June 18th, 2021 Weekly Report
This week, several states are inching closer to a more robust sports betting package, or attempting to legalize the practice for the first time. We’re seeing interesting developments all across the country, but there haven’t been any huge leaps just yet. Mostly, legislative gridlock, pushing back decisions, and a lot of meetings have been the issue of the day. Read on for a breakdown of everything that’s stirring in the world of legal, real-money sports betting.
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Ohio’s Senate Says Yes to SB 176
SB 176 is the current bill in the Ohio Legislature that attempts to legalize the practice of sports betting, and it just passed muster with the Senate Select Committee on Gaming and the Senate at large. The bill will now head to the House in tandem with another bill allowing for collegiate athletes to profit from their image.
Should things go smoothly, Ohio lawmakers are hopeful for a rollout of sports betting by 2022. However, “smooth” is a word rarely used to describe the legislative process, and there are plenty of voices on both sides of the aisle and in the general public that don’t like the terms of SB 176.
One of those voices is Inter-University Council CEO Bruce Johnson, who argues that in-state college bets should not be allowed due to concerns of point shaving or potential shady dealings between athletes and unscrupulous bookies.
Should the bill pass as-is, it would allow for a wide variety of licenses, including 25 so-called “type A” licenses for online betting and an unlimited number of kiosks at establishments with liquor licenses. However, bets at kiosks would be capped at $200. Time will tell in the Ohio House, but as we’re already halfway through the year and there’s not an agreed-upon bill in the Buckeye State, it probably won’t happen in 2021.
Maine’s Sports Betting Talks Fizzle Out
Mainers won’t get their chance at legal sports betting this session, as LB 1352 was not scheduled for further discussion during the most recent hearing. The bill is a hard one to pass, as Governor Janet Mills is famously apprehensive about offering legal sports bets in the Pine Tree State. She has been quoted as saying that the people of Maine “(aren’t) ready to legalize, support, endorse, and promote betting”.
It’s expected that no serious movement will happen with Maine sports betting until later in the year. The Maine State Legislature is technically adjourned at the time of this writing, with some room carved out for special sessions throughout the summer. There’s hope that the special sessions will attempt to revisit LB 1352, but unless amendments can make the bill more attractive to Gov. Mills, it’s doubtful that sports betting will be available in Maine this year.
Illinois Makes No Movement Regarding College Ban, Ban Stays
Many states with legal sports betting frameworks have a caveat that bans bets on in-state college teams. For example, at the moment, if you’re in Chicago and you want to place a bet on Loyola’s upcoming game, the language of the sports betting law will not allow it. You will be able to bet on out-of-state collegiate teams and matches, but if an Illinois-based team is playing, that match will be unavailable to you in IL.
Earlier in the year, the Illinois General Assembly was seriously considering lifting their in-state collegiate sports ban. Representative Bob Rita (R) proposed this amendment to SB 690, the Illinois sports betting bill that passed in 2019. Had Illinois included in-state college bets in their sports betting bill, they would have been propelled into the number 2 position in the country with regards to overall handle (the total amount wagered by bettors in a given state).
Additionally, Illinois’ $170-plus million dollar handle from March Madness would have been well over $200 million had bets been available on Illinois-based colleges, prompting legislators to make the push to amend the bill. But it wasn’t successful.
Illinois legislators could have opted to push the amendment to a vote, but simply didn’t schedule a reading of the bill for the end of the special session in June. The IL General Assembly adjourned on May 31st, with special sessions scheduled for June to discuss unresolved issues such as the college betting ban. It’s possible that lawmakers like Rep. Rita will make another push to allow for bets on in-state college teams, but that won’t happen until at least October when the General Assembly reconvenes.
Legislators Hear Testimony Regarding Massachusetts Sports Betting
There’s a sizeable helping of proposed Massachusetts sports betting bills in both chambers of the legislature, and lawmakers are eager to capture lost revenues that are going to the multiple states nearby offering legal sports bets. Eligible bettors can easily travel to Rhode Island, New Hampshire and New Jersey in a matter of minutes or hours to place bets, while Connecticut and New York are moving forward with their plans to offer legal betting.
The Bay State doesn’t want to be left in the dust, so lawmakers and concerned parties met on Thursday to discuss the possibility of offering regulated sports betting, how it would look, and who should benefit from the revenue. Legislators took comments from interested parties, with a special focus on two things: who should benefit from the tax revenue, and how will the proposed sports betting bills make the market more equitable for minorities and women?
Despite the now-ubiquitous issues with virtual meetings: inaccurate captions and bad connections, some notable testimony was heard. For example, Elizabeth Suever, VP of Government Relations at Bally’s Corporation, the third largest provider of betting in the country, states:
“Look at the recent passed legislation in Maryland (...) minority-owned businesses, if they have a partnership with a sportsbook, (are) going to get licensed sooner than other mobile sportsbooks.”
She also referenced New Jersey as a model for MA’s sports betting package, which according to Suever “has more skins than are actually being utilized” in response to Rep. Michael Soter’s concerns about a flooded market.
With regards to revenues, testimony was also heard from Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley, Olympic gold medalist and representative for the Play Sports Coalition, consisting of over 4000 youth sports organizations in the country. She wants Massachusetts to legalize sports betting and send some of those revenues to youth sports organizations in the Bay State.
The Massachusetts Legislative session lasts all year, so there’s plenty more time for debate and discussion. Finally, we are seeing some momentum with sports betting in the state, but it’s going to be a hard push to legalize online sports betting in Massachusetts by the end of the year. We’ll keep you posted.
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.