Sports Betting Surges in New Year

As legislatures return to session, there is an increasing drive in many states to consider the legalization of sports betting. Already legal in nine states, as many as 24 more could take action in 2019.

After an action-packed 2018 for sports betting and its proponents, 2019 promises to be even more dynamic. Just in the last two weeks a collection of states began the process of legalizing sports betting within their borders. Here’s the roundup:


Several members of the Connecticut legislature are sponsoring a bill that would authorize sports betting at the state’s two Indian casinos. Among the sponsors are Senators Stephen T. Cassano and Catherine A. Osten.

The bill would amend existing law to allow for both online and brick and mortar sports book, but only at the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, which are tribal casinos. It would also allow the state lottery to operate online keno.

Osten said the bill could be expanded to include sports betting at other locations. Her bill would require age verification to prevent minors from betting online. “We have the infrastructure, we can use the new revenue, and we’ve got bipartisan support,” she told The Day. “This should be an early session success story.” She added, “I’d like to see action on this as soon as possible.”

Osten, who is co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said the bill would likely evolve as it undergoes the legislative process, and that might include adding the number of places that could offers sports betting. Osten’s district includes both tribal casinos.

Cassano supported sports betting last year as soon as the Supreme Court lifted the federal ban. He claimed then that the state was losing money by not going into a special session to approve of a law as soon as it was legal to do so.

Norm Needleman, who will be sworn in as a new senator commented, “Two of the top 10 largest employers will benefit from this bill.” He added, “The U.S. Supreme Court has already cleared the way legally, so I believe it’s incumbent on us as state policymakers to do what’s necessary to remain relevant and profitable in a rapidly expanding new national industry.”

Rep. Joe Verrengia, co-chairman of the Public Safety and Security Committee, said last year he believes the legislature will work on a comprehensive gaming policy that will include sports betting.

The Connecticut Lottery Corporation has said it would like to be in charge of sports betting. The bill just introduced wouldn’t do that, but does give it the right to operate online keno, “pursuant to agreements” with the tribes.

That doesn’t mollify the lottery, whose spokesman, Tara Chozet, declared, “This particular proposal will clearly benefit the tribal casinos,” said Tara Chozet, a spokeswoman for the lottery. “There are many stakeholders interested in offering sports betting in the state. The CT Lottery would optimize the returns to Connecticut, and we should be included in the conversations alongside other potential operators as this discussion evolves.”

In another statement issued last week by the Lottery, it urged that it be allowed to offer “sports betting at retail locations (like the Delaware Lottery does) and through mobile and internet portals. Allowing the CT Lottery to be a sports betting operator simply makes sense. Our infrastructure is uniquely positioned to offer sports betting in customizable ways. The state would receive all the net revenue generated from sports betting, as opposed to a small tax from total gaming revenues as with other potential operators.”

Carving out an agreement that makes the tribes happy is probably the biggest challenge of legalizing sports betting. The tribes have stated publicly many times that they believe they have an exclusive right to any form of gaming, guaranteed by their existing compacts.

The existing pact does require that any expansion must be negotiated between the tribes and the state. And then any amendment would have to be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Keeping the compacts intact is seen as a high-priority objective by many since last year the tribes paid more than $200 million in profit sharing. They pay 25 percent of their profits. This is way down from the peak amounts the tribes paid before the Great Recession, but still is a hefty amount of money.

The downward slide of tribal profit sharing is the entering wedge for MGM Resorts International, which has two fairly public aims: 1) to prevent or delay as long as possible the opening of the East Windsor commercial casino the legislature has already authorized the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to open and 2) bust open exclusivity by opening up all gaming in the state to a commercial bidding process which would allow MGM to pursue its goal of a $675 million casino in Bridgeport.

MGM’s tactics have been in defense of its MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, which is located about a dozen miles from East Windsor.

A spokesman for MGM called on Governor-elect Ned Lamont to carry out a suggestion he made that he was willing to meet with both the tribes and MGM about sports betting.

MGM spokesman Uri Clinton said, “We appreciate the comments by Governor-elect Lamont over the weekend regarding sports wagering in the State of Connecticut, and the need for all interested parties to sit down together.” He added, “We agree that such a discussion is in the state’s best interest, and we are prepared to take him up on his suggestion immediately.”

In a recent interview with the Hartford Courant Lamont said he wants to convince the tribes that sports betting is too good of an opportunity to miss and that it shouldn’t be tied up in a lengthy court contest.

Meanwhile, nearby New Jersey’s sports betting handle is rising steadily since the state legalized sports book after the Supreme Court lifted the ban in May. In November the handle was $330 million, which translated into $21 million in tax revenue. Connecticut lawmakers want to get in on some of that action.

Shortly after Thanksgiving Rhode Island began offering sports betting. This too is incentivizing the Nutmeg State politicians.

Osten declared, “Connecticut needs to play catch-up with surrounding states if we’re serious about modernizing our existing gaming industry. Fortunately, we can do that with a relatively simple regulatory fix. We have the infrastructure with the tribal casinos, we can use the new revenue, and we’ve got bipartisan support. This should be an early session success story.”


In Indiana last fall, an interim study committee on public policy recommended the legislature consider a sports betting bill. State Senator Jon Ford and state Rep. Alan Morrison introduced sports betting measures that failed to pass. This year, the two said they plan to re-introduce their legislation allowing sports wagering in-person on riverboats and at casinos, racinos and satellite facilities, as well as online and via smartphones.

Ford said, “Legalizing sports betting in Indiana would expand our revenue resources and increase recreational opportunities for Hoosiers. Both in-person and mobile sports gambling are predicted to provide Indiana with hundreds of new jobs as well as an additional $150 million in annual state tax revenue over the next five years.”

Morrison added, “If for some reason it were to be pushed to another year, obviously, I think we’d be missing out a lot. I won’t even contemplate that right now. Whether some people like it or they don’t, it’s hundreds of millions of dollars back to the state.” An Indiana Gaming Commission report issued last year indicated direct tax and fee revenue from sports wagering could generate $148.1 million for the state during the first five years.

Morrison’s bill would allow users to register online to place wagers on sports; Ford’s would require bettors to sign up for mobile betting at a casino or an off-track betting parlor. Ford said requiring wagers to be placed on-site would “kind of be like passing a law that’s 20 years old. We’re now doing everything on our phones.”

Ford’s bill would allow betting on all major sports, including at the college level, but not on youth sports. Neither Morrison’s nor Ford’s bill would include professional sports leagues’ desired integrity or royalty fee. Last year, Morrison’s bill included a 1 percent integrity fee but he removed it this year. League officials said the fees would cover the additional costs associated with data monitoring and integrity training. Ford said, “I’ve never bought into the argument that the leagues needed revenue for integrity purposes. They never really made the case to me.”

Ford added major league teams would benefit from the marketing and increased attention paid to their games. “People become more interested in a game when they have a stake in it. Even if it’s $5, if you have an interest in it, it will certainly help that entity.”

Indianapolis Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward said it’s too soon to specify what the team may like to see included in any legislation. But at a minimum, the Colts would want a royalty, a strong regulatory framework and that official NFL data be used to determine the outcome of bets.

Governor Eric Holcomb also said he’s concerned about how sports betting would be regulated to make sure games wouldn’t be fixed. “I don’t want to sacrifice the integrity of the game, of the competition. There are ways to do that,” he said.

Ford said he felt prospects for passage are “pretty good. There’s been a lot of talk about this for a couple of years. What will help us is seeing the numbers and the research on the gray market on how much sports betting really is going on. At this time, only seven other states allow sports gambling,” Ford said. “They’ve had great success, and I believe Indiana could benefit from it as well.”


Among the issues Iowa legislators will bring up in the new session will be sports betting. A bill legalizing sports wagering failed to pass last year. However, retired Iowa Lottery Chief Executive Officer Terry Rich said the board recently voted to study sports betting and how the Iowa Lottery could play a role. He noted 70 percent of sports betting takes place through lotteries.

Rich said, “Our retailers have asked us to at least investigate the idea of kind of a sports lottery where you can bet on kind of a top-line, more parlay bet, where you bet on two or three games at once. So that it’s an easy bet because they don’t want long lines at the convenience stores. But they would want the opportunity that would have a place for people to be able to do a high-level bet.”

Wild Rose Casino Chief Operating Officer Tom Timmons stated he was disappointed a sports betting bill didn’t pass last year. However, he said he’s optimistic one will be successful this year. “On that basis, part of our Coach’s Corner is pretty well set up as a sports book now. All we would have to add is a few countertops to accept wagers. Come out there on some Sunday afternoon, wouldn’t that be fun, or some Saturday afternoon in the fall and just sit and watch your favorite teams and whatever, and see if you can make a little bit of money on it as well,” he said.


Recently speaking to the Baton Rouge Press Club, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said he hopes lawmakers will legalize sports betting. “I want to be in a position to actually do it in Louisiana because we know it is happening in Mississippi,” Edwards said. He added legalizing sports wagering at the state’s casinos would help them effectively compete with other states, “so that the rest of their gaming isn’t diminished by the fact that patrons skip our casinos in order to go, for example, to Mississippi.” Sports betting became legal in Mississippi last August.

If legislators approve sports betting, Edwards would have to sign off on the measure and then each parish would be required to hold a referendum to determine if it would be allowed locally.

Last year, lawmakers rejected state Senator Danny Martiny’s sports betting legislation. However, that occurred prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling lifting the federal ban.

If sports betting is approved in Louisiana, the governor said he would consider directing the new revenue toward early childhood education. Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Jones also suggested directing some of the sports betting revenue to gambling addiction services. But Edwards, and gambling industry officials, have noted sports wagering is not as lucrative as casino slot machines. “The amount of additional revenue to Louisiana from sports betting is not going to be terribly significant,” he said. He added he’s waiting to see the results of a sports betting study the Louisiana legislature commissioned.

Martiny is likely to propose sports betting legislation again. His previous bill limited placing bets to casinos and possibly racetracks, a total of 20 locations across the state. Other interests are pushing for allowing bets to be placed from mobile phone apps.

Martiny is likely to propose restricting placing bets to casinos and possibly racetracks — 20 locations in total across the state. The video poker industry wants betting to be legal at 1,700 restaurants, bars and truck stop casinos where the games are legal.


Along with taxing online purchases and redistricting, sports betting is expected to be one of the hot topics in the 2019 Missouri legislative session.

Several lawmakers have filed bills that would allow and regulate sports betting. However, the state’s casinos and major sports leagues disagree on the issue of so-called integrity fees.

Last year, sports league officials told state legislators they would use the 1 percent integrity fee to make sure players and teams don’t throw or influence games. Missouri Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Winter called the fees unnecessary. “The leagues and those who are supporting the integrity fee should already be doing those functions,” he said.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr said he doubts a sports wagering bill will advance until casinos and sports leagues reach an agreement.


It’s a new year, and the political jockeying to determine the shape and scope of sports betting in New York is under way once more with the unveiling of stalking horse legislation in the Senate which, like its predecessors, requires that bookmakers pay an “integrity fee” to the sports leagues.

Bill S17, filed by Queens Democrat Joseph Addabbo, was referred to the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, which Addabbo now chairs following the Democratic Party’s November sweep of the formerly Republican-controlled upper house. The Democrats now control the Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion in New York.

S17 is similar in its essentials to a measure introduced last spring by Addabbo’s predecessor as Racing and Wagering chair, John Bonacic, who retired at the expiration of his term earlier this month. Like Bonacic’s bill