May 4th, 2021 Weekly Report
Legal sports betting news has been especially busy this week, with spring bringing some big moves.
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Nebraska Legalizes In-Person Sports Betting
Nebraska, in a bit of a compromise, has finally signed their sports betting bill into law. However, unlike a majority of legal sports betting markets in the U.S., Nebraska will not allow online wagering under the provisions of LB 561, signed into law by Governor Pete Ricketts late last month. Included in the law is an expansion of gambling in Nebraska with the addition of gaming to the state’s newly-named State Racing and Gaming Commission, expected to issue licenses as soon as possible.
It wasn’t as contentious as we’ve seen in other states, but the process to get legal sports betting on the books and pull revenue back into the Cornhusker State was by no means a simple one. The governor released a statement against gambling expansion just as voters were casting their ballots on whether to enact such a thing in the state, and continued to side with anti-sports wagering voices such as Warren Buffet and Tom Osborne, local football legend.
In order to make the bill more attractive for the governor, lawmakers opted to remove a previous clause allowing for mobile wagering. That change was made during heated discussion in the second week of May, but it worked: Ricketts signed LB 561 into law, and now eligible bettors in Nebraska can expect to be able to place legal, in-person wagers by the beginning of the NFL season.
Only One Betting Bill Left Standing in Maine
Mainers have three less chances at legalized sports betting. Senator Louis Luchini has been pushing for legal sports bets as a source of much-needed revenue for the Pine Tree State since the federal government overturned the law banning the practice in 2018. Three years later, Luchini’s bill seems to be the only one with any real momentum in the Maine Legislature, and it’s going to be a tricky sell for Governor Mills, who is famously against the practice.
There were four bills on the table this session to legalize sports betting in Maine, but three of them died in the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs after not getting moved forward. LD 1352 is Luchini’s bill, which is much the same as his earlier attempts to widely legalize sports betting both online and in-person. All indication is that Mills won’t sign any bill unless convinced by research that the bill is a good idea.
An interesting and contentious caveat of Luchini’s LD 1352 is that it is an untethered market, meaning that any U.S.-based sportsbook operator can apply for licensure, even without partnering with an in-person venue like a casino or a stadium. This is contentious mainly because there are two casinos in Maine: one owned by Churchill Downs and one owned by Penn National. These two betting giants in the U.S. are less than pleased that they’re not being given exclusivity under the untethered provisions of LD 1352, as they’ve already poured millions into the state economy.
Whether or not lawmakers can satisfy the concerns of Penn National and Churchill Downs while also pushing for an untethered market is the question of the day. What’s likely to happen? If sports betting is going to get Governor Mills’ signature, lawmakers will have to hope that research and their efforts are enough to sway her opinion. However, the legislative session ends in mid-June, so it’s going to be a real task to convince the governor in such a short time. We’ll keep you updated.
Department of Interior Gives OK to Arizona’s Betting Bill
When you make amendments to a tribal compact in the United States, you’ve got to get the okay from the federal government. Tribal compacts exist largely in this country to authorize federally recognized tribes to conduct gambling under their own agreements separate from state laws.
In the case of Arizona, tribes were allowed to offer a certain number of games, but a recent law hoped to expand that capability. As this would mean changing the terms of the tribal compact, the U.S. Department of the Interior had to OK the changes by publishing them in a document called the Federal Register.
Arizona’s new sports betting bill was signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey, but didn’t officially take effect until being reviewed according to the above process. The changes have indeed secured Department of the Interior approval, thereby making the terms of HB 2772 now a part of Arizona state law. Now, it’s time for the Arizona Department of Gaming to issue licenses, which is expected to happen in short order, since lawmakers cleverly built an emergency clause into the text of the bill allowing for licensing to happen ASAP.
Louisiana Sports Betting Quickly Moving Ahead
There are a few bills moving forward in the Louisiana legislature, all of which are intended to legalize or regulate some aspect of legal sports betting in the Pelican State. There’s HB 697, which is the overarching bill authorizing the lottery to conduct legal sports wagering, which recently passed the Senate. Note the “HB” in that bill’s designation: that means it was a House-proposed bill that passed the Senate, meaning the next step is the Governor’s desk.
SB 247 is the Senate Bill that will set up the licensing structure for operators to apply and offer betting in Louisiana, and it recently passed the Senate, meaning that sports betting is just about halfway to legal in LA. There’s still the issue of getting SB 247 through the House and passing SB 142, the so-called “appropriations” part of the bill that earmarks the tax revenue from sports betting to certain concerned interests.
Typically in the U.S., that money goes to education, General Funds, and problem gambling education/treatment, but it’s expected that all three aspects of Louisiana’s sports betting package will pass muster with both lawmakers and the seemingly pro-gambling Governor John Bel Edwards. Since only 55 parishes in Louisiana voted to legalize gambling, only there will users be able to get online or bet in-person, but we’re looking at a timeline that will allow bettors to place wagers on the first games of the NFL season.
Written by Chris Altman, our US Sports Betting Industry Expert.
Chris Altman is a traveling writer and content expert with almost a decade of experience. In his spare time, he enjoys gardening, tinkering, and occasionally writes short stories about dogs and space. On a good day, you’ll find him slung over a laptop keyboard in whatever establishment has the best chicken wings.