act.
Any legalization of gambling in the Volunteer State must happen via voter referendum. Accordingly, two pre-filed bills that would call for a measure to legalize sports betting be put to voters — HB 0001 and companion SB 0016 — have been pre-filed.
As per the introductory text of the proposed legislation, sports betting would have to be approved by voters on a county-by-county basis and there would be a 10 percent tax on sports betting revenue. A total of 40 percent of that allotment would be allocated for general appropriations. Another 30 percent would go toward to “state colleges of applied technologies and community colleges for equipment and capital projects.” Finally, 30 percent would go toward local governments where sports betting is approved and would fund education and infrastructure in those jurisdictions.
The Tennessee Gaming Commission would serve as the regulatory body.
Virginia appears to be a potentially serious player on the sports betting front for 2019. The latest news coming out of the state involves an online-only sports betting bill pre-filed for next year’s legislative session by Delegate Mark Sickles. The proposed legislation, House Bill 1638 would repeal Virginia’s current ban on both sports betting and online lottery ticket sales.
The novelty of the bill stems from the fact it does not address the establishment of a brick-and-mortar sports betting market within the state whatsoever (Virginia does not have any casinos, tribal or commercial). Instead, it aims to legalize and regulate sports betting “platforms” that are better defined as a “website, app, or other platform accessible via the Internet or mobile, wireless, or similar communications technology that sports bettors use to place sports bets.”
Details of the bill as it pertains to sports betting include: The state’s lottery serving as the overseer of implementation and ongoing regulation; five sports betting licenses being made available at an initial cost of $250,000 each; sports betting revenue being taxed at 15 percent, with 2.5 percent of it going to the lottery for administrative fees.
Notably, Delegate Marcus Simon also spoke of introducing his own sports betting bill early in the 2019 legislative session that would aim to legalize the activity by July of next year. When he spoke of the potential legislation in October, Simon alluded to racetracks and off-track betting parlors as potential sites for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.
Be sure to follow TheLines for the latest sports betting updates in your state in 2019!