(PhatzRadio Sports / USA TODAY SPORTS) — While the U.S. Supreme Court on May 14 opened the door for sports betting to become legal, it may be at least a year before that occurs in most states, a gaming industry expert said.
“Broadly speaking, you’re looking at a few distinct waves” in how states will proceed, said Chris Grove, who oversees the sports betting practice of Eilers & Krejcik Gaming LLC, a California-based research firm that serves the gaming industry.
The first wave comprises a handful of states that basically have legal mechanisms in place and were just waiting for a favorable ruling from the high court. This includes New Jersey, West Virginia, Delaware and Mississippi. The next involves a slightly larger set of states whose legislatures are still in session and have sports-betting bills pending. California, New York, Illinois and Michigan are among this group.
“The largest group of states will wait until 2019 because they are out of session or almost out of session,” Grave said. “… That might seem strange because it’s so early in this year, but that’s how the political work calendar works.”
He said around 20 states have considered, or are considering, sports betting, “and I expect that number to balloon.” How, and when, states move on this “will be heavily influenced by the actions of neighboring states,” he added.
“It may not be as pronounced as with land-based casinos, but many states will act if they haven’t already,” he said.
To find out where progress toward sports betting stands on a state-by-state basis, USA TODAY Sports attempted to contact the governor’s offices of 25 states that have not been active on the issue. It also compiled information from across the USA TODAY Network and data collected this month by Eilers & Krejcik, which contacted the National Conference of State Legislatures to determine whether lawmakers remain in session.
The state Constitution currently prohibits all forms of gambling, according to Daniel Sparkman, a spokesperson for the governor’s office. Asked whether there has been any legislative discussion about — or a proposal or referendum aimed at — changing the state constitution, Sparkman replied: “Not to my knowledge and our legislature doesn’t meet again until March 2019.”
Austin Baird, a spokesperson for Gov. Bill Walker’s office, confirmed that “there has been no legislative activity on this issue in Alaska.”
The legislature did not consider any sports gambling bills in its most recent session, and the Arizona Department of Gaming said all sports betting will remain illegal until the state takes addition action.
Governor Doug Ducey called the Supreme Court’s decision “positive news” and alluded to the Arizona Tribal-State Gaming Compact, which governs betting on Native American land, as a potential route to broader legalization.
“We have been working on a modernized gaming compact,” Ducey wrote on Twitter. “This ruling gives Arizona options that could benefit our citizens and our general fund.”
The state has not considered any sports gambling legislation, and governor Asa Hutchinson said he is reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision and “we will be monitoring this closely.”
“Historically, Arkansas has opposed any broad expansion of gambling with the scholarship lottery being the one exception. I have supported this more restrictive approach,” Hutchinson said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports. “Now, we will need to review the Supreme Court decision and also track how the states react to this expansion of state flexibility under the 10th amendment.”
State Assemblymember Adam Gray introduced a consitutional amendment on this subject last year, and he said in a statement May 14 that it is “time to bring this multibillion-dollar industry out of the shadows” and regulate sports wagering like every other form of gambling in the state. The Sacramento Bee reported that Gray will now move forward with the amendment, and a hearing could occur before the state legislature’s summer recess.
One looming question in the state is how California will work with Native American communities on this issue.
“California voters have, on numerous occasions, confirmed the exclusive right of California tribal governments to operate casino-style games,” California Nations Indian Gaming Association Chairman Steve Stallings said in a statement. “Legalization of sports betting should not become a backdoor way to infringe upon that exclusivity.”
Title 18 of Colorado’s constitution explicitly notes that gambling on sports is illegal, and Jacque Montgomery, a spokesperson for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office, confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that the legalization of sports gambling in the state would therefore require “a vote of the People.”
Hickenlooper himself told FOX 31, a television station in Denver, on May 14 that the state will need to weigh the benefits of legalization against the potential risks, like gambling addiction.
Gov. Dannel Malloy issued a statement that said he is prepared to call the General Assembly into a special session to consider legalizing sports betting in the state.
“It is incumbent on us to consider the question of legalized sports betting in a thoughtful way that ensures our approach is responsible, smart, and fully realizes the economic potential that this opportunity provides,” he said in the statement.
Though sports betting of a sort already was allowed in the state, it was limited to multi-game bets on NFL games. But Gov. John Carney’s office issued a statement on May 31 saying that Delaware would launch “a full-scale sports gaming operation” on June 5, making it the first new state to legalize sports gambling in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision.
The sports gambling situation in Florida is complicated, in part because there’s an amendment on the ballot in November that would require any expansion of casino gambling to be approved by a voter referendum rather than the state legislature. So if that amendment passes, it would take any sports gambling decisions out of the legislature’s hands.
“We will review the court’s ruling. Any changes to Florida’s gaming laws would be made by the Florida Legislature,” McKinley Lewis, deputy communications director for Gov. Rick Scott, said in a statement.
“There is no pending legislation regarding this and the next session to debate something like this is in January 2019, when the governor (Nathan Deal) will no longer hold office,” said Jen Talaber Ryan, the deputy chief of staff for communications in Deal’s office.
An active bill would establish a commission that would undertake “an independent analysis of the economic and social costs and benefits” of an array of gaming and wagering in the state, including sports betting. The commission also would determine if gaming would be feasible and what form of gaming would be most appropriate for the state.
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter told 670 KBOI that bringing sports gambling to Idaho would be an arduous process and involve making a change to the state’s constitution. The radio station reported that Otter “doesn’t particularly want to see sports gambling in Idaho” but is supportive of the state’s horse industry.
There are several bills active, including one that would authorize sports betting in the state to occur with licensees under the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975. This bill also would create the Division of Sports Wagering within the Illinois Gaming Board to issue licenses.
Another bill authorizes sports wagering at a facility that is authorized to conduct gambling operations under the Riverboat Gambling Act. This bill would requires a sports betting operator to pay a 12.5% tax of its gross sports wagering revenue.
State Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute, has introduced bills the past few years, but they haven’t advanced far enough for a vote. Morrison said he’s “very pleased and excited about the decision” and that he thinks legalizing sports gambling in Indiana has a “fairly good” chance of passing next year. But even in a best-case scenario, sports fans in the state would probably not be able to wager until September 2019, Casino Association of Indiana president Matt Bell said.
State Rep. Jake Highfill, R-Johnston, said on May 14 that he will introduce a proposal to legalize sports betting when the legislature convenes in January to allow wagering on college and professional sports events. Brenna Smith, press secretary to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, issued a statement saying: “Given the Supreme Court’s opinion, the governor will explore options with the legislature next year.”
There are several active bills that would allow sports betting, but the bills differ about where such betting would be allowed to occur — only at race tracks, or also at other sites. Rep. Jan Kessinger has offered one sports betting bill that received a hearing, according to The Kansas City Star, and he plans to continue his push.
“This is the trigger,” he told the newspaper, “the catalyst for Kansas to be able to put together a good sports betting bill.”
The state had bills that would have authorized sports betting at horse racing tracks and/or under authority or the Kentucky Lottery Corp. Gov. Matt Bevin acknowledged to reporters on May 15 that sports gambling has “happened since the dawn of time” but added “it’s way too early to tell” what policy the state will adopt on the issue.
Sen. Danny Martiny blasted colleagues on the Senate floor on May 15 for derailing his efforts to provide for legal sports betting in the state earlier in the legislative session, saying at one point that “we’re the laughingstock of the country.”
Martiny asked Gov. John Bel Edwards to allow his bill to be considered at a special session next week, but Edwards declined, according to the AP.
Milt Champion, the executive director of Maine’s Gambling Control Unit, told USA TODAY Sports in an email on May 15 that the state legislature is not considering any sports gambling legislation and the state is “very much in the infancy stages” of evaluating the matter as a whole.
Bills that would have put sports betting to a referendum vote this November did not get through the legislature. Shareese DeLeaver Churchill, a spokesperson for Gov. Larry Hogan’s office, told The Baltimore Sun that the governor expects the issue to be debated in next year’s legislative session.
There is an active bill that, with the Supreme Court’s ruling, would create a “special commission to conduct a comprehensive study and offer proposed legislation relative to the regulation of online sports betting.” But lawmakers would then have to debate and ultimately pass such legislation, indicating that this could be a lengthy process.
There are currently eight bills that would expand gambling, including several that would legalize sports betting and wagers on fantasy sports. Four have gotten votes in committee — three that would allow internet gambling and another that would legalize fantasy sports betting — but none have gotten votes in either the full House of Representatives or the Senate.
Four other bills, including three that would legalize sports betting and allow the Michigan lottery to handle those wagers and another fantasy sports betting bill, haven’t gotten hearings yet in committee.
Rep. Pat Garofalo has publicly stumped for Minnesota to work under the assumption that sports betting will be legalized, prior to the Supreme Court’s decision. Despite his efforts, however, the legislature did not consider a sports betting bill before adjourning for the year on May 20. A spokesman for Garofalo said the lawmaker plans to meet with various stakeholders on the issue during the summer and fall.
Gambling officials in the state have said casinos could be up and running with betting on professional and college sports within 45 days of the court’s ruling.
And on May 17, Mississippi took a sizable step in that direction, as its state gaming commission issued proposed rules that would govern sports betting.
Last year, the Mississippi Legislature, unbeknownst to most lawmakers and citizens, legalized sports betting in Mississippi casinos by deleting a snippet of law that prohibited betting on any games that occur outside casinos.
The deletion was made — and not announced to most lawmakers — in a measure dealing with regulation of fantasy sports. Mississippi Gaming Commission Director Allen Godfrey has said the new Mississippi law allows sports betting, subject to regulation by the commission.
Five bills related to sports gambling bills had been introduced in the state legislature — three in the house of representatives and two in the senate. But The Kansas City Star reported that only one of them advanced out of committee.
The state’s regular legislative ended May 18, sports gambling wasn’t among the issues slated for an upcoming special session and the resignation of Gov. Eric Greitens created further issues.
Effectively, that puts an end to all of the bills for now. The legislature’s next regular session begins in January.
Some forms of sports gambling are already legal in Montana — including fantasy sports leagues and pools in which people bet against one another, rather than the house. But it’s immediately unclear whether the Supreme Court’s decision will lead to a broader legalization of sports gambling.
The state has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation, and Gov. Pete Ricketts’ has been a well-established opponent of sports gambling. He told reporters that he supported the Supreme Court’s decision only because it reinforced states’ rights.
“Sports betting is still illegal here in Nebraska and we have no plans to change that,” he said.
Sports gambling is already legal in Nevada.
Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports: “Legalized sports betting in New Hampshire? I’ll give it 3-1.”
The state’s law, signed by then-Gov. Chris Christie in 2014, was the basis for the legal battle that culminated in the Supreme Court’s ruling. Current Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statement May 14 saying he looks enacting a new version of the law “in the very near future.”
Monmouth Park had planned to start accepting wagers around Memorial Day, but on May 16, those plans were put off for now so that legal regulations can be put in place.
The state has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation, and a spokesperson for Gov. Susana Martinez’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved language in 2013 that would allow wagering on athletic events if the federal ban on sports wagering was struck down. And on June 5, the state senate finance committee is scheduled to vote on a sports betting bill sponsored by John Bonacic. If approved, the bill’s next stop would be the senate rules committee, which could then move it for a floor vote.
But there is no companion bill moving in the state assembly, and the state’s legislative session ends June 20.
In addition, Cuomo said on May 14 that he’s in no rush to move forward.
“We’ll do an economic analysis and a legal analysis, but nothing’s going to happen this year because there’s literally just a number of days left in the legislative session and this would be a very big issue to tackle,” Cuomo told reporters in Manhattan.
The state has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation, and a spokesperson for Gov. Roy Cooper’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment. However the state senate’s President Pro Tempore Phil Berger told The News & Observer, he thinks any progress toward sports betting will be slow.
Gov. Doug Burgum was among the state governors who signed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey’s case.
“I supported New Jersey’s appeal based on the principle that without a valid federal law preempting state law, Congress can’t prevent states from enacting, modifying or repealing their own laws,” Burgum said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports. “We’re not aware of any sports betting legislation being proposed (in North Dakota), and the Governor’s Office has no plans to propose such legislation. Should such legislation be forwarded to me, I will carefully evaluate it as with any other bill that comes across my desk.”
Though the state is home to a handful of casinos, Gov. John Kasich is in no rush to legalize sports gambling in the state.
“Expanding gambling has not been a priority for this administration, and that remains unchanged,” Jim Lynch, Kasich’s communications director, told USA TODAY Sports. “We’re aware of the ruling and looking to see what impact it will immediately have on Ohio policies.”
The Oklahoma legislature was, at one point in its most recent session, considering language that would legalize sports betting in the state. But the final version of House Bill 3375, which is colloquially known as the “ball and dice” bill, instead focused on the expansion of casino games, and it is immediately unclear whether legislators will renew sports gambling efforts in 2019.
The state, via the Oregon Lottery, was offering its “Sports Action” NFL parlay game before the enactment of the law that was struck down May 14, so the game had always been grandfathered in. But the Lottery stopped offering the game in 2007 as the state wanted to get out from under the NCAA’s refusal to stage championship events where any type of sports betting was allowed. Now that appears to be moot, but it remains to be seen what the state’s next move will be.
In 2017, the state passed a law authorizing sports betting in the state if federal law allowed states to regulate the activity. Now that day is here. But the state’s law also called for a $10 million licensing fee and 34% tax rate on this revenue, and those may tough conditions for potential sports betting operators.
Rhode Island was ready for this. An active bill would allow sports betting to be operated by the state lottery at existing casinos in the state, but it would prohibit betting on any collegiate sports event in the state or any college sports event outside the state involving any “state college team.” Gov. Gina Raimondo even proactively included sports gambling revenues in the state’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, more than a month before the court’s decision.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford proposed a bill in the state’s most recent legislative session that would amend the state constitution so that the legislature would have the authority to allow gambling, including sports betting and betting on horse racing. But given the timing of the court’s decision, that bill cannot be acted upon until next year. And even then, Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said, bringing sports gambling to South Carolina will be a “tough sell.”
South Dakota’s legislative session ended more than a month ago and Tony Venhuizen, a spokesperson for Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s office, told USA TODAY Sports that there is no active legislation related to sports gambling in the state.
“Governor Daugaard is leaving office at the end of this year, so it will be up to the new Governor and Legislature elected in November to consider this possibility next year,” Venhuizen wrote in an email.
State Sen. Brian Kelsey wrote on Twitter on May 15 that he plans to introduce legislation to allow sports betting in Tennessee, “with the tax proceeds to go to K-12 education.” Kelsey added that he did not expect the change to require a constitutional amendment.
Jennifer Donnals, press secretary for Gov. Bill Haslam’s office, noted that the Tennessee General Assembly has adjourned for the year and told USA TODAY Sports that the governor is “still reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision in the case.”
Texas has not recently considered legislation pertaining to sports gambling, and it appears unlikely the state will rush to legalize the practice. A spokesperson for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Supreme Court’s ruling. Texas “historically hasn’t been favorable toward gambling expansion,” Grove said. “It’s not really a gambling state.”
Utah’s legislative session ended in March, and Paul Edwards, Gov. Gary Herbert’s deputy chief of staff and spokesperson, said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports that sports gambling is not coming to Utah anytime soon.
“Governor Herbert appreciates the Supreme Court’s reaffirmation of states rights to regulate gambling within their borders, a right Utah will exercise by continuing to prohibit gambling within our state,” Edwards said.
The state has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation, and a spokesperson for Gov. Phil Scott’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment. But attorney general T.J. Donovan told NBC5-TV that he doesn’t see the state making a move soon.
A spokesman for Gov. Ralph Northam said: “We’re reviewing the ruling and would review any legislation should the General Assembly decide to take up the matter. (There is) no active legislation that I’m aware of on this topic.”
The Washington State Gambling Commission said in a statement that legalizing sports gambling would require a vote from the state legislature — “most likely, a 60 percent majority.”
“We hope that the Legislature would look to the Commission to provide its expertise about a regulatory structure for sports betting,” Tara Lee, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports. “And like all gambling in our state, it’s the governor’s responsibility, through the Commission, to protect the public by ensuring that gambling is legal and honest.”
A bill that became law in March was just waiting for a favorable ruling from the high court. Regulations need to be set, but sports wagering should soon be allowed at licensed casinos in the state.
The court’s ruling is not expected to have an immediate impact in Wisconsin, though tribal casinos in the state could seek to amend gaming compacts in an effort to allow it at their existing casinos.
“The legislature is not in session and there is no pending legislation on this,” said Steve Michels, assistant deputy secretary of the state’s department of administration. “Sports gaming is prohibited by the Wisconsin constitution, state law, and is not allowed under the state tribal compacts.”
The state has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation, and a spokesperson for Gov. Matt Mead’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Contributing: Mark Alesia, The Indianapolis Star; Lucas Aulbach and Tom Loftus, The Courier Journal; Bree Burkitt and Dustin Gardiner, The Arizona Republic; Ana Ceballos, The Naples Daily News; Jon Campbell and Joseph Spector, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle; Amy DiPierro, The Desert Sun; Steven Falk and Dustin Racioppi, Asbury Park Press; Scott Goss, The News Journal; Kathleen Gray, The Detroit Free Press; Geoff Pender, The Clarion-Ledger; A.J. Perez, USA TODAY; William Petroski, The Des Moines Register; Tim Smith, The Greenville News; Cary Spivak and Patrick Marley, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Whitney Woodworth, The Statesman Journal.