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State Legislative Primer: Where Could Sports Betting Be Legalized in 2023?

In just about three-and-a-half years, more than 30 states in America have adopted some form of sports gambling.

In many cases, the legalization of sports gambling has been for both live in-person sports gambling at traditional sportsbooks and for online sports betting on computers and mobile devices.

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At last count, there are just 15 states where there is either no legislative effort regrading sports gambling or where legislative and/or judicial actions are incubating. In a handful of states, sports gambling has been approved but still awaits full implementation.

Here’s an update for 2023, as state legislatures begin their work for the year.

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Almost Across the Finish Line

Massachusetts

The wrangling over sports betting seems to be at the finish line. It was legalized in August 2022 but working out the details has been painstakingly slow. It was announced Friday that retail sports betting can start at 10 a.m. Eastern on Jan. 31. Online sports betting is anticipated shortly thereafter.

Maine

Legalized in May 2022, sports betting in Maine has taken a leisurely stroll to the end zone. Launch is expected this year but certainly not in time for the Super Bowl or even for March Madness. Maybe by the summer.

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North Carolina

Advocates for OSB keep hammering away in the Tarheel State and came within one vote in the General Assembly in 2022. The legislative body has dozens of new lawmakers following the 2022 elections and changes in the composition of the General Assembly could be a deciding factor. Pro-OSB forces are rallying again but now in-state sports franchises want more direct participation. Retail sports betting is already allowed in a handful of Native American casinos in the state.

Missouri

Missouri is mostly surrounded by states with sports betting, so the argument is obvious — keep those betting dollars in-state. A bill has been introduced in the Missouri House that would allow retail and online sports wagering. But as was the case last year, when sports betting passed the House but failed in the Senate, video lottery terminals could be a sticking point.

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Minnesota

In Minnesota, Native American casinos dominate the gambling scene overall, and it appears those interests may now be aligned with a sports gambling effort. A sports gambling bill made it through the House last year and with the Democratic-Farm-Labor Party Caucus now in firm control of the state legislature, a sports bill has a decent shot in 2023.

Kentucky

Like Missouri (or almost any state these days), Kentucky is mostly surrounded by sports betting states. Sports betting legislation has been filed there for 2023 but while there has been decent support in the House, the state Senate has not shown similar enthusiasm. Gov. Andy Beshear is a fan of legalizing sports betting but despite that and public support for sports wagering, there just may not be enough time to get it done in 2023.

Oklahoma

Surprising to some, the state is home to some of the largest casinos in the world, which represent Native American interests, so why not sports betting? Why not, indeed. Legislation has been introduced that takes Native American interests into consideration, but tensions between the Tribes and Governor’s office would have to subside for a deal to get done.

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Georgia

As is the case in a number of southern states, there’s a fair amount of conservative values opposition to gambling generally in Georgia. But sports gambling hasn’t happened there largely because it has been viewed as a voter referendum scenario, and that has created huge hurdles overall. Now, there are opinions that sports gambling could be approved without a referendum. Even if that turns out to be the case, don’t expect a quick resolution.

Texas

Texas is always interesting because it’s Texas. What’s new there is that the lobbying on behalf of gambling has a higher profile (for instance, former governor Rick Perry being the face of something called the Sports Betting Alliance). In addition, current Gov. Greg Abbott, formerly anti-gambling, is less so. And Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a loud gambling critic, is quieter on the topic. A frequent gambling standard-bearer, Sen. Carol Alvarado, a Houston Democrat, is back with another gambling bill that would put gambling on the 2023 ballot. House speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, has warmed to the idea of resort-style casinos. Bundling all this into a package or separate packages that includes sports betting is more realistic than ever. But, as always, time is of the essence — the Texas state legislature meets only every two years. And again, gambling would have to go to referendum.

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Way Complicated

California

The most recent sports gambling efforts did wind up on the ballot in California, and they landed with a thud. Competing campaigns confused and frustrated voters. Any new plan must be a reconciliation among Native American interests, commercial sports gambling companies, non-Tribal gaming interests and other stakeholders in California before there’s any movement there. In a nutshell, that appears years away.

Florida

The Sunshine State is another tale of competing interests. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is the major player in gambling in the state. An effort by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would have given the Seminole Tribe control of sports gambling in the state ran into trouble in federal court as opponents successfully challenged the plan. So, at the moment, the issue of sports gambling in Florida has moved into the judicial arena with an uncertain outcome.

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Barely A Pulse

Vermont, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Idaho

None of these states are large enough markets that the sports gambling industry will spend much lobbying capital on them. Mississippi actually already has retail sports gambling in its many casinos and a hybrid version of mobile sports betting if customers are already in the casino. The bottom line is that there’s some protectionism at work there to protect the Mississippi bricks-and-mortar casino market.

Some legislators in South Carolina and Alabama are talking sports gambling but the traction has just not been there. Vermont has some sports gambling chatter and who knows, it may get tired of the rest of its neighbors getting all the action. 

Idaho just hasn’t shown much interest.

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When Hades Freezes Over 

Utah and Hawaii are joined in one odd circumstance. Neither state, each for its own reasons, has any gambling whatsoever. Not even the lottery.

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