State Stampede on Sports Betting
On May 14, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), moving legislation on sports betting to the top of the pile for many states. Some states, like Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi and some others will act quickly, but each state has different environments, players and needs. Here’s a review of states that have considered legalizing sports betting within the last year.
In Arizona, where the state government collected $100 million from revenue sharing with gaming tribes in 2017, some tribes claim they already have the exclusive right to offer sports betting under their state tribal gaming compacts.
Others say they are willing to negotiate that as part of amended compacts.
Governor Doug Ducey reportedly sees an opportunity in the Supreme Court ruling to modernize tribal gaming compacts and boost revenue to the state. Most of the compacts are coming up for renewal in 2022—several tribes have said they want to revise those compacts well in advance of that date.
Speaking of the compacts, Ducey told reporters, “The world’s changed tremendously since the year 2000,” the year most compacts were negotiated. “We have the Internet online availability.’’
The Arizona Daily Star reported that the governor is open to allowing sports betting at 55 off track sites throughout the state. “There’s a lot of opportunity here,” he told reporters.
“Of course, we have the tribal gaming compact,” he said. “And of course, we want to respect that and make sure we’re properly communicating with the tribes. But there’s also other factors we want to take into account.” And that includes the OTB sites, he said.
Horseracing interests would also like to be considered, as well. Vince Francia, general manager of Turf Paradise, a Phoenix operation that runs most of the OTB sites, wants the governor to offer his business some of the sports betting opportunity.
Ducey told reporters, “We want to build out the stakeholder group, look at some best practices around the country, and see how we can maximize this for the citizens of Arizona and for the general fund. I do think there is a real opportunity here.’’
Both legislators and tribes in the Golden State have opined that the voters would have to amend the state constitution to pave the way for legal sports betting.
Rep. Adam Gray, a consistent supporter of expanded gaming in the state, announced upon hearing of the high court decision that he would move forward a constitutional amendment. It would require fast action to happen in time to make the November ballot.
He issued this statement: “The decision by the Supreme Court affirms that the choice to legalize sports wagering is one for the states to make for themselves. The ball is in our court. The voters of California will now have to make the decision whether or not to authorize sports wagering.”
The representative has had Constitutional Amendment, ACA 18 ready since July. He regarded it as a “placeholder” until the exact ruling was known. Once it was known, Gray declared, “Now that the court has given the states the right to make this choice, it is time we begin to have a serious conversation about sports wagering in California.”
There is a late June deadline and a requirement that both houses approve the measure by a two-thirds margin. This is seen as unlikely by most Sacramento observers.
Meanwhile Steve Stallings, chairman of CNIGA (California Nations Indian Gaming Association) put lawmakers on notice that gaming tribes will fight efforts to allow racetracks, online operators and cardrooms to offer sports betting.
Stallings wrote, “Moving forward it will take an amendment to the California Constitution to permit any form of sports wagering. In doing so, we would advise the state to move slowly and cautiously and examine all angles as it relates to sports betting. As the state of California weighs the decision of whether to allow for the practice of sports wagering, we firmly ask that tribes have a place at the table in any and all discussions surrounding this issue.”
Stallings added, “We also want to make very clear that California voters have, on numerous occasions, confirmed the exclusive right of California tribal governments to operate casino-style games. Legalization of sports betting should not become a back-door way to infringe upon that exclusivity.”
Despite Stallings’s assertion, sports betting is not mentioned in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 that created the regulatory framework for Indian gaming.
One factor that might bring the disparate parties together is the state’s looming budget crisis. But that means squaring the circle of the interests of 65 gaming tribes, who don’t necessarily have identical goals and interests, seven racetracks, and around 90 card clubs.
Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro of Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 brought in Jay Kornegay, the Vice President of the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino SuperBook to discuss how the high court decision might affect Colorado.
He was optimistic. “I can see it,” he said. “I think that they’ve shown that they’re very progressive and open-minded in the state, that I believe they’re going to have some form of sports wagering.”
He said the big question is whether mobile sports betting will be offered, which would appeal to a state with wide open spaces like Colorado. “Once you set up that mobile, it only works within the state boundaries,” Kornegay said. “That means people could go to the Rockies game, could go to the Nuggets, could go to the Broncos and via their phone could make wagers on that particular game.”
He added, “I know some states are not going to go down that road, but I can see Colorado having some form of sports gambling at their brick and mortar stores, but not the mobile.”
He also doesn’t see sports books operating in stadiums or sports arenas.
A bill to legalize sports betting was fast out of the gate of the Connecticut legislature, and among the first to crash and burn.
According to the Hartford-Courant a bill died before the Supreme Court lifted the ban. HB 5307 was among nine other major bills that died when the legislative session ended May 9. It died in spite of being noncontroversial and broadly supported by gaming operators, including the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, state regulators and the Connecticut Lottery Corp.
HB 5307 had been introduced in March along with a slew of other bills that would have legalized daily fantasy sports and authorized a casino in Bridgeport.
Lawmakers had hoped to have a framework approved and all of the regulations in place before the Supreme Court acted. Supporters have estimated that the state could rake in $6.5 million the first year and that amount would grow to $9.1 million eventually.
However, the bill began to drag when the Pequots and the Mohegans, operators of the state’s only casinos, insisted that they and only they could legally offer sports betting under the existing tribal state gaming compacts.
Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment spokesman Jennifer Harris Ballester said in a statement, “We have long felt that Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment was in a great position to offer this type of gaming at our properties.”
Attorney General George Jepsen rejected this claim, although he advised the legislature to “carefully consider a number of factors before legalizing sports betting.” Some lawmakers declared that the compacts never contemplated including sports betting.
In Florida, Governor Rick Scott’s Deputy Communications Director McKinley Lewis said, “We will review the court’s ruling. Any changes to Florida’s gaming laws would be made by the Florida legislature.”
But that’s not necessarily true, because of Amendment 3 which will appear on the November ballot. If it passes by 60 percent, voters will have exclusive rights to approve any future casino gambling expansion—including casino card games, slot-like games and Class III games.
John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, the group behind the amendment said, “The next question is, who should have the final say on sports betting? Should it be Tallahassee legislators and gambling lobbyists or should it be the people of Florida? We think that decision belongs in the hands of the people of Florida. Even if it weren’t, shouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t Florida voters have the final say on something as significant as that?”
But Robert Jarvis, law professor at Nova Southeastern University, said the issue of sports betting could hurt Amendment 3. “Even if people are against casino gambling, most people are OK with sports betting because they are used to betting on a Super Bowl pool, they’re used to betting on a March Madness pool at their office. If they think Amendment 3 would stop sports betting after the US Supreme Court has approved it, I think they’re going to think twice about voting for Amendment 3.”
Commenting on sports betting and Amendment 3, incoming Senate President, state Senator Bill Galvano noted, “The ruling does not automatically change the gaming landscape in Florida. I believe it will create more interest in pursuing some types of sports betting. But all of that is overshadowed by the pending constitutional amendment, which may create tremendous obstacles for any type of sports betting to come into the state.”
Sports betting also could add a new element to compact negotiations between the state and the Seminole Tribe. The Seminoles have exclusive rights to offer card games like blackjack in return for giving the state a share of revenue. Under a deal negotiated by Governor Rick Scott’s administration and tribal leaders last month, that means monthly payments of $19.5 million. But as of now, the future of that deal is uncertain.
Tribal spokesman Gary Bitner said, “It’s going to take some time to understand what the sports betting ruling means in states outside of New Jersey, in Florida and for Indian tribes around the country. It will really require some research in terms of the law and how it may be applied.” One complication is, by the time the Florida legislature meets again in March 2019, the state will have a new governor and legislative leaders.
Still, said Marc Dunbar, a partner with the Jones Walker law firm and a lobbyist for the Stronach Group, owner of Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach and other major racetracks around the U.S., “Florida is uniquely positioned to take advantage of sports betting. This ruling specifically benefits destination states like Florida and could result in a significant boom for the state’s tourism economy.”
With the legislative session winding down, Illinois lawmakers most likely will not consider any sports betting legislation.
State Rep. Lou Lang said, “I learned that some states were so much of a hurry to pass a law on this that they screwed it up. We’re not going to screw it up. We’re going to do it right. And I’m not going to put a House bill together and get it out there for people to look at until I’m comfortable that it’s the right bill.”
State Senator Steve Stadelman, chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, added, “I think that this will be something that will be discussed and negotiated in the months ahead. And probably, more realistically, we’re looking at this fall or maybe early next year when we see something concrete.”
On the other hand, however, state Rep. Mike Zalewski said he’s concerned by waiting too long Illinois risks having a rogue operator come in and take bets, despite the fact that’s against state law.
“We would be reckless if we didn’t try to get a law on the books as soon as possible,” Zalewski stated.
Legislators introduced at least four sports betting bills this session. SB 2478, sponsored by Stadelman, remains in committee but he’s seeking an extension. The “Sports Consumer Protection Act” would task a state agency with enforcing sports betting laws for both in-person and mobile sports wagering. SB3432, sponsored by ex-NFL running back state Senator Napoleon Harris includes the 1 percent integrity fee sought by major leagues. It also failed to get a third reading and is effectively dead.
SB 3125 sponsored by state Senator William Brady would amend the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975 to allow sports wagering at racetracks. The bill, which also would create the Division of Sports Wagering within the Illinois Gaming Board to issue licenses, was referred back to the Assignments Committee late last month. And on the House side, HB 5186, the “Sports Wagering Act,” introduced by state Rep. Tim Butler was referred to the Rules Committee in February and remains there.
Indiana has discussed several sports betting bills sponsored by Rep. Alan Morrison, but none have ever reached the House floor for a vote. Nonetheless, Morrison is confident that he’ll be able to get something done in the next session and possibly have betting up and running by September 2019. Morrison’s efforts are supported by the state Casino Association.
A possible hiccup in those plans is a case filed by the players’ associations of all the major sports claiming they are due “right to publicity payments” from daily fantasy sports operators, which could easily be extended to include legal sports betting operations.
The legislature did not act on a bill during this session that would have legalized sports betting once the Supreme Court acted to remove the ban.
According to a spokesman for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, the high court ruling does nothing to change the state’s law that bans sports betting.
A bill that would have changed that law, House Study Bill 592 was introduced in February. It easily passed the House Government Committee by 16-7 and had been referred to the Ways and Means Committee. It would have allowed bets on professional and collegiate sports betting with the state collecting a $25,000 annual licensing fee on hosts and collecting an 8 percent tax. Supporters claimed it would generate as much as $90 million annually.
The bill did not include the so-called “integrity” fee that professional sports leagues have lobbied for. It included a tiered tax rate of 5 percent for the first $1 million in gross receipts and 10 percent above that.
The session ended in April without a bill being passed.
Commission Administrator Brian Ohorilko told 3 New Now said the commission is studying the ruling and expects another bill to be introduced next year. He said the commission would contact casinos operating in the state.
“It would certainly make it easier for a state like Iowa to get up to speed quickly and be prepared to regulate sports wagering, if indeed we were asked to do that,” he said.
Industry experts say it’s likely any bill next year will include a component for mobile gaming.
There is an abundance of venues where sports betting could be allowed, including tribal and commercial casinos, five racetracks and several OTB parlors.
Sports betting could be offered in Kansas’ nine casinos, both commercial and tribal, and three horse racetracks. The Kansas state budget office estimated sports betting could generate $70 million if Kansans wager $1.5 billion at state-owned casinos or online. However, if casinos successfully lobby to remove the online component, proceeds would decrease significantly.
In the latest legislative session, five sports betting bills were introduced and died. Following a hearing in March to learn about sports betting, lawmakers determined they had a lot more to learn. At first it was agreed any legislation would not pay major leagues’ integrity fee. But soon after, similar bills introduced in the House and Senate proposed an integrity fee at .25 percent instead of 1 percent. It also taxed revenue at 6.75 percent and gave pro leagues control over data.
A sports betting bill offered by state Rep. Jan Kessinger received a hearing but then faded away. “This is the trigger, the catalyst for Kansas to be able to put together a good sports betting bill,” he said, adding now, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling, he’ll continue the push for sports betting.
State Rep. John Barker, chair of the House Federal and State Affairs committee, said he plans to write to the House speaker to request an interim committee take up a sports betting bill. “I think we need to look at it. And if we can come up with a reasonable plan, I would be very supportive of it,” he said.
An official at Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway said that venue opposed the bill, adding the state could wait another year to revisit sports betting legislation.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the state should consider legalizing sports betting but not until next year.
“Certainly we should look at it,” he said, though not during the upcoming special session which will focus on taxes and the state budget. “We still don’t have all the rules necessary or know how it would be implemented and how it would be taxed,” Edwards said.
State Senator Danny Martiny’s sports betting legislation died in the Senate Finance Committee, where several members oppose any gambling expansion in Louisiana. Martiny said Louisiana will lose businesses to Mississippi casinos that will have legal sports wagering in just a few weeks. “Everybody else in the country is excited. But Louisiana’s not going to participate, which is a joke. So, in our quest to be Number 50 in everything, here’s another one. We’re the laughingstock of the country,” Martiny told fellow lawmakers.
Even if Martiny’s legislation had passed, sports betting only would be legal in parishes where voters approve it, according to the state constitution. Martiny said he’ll bring the bill back next year.
Now that the doubt has been removed as to whether the Bay State can offer sports betting, the discussion has shifted to should it? And should you be able to make bets at your local sports bar or even on your phone?
Last week Massachusetts legislators began discussing the issue. Senator Eric P. Lesser, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic and Emerging Technologies began the discussion with “I think Massachusetts needs to be thoughtful about its approach to the issue, but I think a consensus is emerging that the time has come to do something.”
Within a few hours of the Supreme Court decision Governor Charlie Baker said he would soon be talking with leaders in both chambers about the ruling. “Off the top of my head….I would say it’s certainly something we should look at.”
The governor, who is beginning a reelection campaign, told reporters, “I promise you that the vast majority of the states around the country will certainly take a look at it, and it really becomes a question of whether this is something that people believe ought to be part of their revenue stream, ought to be part of their entertainment industry or not.”
He reminded the journalists that the state is on the verge of opening two large casinos, the MGM Springfield this August and the Encore Boston Harbor in June 2019. They will join the Plainridge Park Casino that has been operating for almost three years. He wondered aloud how that fact will affect how the state treats sports betting.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently commissioned a study that projected the state could realize from $9 million to $61 million in taxes if it legalizes sports betting.
“There are costs with benefits associated with this sort of stuff, like there always are,” said Baker, comparing this to the costs and benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana, which the Bay State is preparing to do.
Massachusetts Senate President Harriette Chandler told reporters, “We are reviewing the SCOTUS decision to determine its full impact on Massachusetts,” and later added, “Clearly, this decision opens the doors for states to bring sports betting out from under the table and into the light.”
Michigan state Rep. Brandt Iden sponsored HB 4926, one of four sports betting bills introduced in the House. The legislation would “allow every brick-and-mortar casino, including tribal, to allow all the current games in-house and online,” including sports betting.
Iden stated, “I think it’s very important to be among the first movers. If we beat Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, we’re going to have people coming to Michigan for that very reason. They’re going to eat at our restaurants, be in our downtown. There’s definitely a benefit to move quickly.” Iden noted people already are illegally betting on sports. “This is going to regulate it and add consumer protections,” he said.
Iden has been working with state Rep. Robert Kosowski, sponsor of sports betting bills. Kosowski’s bills address legalizing sports betting across the state and allowing sports betting at state lottery terminals. All four measures currently are in the Regulatory Reform Committee, where Iden serves as chairman.
Kosowski commented, “We’re taxing our residents more and more every year. And I was just trying to think of ways to get more money into the state. I’m very enthusiastic about this. People ask me, ‘Well, you must gamble.’ I do, I put money on the Super Bowl. I can go right to Windsor, Canada, I can take a quick 5-minute toll road and be there in 10 minutes. Look at all the money we’re losing with me eating there, betting there, bringing my friends there.”
Kosowski said it’s possible sports betting could be a reality in Michigan “maybe at the start of football season, something’s possible. But we have to have a lot of work groups, meet with the casinos in Detroit and the tribes. We’ve got to get everybody’s intake and go from there.”
Both Iden and Kosowski support brick-and-mortar casinos hosting sports betting and also allowing sports wagering online. “I see the issues as combined. The bill certainly stared out as internet gaming, but as the reality of sports betting became more of an issue, I think it’s really going to become the main issue,” Iden said.
Kosowski said he supports internet gaming and even would allow bettors to make remote deposits via debit cards. He’d also like to see sports betting allowed at lottery kiosks. “I think we should accept sports betting at our lottery terminals. Why shouldn’t I be able to walk up as I’m buying milk or beer, why can’t I look at the line and put down $20 on the Lions? It makes it more exciting,” he said.
However, both legislators believe sports bettors must be required to register in-person at a casino. Kosowski said casino staff can verify the person registering, plus that will bring people into the casinos who possibly also will gamble there. Opponents of this rule said it’s antiquated given current technology’s capability to provide secure transactions online.
The Michigan legislation would allow sports betting as part of a larger package of bills designed to authorize internet gaming through tribal or Detroit casinos without an amendment to the state constitution. A bettor would have to be located in Michigan even when making a wager online through one of Michigan’s 26 licensed casinos.
Regarding taxes, Iden’s bill has been amended to call for an 8 percent state tax on online revenue–less than the 15 percent that brick-and-mortar casinos currently pay on gaming revenue. Kosowski said he’s “fine with whatever number, he’s in the majority and I’m in the minority, I just want sports betting.”
The 1 percent integrity promoted by the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball is not included in either legislator’s bills, though they both concede it’s probably inevitable. Iden said, “I continue to have conversations with the leagues about the integrity fee. They’re just getting started in that process. I haven’t really weighed in on the issue, but suffice to say all the leagues haven’t decided what to do yet. I think that you will see some form of the integrity fee, but not in its current form. Eventually it will sort of work itself out.”
Kosowski said he could see Michigan including an “integrity fee” in a sports betting law. “I don’t know what that number is. It would help the game, it would help the leagues.”
Complicating the situation is that two Detroit casinos are owned by families that also own professional sports teams. MotorCity Casino is operated by Marian Ilitch, whose family owns the Tigers baseball and Red Wings hockey teams. Greektown Casino is owned by Dan Gilbert’s Jack Entertainment and he also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers. The league allowed Marian Ilitch to own MotorCity after she said she had nothing to do with the family’s operation of the Tigers, which was headed by husband the late Mike Ilitch and now by their son Chris Ilitch.
Jack Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Matt Cullen said Greektown Casino Hotel supports sports betting at “brick and mortar facilities” with proper regulation. “The detailed state regulations that will be written in response to the Supreme Court’s decision will determine the safety and viability of this potential amenity,” he said.
MotorCity spokeswoman Jacci Woods said, “MotorCity Casino Hotel looks forward to working with the Michigan state legislature and the Michigan Gaming Control Board to ensure a sound regulatory environment that protects the integrity of sports wagering and benefits the people of the state of Michigan.”
Iden said Michigan tribes, which operate more than a dozen casinos around the state, “are still opposed to the bill, but not as staunchly as they were. Conversations with the tribes have been going on for one-and-a-half years, and I think we’re in a good spot. Right now, for me, it’s about educating my peers. And I do believe we are going to reach a middle ground with the tribes. They want to see a level playing field for everyone in the market, and I fully understand that,” Iden said.
FireKeepers Casino Hotel Vice President of Marketing Jim Wise said “The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi will monitor legislative activity and continue internal talks over whether to add sports wagering to its mix of offerings for patrons and guests. We expect there will be a lot of discussion about this topic in the coming weeks and months, but until there is something more to react to, it’s probably premature to speculate.”
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s office said in a statement, “We are still reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision, but on the surface, it appears legalization of sports betting is something that would need to go through the legislative process, keeping in mind the will of the voters of Michigan on the expansion of gaming.”
At Michigan State University, the office of the president stated, “This is a new development and it will take time to review how this ruling impacts college sports. MSU will be awaiting guidance and direction from the NCAA on how it plans to proceed.”
Mississippi Gaming Commission Director Allen Godfrey said commissioners are planning to have sports betting regulations and approvals finalized so it could be offered in the state’s casinos in 60 days or less—in time for the fall football season. Under legislation passed last year during debate over laws regulating fantasy sports, sports betting would be available only at casinos (no online component), and each casino would be required to have its plans approved by the commission, Godfrey said.
He predicted bettors would drive to Mississippi to wager on sports since it’s not legal in neighboring states, like Louisiana, where sports betting bills died in the legislature. “It’s technically just another game that’s being allowed to be played in a licensed casino,” Godfrey said.
Commissioners most likely will consider sports betting rules at its June meeting, Godfrey noted. Once they send the rules out for public comment, they must wait 25 days before voting to finalize them. Then the rules will take effect in 30 days. A June vote means casinos could renovate areas to serve as sports books before college football season begins in late August. The first regular season NFL game is September 6.
Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association Deputy Director Michael Bruffey said, “A lot has to happen over the next 90 days before football season begins.” He noted, “The sports betting itself is not a huge revenue generator. The margins are very small. However, it is an attraction” and brings people to casinos who will spend money on hotel rooms, restaurants and other gambling.
Chett Harrison, general manager at the Golden Nugget in Biloxi, said casino operators along the Mississippi Coast began making plans for sports betting long before the Supreme Court announced its ruling. “Absolutely. We’ve been working on it for a couple of months. It’s going to bring a lot of people to the Coast.”
He stated sports books “don’t operate on huge margins, but they bring a lot of energy to the facility.”
Penn National Gaming Vice President of Public Affairs and Governmental Relations Jeff Morris said the company, owner of the Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis, was “pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision. “Sports betting could be another amenity at our properties and help generate additional visitation, as well as drive incremental state tax revenue.”
In a statement, MGM Resorts International, which owns the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, said, “Mississippi is already well on the way to offering legal sports wagering. We are actively engaged with Mississippi regulators and anticipate we will be able to offer best-in-class sports books within a few months, as soon as regulations are in place.”
Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort Chief Executive Officer LuAnn Pappas said, “We have been working on the possibilities for our sports betting operations and are looking forward to working with our regulators.” She added the D’Iberville casino already has two new food and beverage areas currently under construction.
Rick Carter, owner of Island View Casino in Gulfport said he’s been planning a long time for the day when Mississippi could offer sports betting. “The buzz is there. People are excited about it. Everyone is jockeying around trying to be the first one. This is a game changer for us. This gives us another amenity we can go out and market that makes us different than everybody else, and that is big,” Carter said.
In 2017, Mississippi gambling revenue was about $2 billion, down slightly from 2016, according to gaming commission data.
The Missouri legislative session ended May 18 amid the major distraction of the sex scandal surrounding Governor Eric Greitens. A sports betting bill was not passed although six bills were circulated, including three House bills that would have allowed sports betting at any licensed operator or limited sports betting to riverboat casinos. One included the 1 percent integrity fee. One advanced out of committee during the session.
State Rep. Justin Alferman, sponsor of one of the measures, said, “Whether we can arrive at a solution within the next week or so, I can’t be sure of that. But what I do know is that my phone has been ringing off the hook literally all day.”
Observers said the bill sponsors are laying the groundwork for passing sports betting legislation in 2019.
The Supreme Court ruling won’t have an immediate effect in Montana, which was one of the four states exempted from Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) because it already allowed the practice when the law was passed in 1993.
Currently residents bet on horseracing at the five casinos and two racetracks regulated by the Montana Board of Horse Racing. The state lottery operates fantasy football and fantasy racing games at bars in the state. This also benefits the horse racing board.
Tom Tucker, executive director of the board, told ABC Fox News, “I think that there’s too many entities out there that depend on the current gambling structure.” He added that the point of fantasy league games is to attract customers to local establishments.
If sports wagering were to be expanded it would be prudent to study ways to do it so that existing businesses wouldn’t be cannibalized, he said.
The state, where a large percentage of the population owns horses, 35 years ago had 14 racetracks and 100 days of racing each year. After gaming was legalized, that number fell to two racetracks and annual bet totals of $500,000 compared to $12 million.
Governor Pete Ricketts told reporters he has no plans to seek legalization of sports betting or any other kind of gaming expansion in the state.
“I’ve always been against expanded gambling here in Nebraska, said the governor. “In fact, that’s how I got involved in politics over a decade ago. And so, I have no plans to change that.”
The state does not permit casino gaming of any kind.
Are Nevada’s casinos worried about the end of their virtual monopoly on legal sports betting in the United States?
Don’t bet on it.
We’ve been preparing for this decision for a very long time,” Jay Kornegay, the sports book director at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, told The Associated Press.
Silver State operators see parallels with the nationwide proliferation of casinos in the 1990s, which boosted visitation to Las Vegas exponentially by spreading awareness of the Sin City brand and whetting consumers’ appetites for the real thing.
“(Customers) are telling us that if they can participate in sports betting at home, whether they live in Mississippi or New Jersey or Massachusetts, it will only increase their interest in the sport and their team, and they will absolutely want to come to Las Vegas to root their team on, whether it’s in a tournament or on TV or actually physically playing,” said MGM Resorts International CEO James Murren.
“If you think back on casino expansion throughout the United States, that has actually benefited MGM in Las Vegas because people want to go to the market leader, which Las Vegas is the undisputed leader in the United States. I think the same will happen with sports betting as well.”
Kornegay added, “With the expansion of legalized sports betting across the country, there’s a chance that it will be introduced to a whole new demographic who will then want to come to Las Vegas and experience the Las Vegas venue. I think most of us are really embracing this.”
Analysts at Fitch Ratings agree, stating their belief last week that expansion won’t “have a material adverse impact on Las Vegas’ sports betting activity”.
“We do not anticipate sports books in regional markets will materially compete with Las Vegas during marquis sporting events, such as the NCAA Final Four or the NFL Super Bowl, as Las Vegas has firmly established its attractiveness as a leisure destination.”
If anything, Nevadans see expansion as an opportunity to extend the state’s well-known gaming brands into entirely new markets.
State Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Representative Ruben Kihuen said one way Nevada operators will maintain their leadership is by assisting other states design regulatory frameworks and effective operational systems.
“This opens the door for Nevada’s gaming industry,” Kihuen said.
Caesars Entertainment CEO Mark Frissora said his company, which owns or manages casinos in 13 states, plans to offer “safe, exciting sports wagering experiences to consumers across the country.”
As the state that challenged PASPA, New Jersey is positioned to be the first to introduce sports betting, with Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport NJ originally announcing it expected to go live at it sports book built in conjunction with William Hill on May 28.
Meanwhile, the state legislature is moving quickly to put in a new sports betting law that fits better with the Supreme Court’s ruling and would see the state regulate sports betting through its Division of Gaming Enforcement. That move to reintroduce a sports betting law, however, appears to have slowed the racetrack’s plans.
New Jersey’s challenge of PASPA actually involved its current law to allow for self-regulated sports betting at racetracks and casinos in an attempt to circumvent the PASPA ban. However, with the court striking down PASPA altogether, a bill has quickly emerged in the New Jersey Senate to regulate sports betting. A similar bill had already been introduced in the state’s Assembly.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, has moved the Senate bill and has said in statements that while details of the bill are still being worked out, he expects sports betting to begin in the state by June and the legislature could vote on the bill as early as June 7.
“We want to move quickly to capitalize on New Jersey’s advantages on this opportunity,” Sweeney told the Press of Atlantic City. “The specific schedule still has to be set and we have to coordinate with the state Assembly, but I expect to have the sports-betting bill approved by the Senate at our next session on June 7 so that sports gaming can be up and running as soon as the governor signs the bill.”
Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, echoed Sweeney’s estimate saying in press statements that the state has long been preparing for sports betting and there is no reason the measures would be delayed.
“From a business perspective, we should want to get this up and running quickly,” he told the Press. “We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We have strong gaming houses and institutions in New Jersey already.”
Still Greenwald did not commit to a date for the bill’s passage even while acknowledging that the state is under some pressure to move quickly as other states consider their own sports betting legislation.
The sports betting bills also have the support of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy who said in a press statement that his administration looks “forward to working with the legislature to enact a law authorizing and regulating sports betting in the very near future.”
Murphy also praised former Governor Chris Christie, who began his fight to allow for sports betting in the state as early as 2011, when he pushed for a referendum in the state to allow sports betting. That referendum passed easily with about 60 percent of voters approving.
The bill before the state Assembly would regulate sports betting through the state DGE and allow the state’s racing commission to be involved with approving sports books at racetracks or in “any agreement between a casino and a racetrack to jointly operate a sports pool.”
The state would tax gross revenue on sports betting at 8 percent with online sports betting at 12.5 percent. Casinos would also pay an additional “integrity fee” to fund investigations into the integrity of sports games by the state. The bill, however, does contain a mechanism to pay some of the integrity fee to professional leagues.
Betting would also be banned on collegiate sports played in the state or involving a New Jersey based school.
For Monmouth Park, the question is whether the track can begin offering sports betting before licensing begins under any new law.
“In the interim, Monmouth Park is not subject to an injunction,” Dennis Drazin, CEO of Darby Development LLC, which operates the track initially told NJbiz.com. “And until there is new legislation, we believe we are free to open up in a privately regulated environment. If the governor and/or the legislature ask us to slow down, we will defer to their wishes.”
However, a report by NJ Advance Media suggests the track will have to wait as the new Senate bill contains a caveat stating that anyone who opens a sports betting operation before the state puts regulations in place will be barred from accepting future bets on games.
“We just got the decision,” Sweeney told the news service in a later interview. “We’re moving quickly with legislation. I’m hopeful we should be ready by early June. Everyone should respect the legislative process rather than jumping out. “We fought for this for seven years. I’m anxious to get started just like everyone else.”
Drazin told the news service he had not spoken with Sweeney, but again said the track would defer to the legislature’s wishes if asked to wait. However, later reports now say the track is planning a charity event for May 28, which will feature only ceremonial bets with Governor Phil Murphy, former Governor Chris Christie and other state lawmakers.
Track officials have been gambling on the sports betting ban being lifted and have already constructed a sports book facility in conjunction with William Hill. The track paid $500,000 for the construction of the sports book and William Hill is obligated to spend about $5 million on the facility—which will include a sports bar—now that sports betting has been allowed, according to NJbiz.com.
William Hill US CEO Joe Asher said a team from the UK bookmaker was sent to New Jersey to begin preparing operations almost immediately after the Supreme Court ruling. Asher said the company wants to begin accepting bets “as soon as possible” and then later announced the May 28 starting date along with track officials.
Asher said Monmouth Park’s sports book infrastructure work is mostly done, though some equipment still needs to be installed, according to reports. The track, however, has been preparing for sports betting since New Jersey first challenged PASPA.
“We made the bet that we wanted to be ready in the event that the Supreme Court ruled for us,” Asher told Legalsportsreport.com “We didn’t want to wait and start figuring it out today. We were working on this going back to the beginning of the year.”
Atlantic City casinos are also actively moving to get sports book operations in place. Previous reports have stated that the Borgata casino—the city’s market leader—has already begun creation of a sports book at its property and several casinos—including the yet-to-open Hard Rock casino—have announced they expect to offer online sports betting as well as open their own sports books.
When the decision was issued, officials from Caesars Entertainment Corp., MGM Resorts International and Tropicana Atlantic City said the ruling creates an opportunity to legitimize sports betting and offer guests a regulated gaming experience.
“We plan to announce our specific approach to this business as we better understand the opportunities and regulations which evolve from today’s Supreme Court decision,” said Mark Frissora, president and CEO of Caesars Entertainment, which operates three Atlantic City casinos—Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City and Harrah’s Resort in a press release.
Two days after the court ruling was announced, Churchill Downs announced a deal with Golden Nugget Atlantic City to offer sports betting both online and at the casino. Officials said they are targeting early 2019 to begin accepting legal wagers for sports betting and online gaming in New Jersey.
Churchill Downs will offer online and sports betting services through the SBTech sports betting platform under a deal also announced this week. SBTech is an interactive gaming provider with offices in London, Malta, and Isle of Man.
It should be noted that Churchill Downs has also been increasing its presence in Pennsylvania, where it has moved to acquire racino Presque Downs, and also has interests in three Mississippi casinos. Both states are expected to also offer sports betting.
State officials also welcomed a move by the NCAA to suspend its policy of blocking states that offer sports betting from hosting championship games in the wake of the court ruling. The league has said it now supports “a federal model addressing legalized gambling.”
The NCAA—which opposed New Jersey’s challenge—has essentially blocked NCAA men’s basketball Tournament games from being played at the Prudential Center in Newark since 2011 when the state first started its push for legal sports betting. The sports betting bills now under consideration, however, would block betting on collegiate games played in the state.
New York is one of 20 states where lawmakers have either drafted or approved legislation to get their homegrown markets rolling in anticipation of an end to the federal government’s ban on gambling on professional and amateur sports.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken, and the ban is history, the Empire State is considered one of the front-runners