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Sports Betting: State of the States

In 2021, more U.S. states will join with the 24 that have a form of legalized sports betting. Some states won’t. Arizona, Georgia and Kansas seem the most likely to succeed.

Almost half the states have some kind of legalized sports betting as 2021 unfolds. A handful of others seem ready to join the club this year. SportsHandle compiled a list of those that might go and those expected to be a no.

Arizona has had legislation for the past two years that would allow tribal and commercial retail sports betting. But the tribes had issues with the bills. However, a deal between FanDuel and the Phoenix Suns could mean commercial online betting is on the horizon, along with renegotiation of tribal compacts. If everyone signs on during the three-month legislative session, it’s a go.

In Connecticut, the tribes that run Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods insist they have exclusivity when it comes to sports betting. Yet some lawmakers have pushed for commercial casinos and sportsbooks. But one of the legislators opposed to tribal-only sports betting did not seek reelection. Plus, Governor Ned Lamont, facing a serious budget deficit, seems more inclined to work with the tribes. The partnership between the Mashantuckets, who own Foxwoods, and DraftKings might also help Senator Cathy Osten shepherd legislation to the finish line.

Georgia should be a no-brainer. The state’s pro teams support legalization. So do voters. But approval requires a constitutional amendment unless the lottery runs the show. Turns out, a bill to have the lottery run statewide mobile betting is on the drawing board. However, others say a gaming commission is more efficient, which goes back to the amendment and a referendum in 2022. Look for something to pass in 2021, but not be legal until 2022.

In Kansas, competing bills have come and gone for a few years. But an agreement may be at hand. The Senate wants a commission; the House wants the lottery to oversee the product. If they can reach a compromise, 2021 will see a sports betting bill.

In Florida, it’s the same old same old. Senator Jeff Brandes introduced a bill in December to appoint the lottery as regulator and permit statewide mobile sports betting. But the Seminole tribe says no way, we have exclusivity. If the tribe doesn’t say yes, no dice.

South Carolina has a bill in each chamber. Both are similar but the House version doesn’t permit collegiate sports betting. The hope is to get a proposal on the ballot for voters to decide in November. To get that far would mean lawmakers swallow their distaste for gambling to help with the budget deficit.

Maine lawmakers passed legislation in 2019 but Governor Janet Mills vetoed it. The latest attempt would permit statewide mobile betting, establish a 10 percent tax rate and issue 11 licenses for tribal and retail casinos. It seems likely to pass, but will Mills sign this time? Maybe if a deficit is on her mind.

Another state with a significant tribal presence, Minnesota, is a question mark for 2021. Lawmakers have introduced bills here in the past, but the tribes so far aren’t seeing anything they like. Maybe 2021 is a year that both sides could come to the table and hammer out an agreement.

Ohio, like other states, is divided between a gaming commission and the lottery as regulators. Governor Mike DeWine supports sports betting but whether the two chambers can bridge their differences remains to be seen.

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