• At the end of June, the very first Democratic primary debates will take place in Miami.
  • Each candidate has plenty to talk about, but where do they stand on the legalization of sports betting?
  • Even with PASPA being overturned in 2018, candidates have mixed feelings when it comes to the issue.

MIAMI – There are so many topics that will be discussed during the first pair of Democratic primary debates, but will the legalization of sports betting be one of them?

Of the twenty candidates chosen to speak at the event, only three of them hail from states where wagering on sports has already been legalized – Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

The other seventeen candidates have mixed views on whether or not sports betting should be legal, despite PASPA being overturned in 2018. While many of them come from state governments where bills are being proposed, there is no traction to sign them into law due to all of the hesitations by these government officials.

When it comes to sports betting, the consensus view amongst these candidates is that they’d rather not legalize something that could lead to addiction issues within the public.

While it’s an understandable concern, it would be naïve to think that keeping it illegal will stop citizens from participating in it. Especially when other states, as well as offshore sportsbooks, offer legal options to those that enjoy sports betting. There are 16 states and counting that have a sports betting law on the books.

What Candidates Are Saying About Sports Betting Legalization

Top candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D. Mass) said the idea of states legalizing sports gambling through online outlets causes her to feel hesitation.

“Online can completely undercut every protection that the state puts in place and that’s my concern,” Warren said to the Nevada Independent. “Getting the appropriate restrictions in place so that children don’t have access, so that people who have problems with gambling don’t have access, are challenges that haven’t yet been addressed.”

The state of Massachusetts has had a fair share of suggestions for bills on sports gambling although none have been well received, continuing to make it illegal.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York is also against the legalization of sports wagering. “Gambling always makes me queasy because I think for a lot of people it’s an addiction … It’s hard to get entirely excited about it,” he said in an interview on NY1.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, also of New York believes that making sports betting legal is a good thing. Yang is an avid sports bettor himself. He tweeted, “I’ll admit to being among the millions of Americans who bet on sports. It’s positive that it’s about to become legal in most states.”

Wagering on sports has just become legal in upstate New York, with stipulations. It will only be allowed to take place in any one of their four commercial casinos.

New Jersey became the state to start the domino effect of legalizing sports wagering and Senator Cory Booker, a former college athlete, wrote the NCAA board before PASPA was overturned to encourage the legalization of sports betting.

“College sports fans largely ignore the prohibition, and instead they bet using offshore and illegal sports books,” the senator wrote. “Far from preventing sports wagering, a prohibition on sports betting simply encourages people to wager through high-risk and unregulated means.” New Jersey now enjoys statewide legal sports betting.

What Other Candidates And Their States Are Saying

Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro and Former Rep. Beto O’ Rourke of Texas do not currently have any legal sports betting in their state. The bill introduced in Texas, TX HB 1275 made no progress.

Former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware has legal sports betting. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii where it is illegal to wager on sports in the state has been an advocate to legalize it. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado where sports betting is illegal will put it to a public vote this fall. If the citizens of Colorado are in favor of it, then it will become legal.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, Author Marianne Williamson, and Sen. Kamala Harris of California have gained no momentum when it comes to a bill to legalize sports wagering within the state of California.

Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland lives in a state where they couldn’t come up with a bill in time to be presented to the floor. They will try again next year. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, a state where bill OH HB 194 has been drawn up but has not yet come to fruition.

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington lives in a state where it is still illegal to wager on sports. A bill introduced earlier in the year WA HB 1975 failed to pass.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont comes from another state that has introduced sports betting legislation. Sen. Amy Klobuchar represents Minnesota, a state that had a bill move around the house in 2018 but had no action taken.

Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a democratic candidate that did not make the cut for the first primary debate is in favor of legalized sports betting. In May, he legalized wagering on sports by signed bill MT HB 725 into law.

In a letter concerning the law he wrote: “For the market to succeed, Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively.”

While sports wagering has not been a matter at the forefront of the discussions during the campaigning of Democratic candidates, it’s clear that each has a different view when asked about it. As more candidates see other states legalizing sports betting, there will be more to address on the topic. The first Democratic primary debate will take place on Wednesday, June 26th and Thursday, June 27th from 9:00pm-11:00 pm ET. The debate will be televised on both NBC and MSNBC networks.

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