States That Considered Sports Betting in 2023
Almost all state legislatures have wrapped up their 2023 legislative sessions. Three states, Vermont, North Carolina, and Kentucky, legalized sports betting in 2023. A handful of other states tried to legalize sports betting, but legislation did not move forward.
Legalized Sports Betting
On March 23, 2023, Governor Andy Beshear signed HB 551 into law, making sports betting legal in Kentucky. Although the bill does include some important problem gambling provisions, such as 2.5% of tax revenue dedicated to a problem gambling assistance fund, the bill also has some shortcomings. For one, the bill sets the legal sports betting age as 18 rather than 21, like most states. Studies have shown that the younger a person begins gambling, the more likely they are to develop a problem. In addition, monies in the problem gambling assistance fund created by the bill are not earmarked strictly to prevent or treat gambling addiction, they can also be used to prevent and treat other addictions. Although an important cause, NCPG believes it is appropriate that gambling tax revenue be used to help prevent and treat only gambling addiction. Although NCPG did submit testimony on the bill, the bulk of the work was done by our state affiliate, the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling. NCPG recognizes that through their hard work, Kentucky has established the first-ever state funding for gambling addiction. Legal sports betting is expected to launch in the state in December 2023.
Governor Roy Cooper signed House Bill 347 into law on June 14, 2023, legalizing mobile sports betting in North Carolina. The state had limited retail sports betting at tribal casinos in place already. The bill has some problem gambling provisions and funding but leaves much room for improvement. When introduced last session, the bill had $1,000,000 annually for problem gambling treatment and education. After NCPG explained to the proponents of the bill that that amount would not be enough given North Carolina’s large population, the bill that was introduced in 2023 included $2,000,000 a year for problem gambling treatment and education, and that amount was maintained in the final version of the bill. This is an improvement but still falls far short of ideal funding ranges for a state with over 10.5 million residents. The bill also includes self-exclusion and some basic advertising safeguards. Sports betting is expected to go live in the state sometime in 2024.
On June 14, 2023, Governor Phil Scott signed H.127 into law, legalizing sports betting in Vermont. NCPG testified in Vermont in writing and virtually multiple times over the last two years. NCPG was invited to give presentations to lawmakers on the basics of responsible and problem gambling and did so multiple times. NCPG successfully had amendments focused on problem gambling included in the legislation. Thanks to NCPG’s advocacy, Vermont’s legislation includes an annual report on problem gambling in the state, $250,000 for problem gambling treatment and research next year and a process by which that amount can be increased in future years, and common-sense advertising restrictions (including mandating a problem gambling helpline in advertisements). The legislation also includes a ban on most advertising on college campuses, self-exclusion, and the requirement that betting apps include tools to assist players in making responsible decisions such as setting limits on time and money spent betting. The state’s regulators expect sports betting to launch in January 2024.
Tried but Failed to Legalized Sports Betting
The Georgia legislature considered multiple bills to legalize sports betting in the state this year. There is currently debate among legal scholars in the state whether legalizing sports betting requires a constitutional amendment. Most of the gambling industry’s lobbyists took the stance that a constitutional amendment is not necessary and worked with legislators to introduce bills that would legalize sports betting absent one. Although that is an open debate, both sides seem to agree that the tax revenue from legalized sports betting could only go to education and not problem gambling treatment, absent a constitutional amendment. This is because the state constitution says all tax revenue from legalized gambling must be used to fund education. Given this, from a problem gambling standpoint, the bills without the constitutional amendment were extremely weak on preventing and treating gambling addiction. Legislators supporting the constitutional amendment were very open to including nearly all of NCPG’s suggestions on how to improve their legislation for those who may develop a gambling problem. NCPG made multiple trips to the state to testify in person and submitted multiple rounds of written testimony as the bills were being considered. Ultimately, both sets of bills failed to pass both chambers, and the legislature is sure to take up the issue again in 2024.
A sports betting legalization bill was introduced in Hawaii in 2023, but did not make any significant progress and died with minimal consideration.
The 2023 Minnesota legislative session began with a lot of optimism that a sports betting bill would pass this year. However, the bill still had not passed when the legislature adjourned on May 22nd. Just like in 2022, the state looked poised to legalize sports betting until lawmakers again began debating whether sports betting licenses should be held entirely by the state’s tribes or whether racetracks should also have a stake. The negotiation continued all the way until the end of the session. Lawmakers can pick up right where they left off in 2024 and are sure to make another attempt at legalizing sports betting at that time. NCPG’s state affiliate, the Minnesota Alliance on Problem Gambling, led the charge in the state for ensuring the legislation included resources for problem gambling treatment and services.
Missouri was once again on the cusp of legalizing sports betting when the deal fell apart after a Senator filibustered the bill due to it not including money for Veteran’s services and legalization of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTS) in the state. VLTs function like slot machines and are currently found in convenience stores in the state. VLTs operate in a legal gray area, and other gaming entities in the state oppose them given that they are not regulated and may poach customers from other gaming establishments. However, one Senator felt VLTs must be legitimized in law before sports gambling is legalized in the state. Similar to last year, this disagreement ultimately killed the bill in Missouri. NCPG testified in Missouri in writing and advocated in the state. We were successful in ensuring amendments that focused on problem gambling were included in later iterations of the legislation. In fact, the sports betting legalization bill that passed the Missouri House of Representatives included the vast majority of items NCPG requested in the bill. The only aspect that fell significantly short was the amount of funding for problem gambling, which was set at $500,000 rather than the $5,000,000 we requested. NCPG hopes to pick up where we left off in 2024 in Missouri when a sports betting bill is surely re-introduced.
A sports betting legalization bill was introduced in Oklahoma in 2023, but did not make any significant progress and died with minimal consideration.
A sports betting legalization bill was introduced in South Carolina in 2023, and although it did have a legislative hearing, the bill did not make any significant progress and died at the conclusion of the legislative session.
The Texas legislature considered multiple bills involving sports betting this year. One bill, with minimal problem gambling provisions, did pass the House. That bill would have brought a constitutional amendment initiative to the ballot for Texas voters to decide whether to legalize sports betting, something that is required of all changes to gambling laws in the state. To pass, the bill required two-thirds of both chambers. However, the bill died in the Senate after the Lieutenant Governor (who presides over the Senate) refused to consider the bill. He said that because the bill only passed the House with a majority of its supporters being Democrats, it was not a Republican bill and not something he wanted to consider as a Republican himself. He stated that he is only willing to consider bills carried by a Republican majority. NCPG worked hard in the state, submitting testimony multiple times in support of problem gambling provisions. Because the Texas legislature only meets in odd years, sports betting legalization will not be considered again in Texas until 2025.
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