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Volume 24 No. 235
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Sports Betting Fallout: N.J., Other States Anxious To Pass Legislation

Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and West Virginia have also passed laws allowing legal sports betting
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

New Jersey lawmakers vowed to "move quickly to pass legislation to regulate and tax legalized sports betting after the Supreme Court ruled in the state’s favor by striking down a federal law prohibiting such gambling in many states," according to Kate King of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. New Jersey state Sen. Vin Gopal said that lawmakers "could pass a law as soon as next month." With federal law "no longer standing in the way, lawmakers must now craft legislation that provides oversight of sports betting, while imposing a tax that collects enough revenue without pushing gamblers back into the black market." Lawmakers in New York and Connecticut also said that they "would act fast." New York state Sen. John Bonacic "introduced legislation in March that would legalize sports betting at four upstate New York casinos." Bonacic: "I am confident that working together with my colleagues in both the Senate and Assembly, we can have a bill ready for the Governor’s signature by the end of the session" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/15). USA TODAY's A.J. Perez in a front-page piece reports it "stands to reason it won't take long" for New Jersey's horse tracks and Atlantic City's casinos to "ramp up." Monmouth Park Racetrack operator Dennis Drazin yesterday said that his facility "could, in theory, offer betting in two weeks." Perez notes track and casino operators are "likely to put such a move on hold as the state passes legislation in the wake" of the SCOTUS ruling (USA TODAY, 5/15). Monmouth Park likely will be the "first big New Jersey venue to take sports bets, and the first business significantly affected" by the SCOTUS ruling. Track officials have "spent years preparing for this day, planning in earnest" since state voters "passed a referendum" in '11 to allow sports wagering (WASHINGTON POST, 5/15). The question is if Monmouth Park "has to wait for the state to set up sports betting regulations" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/15). 

STATES READY FOR BETTING: Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and West Virginia, in addition to New Jersey, have "passed state measures allowing legal sports betting" in anticipation of yesterday's ruling, and in Mississippi, Geoff Pender reports state gambling officials believe casinos "could be up and running with betting on professional and college sports within 45 days." Mississippi Gaming Commission Dir Allen Godfrey said that the organization "would have regulations and approvals finalized and sports betting could begin in casinos 'within 45 to 60 days, before football season'" (Jackson CLARION-LEDGER, 5/15). Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Dir of Communications Doug Harbach said that his group could "not provide an estimate for when sports betting might become legal in the state." Pennsylvania state Rep. George Dunbar said that the Legislature "could still pass more rules ... such as a proposal that would require sports betting operations to have a physical location in Pennsylvania" (TRIBLIVE.com, 5/14). However, at least one casino in Pennsylvania, SugarHouse in Philadelphia, said that it "was ready to add sports betting 'as soon as possible'" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/15). Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowic said that they "support holding a special session to revisit a bill legalizing sports gambling" in the state. State lawmakers "failed to pass a preemptive bill earlier this year laying the framework to regulate and tax sports betting" (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/15). West Virginia earlier this year became the only state legislature to pass a law legalizing sports betting, and state Senate Finance Committee Chair Craig Blair said that there is "no need for a special session to work out arrangements with the professional sports leagues." He added that "any remaining issues or deals can be worked out between the casinos and the leagues." West Virginia officials have "estimated a 90-day window for casinos to get up and running." In addition to the new law, rules and minimum internal control standards "would need to be in place for the casinos to start operating" (WVMETRONEWS.com, 5/14).

LOOKING FOR A HEAD START: ESPN's Ryan Smith said there are a "handful of states out there that have laws going through their legislature to try to get something set up for sports betting." He added those "will be fast-tracked, and they hope to have something by the end of the year" (Golic & Wingo, ESPN Radio, 5/15). In Wilmington, Scott Goss reports state officials are "hoping to quickly make Delaware one of the first states to offer a full slate of sports betting -- a first-to-market advantage that could be boosted by the state already having a gaming infrastructure in place thanks to the parlay betting that has been offered here for a decade." Delaware Gov. John Carney said "full-scale gaming could be available ... before the end of June." That means residents likely would "not be able to bet" on this season's NBA Finals, though gambling on MLB, NASCAR and Wimbledon "could be in play" (Wilmington NEWS JOURNAL, 5/15). In Detroit, Jonathan Oosting notes some state lawmakers "want Michigan to make a quick bet on legalizing the sports gambling industry." Michigan state Rep. Brandt Iden said that bills awaiting action in the House could give the state a "head start in what could be a national race to regulate sports betting." Iden: "If we beat Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, we’re going to have people coming to Michigan for that very reason" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/15). American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman said that "nearly half the states are prepared to customize sports betting for their purposes without federal interference." Freeman: "The expansion of sports betting is going to be faster than anything we've seen. I'm confident that we can put the illegal market out of business" (USA TODAY, 5/15). ESPN's Doug Kezirian said some states are "sick of being on the sidelines" and they "want in the game" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 5/15).

EXCITED TO GET STARTED: Minnesota state Rep. Pat Garofalo said that he is "hoping" that his state can legalize gambling "maybe before the NFL season starts." However, the current legislative session is days from adjourning, and Garofalo, a leading proponent of legalizing it, yesterday said that he has "no intention of trying to push anything through at the last minute." That makes the NFL season opener "a long shot" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/15). In Chicago, Garcia, McCoppin & Keilman note Illinois lawmakers "already have held hearings about how they might legalize sports betting, but it’s unclear whether they can approve legislation by the end of May, when the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn." Illinois state Rep. Lou Lang said that sports betting should "not be viewed as a 'cash cow,' since it’s likely to generate less" than $100M a year for state coffers. By comparison, the state budget this year "could face a deficit of billions of dollars" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/15). In Honolulu, Ferd Lewis notes bills that would call for legalized sports betting in Hawaii are "likely to be introduced in next year’s state Legislature." Hawaii and Utah are the two states "without any form of legalized gambling" (HONOLULU STAR ADVERTISER, 5/15). 

PLAYING THE WAITING GAME: In Indianapolis, Mark Alesia reports Indiana state lawmakers "decided during this year's legislative session to wait and see" how sports gambling goes in other states. Casino Association of Indiana President & CEO Matt Bell yesterday said that he "didn't want to make a prediction on when the state would have legal sports gambling." When asked about the earliest it could happen, Bell said, "In the most hopeful case, could you be open by the beginning of the NFL season in 2019, September 2019? Perhaps. But I think we need to be realistic. There are a lot of assumptions built into that date" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/15). It may be "years before legalized sports betting is a reality" in California. State Rep. Adam Gray said that a "reasonable goal" would be to "finally get the sports betting amendment on the ballot by the statewide primary" in '20. Given the "multitude of gaming stakeholders in California, reaching a consensus on gaming legislation has historically been a difficult ask" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/15). A BALTIMORE SUN editorial states the pressure on Maryland politicians "will now be much greater to put a referendum" on the '20 ballot. The delay "might actually prove to be a good thing." It will allow time to "see what the market for widespread legalized sports betting looks like, to determine what regulatory approach and tax rates work best, and to iron out questions about what kinds of locations for sports betting and how many would be in the state’s best interests" (BALTIMORE SUN, 5/15).