Connecticut Capitol

  • Seven states in the nation could make sports betting legal in 2021.
  • On top of that, six more states are expected to discuss legalizing sports wagering in depth come the start of sessions in the new year.

NEW YORK – A number of states are expected to make sports betting legal in 2021 or at the very least, thoroughly discuss the topic during their legislative sessions that will see commencements in January.

More than half of the United States has legalized some form of sports gaming since the repeal of PASPA occurred in 2018. The Coronavirus Pandemic has played a heavy role in a favored lean toward this direction within a few places in the nation that will be considering legal gambling on sporting events because of the potential revenue that the industry could bring in.

COVID-19 didn’t just bring illness into the country, it also brought a tremendous amount of financial debt that has left states looking for new sources of revenue in 2021 that could be found through a legal sports betting market.

States With Favored Outlooks For Legal Sportsbooks In 2021

Two states that are almost sure things for getting legal sports gaming done in their 2021 sessions are Connecticut and Massachusetts. Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut recently spoke out in favor of making Tribal sportsbooks legal in the new year and Tribes in the state are already preparing for sports betting expansions as they seem imminent.

Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts has been an advocate for legalizing gambling on sporting events, even including it in his 2021 budget proposal.

That part of his proposal was omitted by the Massachusetts Legislature when the draft was finalized but not before they made sure to include sports betting as a revenue source for the fiscal budget of 2022, almost cementing the idea that the Commonwealth will make the pastime legal in their 2021 session.

Ohio is another state that may legalize wagering on sports in 2021 as 2020 seemed like the year it would happen for the Buckeye State.

An almost “perfect” bill proposal in the form of Sub. Senate Bill 111 accommodated every side of lawmakers’ concerns with amendments to make a piece of legislation that felt like it would be greenlit by the session’s end in December. However, the bill did not get more floor time for approval with COVID-19 turning the general structure of meetings upside down for the session.

But because the Ohio Legislature is now well versed on the subject and a similar bill can be proposed in 2021, the Buckeye State could see sports gaming becoming a legal activity in their near future.

Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Maine, and Missouri moved well enough in 2020 that the new year could see each state cross the finish line and make sports betting legal.

In Alaska, Governor Mike Dunleavy was the one that proposed legalizing sportsbooks as well as other forms of gambling in the state but their legislative session was cut short because of COVID-19. Arizona progressed in 2020 but came to a stalemate when considering a strictly Tribal market or an all-encompassing one.

Tribes in the state are hopeful that legislation will pass in their favor where commercial businesses are excluded from the legal sports wagering market in 2021.

Kansas was going back and forth between two separate bills that required amendments before they’d receive a pass by Governor Laura Kelly but those amendments did not happen in time.

There will be more time to talk on the issues at the start of the 2021 hearings.

Maine passed a sports betting bill in 2020 only to have Governor Janet Mills veto it, but this only shows that the Maine State Legislature is behind bills that would make sports wagering legal. Missouri was making strides in 2020 until the focus shifted to COVID-19.

Sponsors were certain that if they’d been given more time, they could have received the proper approvals, leaving 2021 open to be given that time for a green light within the legislative process.

States That Are Open To Discussions In 2021

There are six states that have already touched on the idea of getting legal sports betting in 2021 by pre-filing or talking about proposals being drawn up to introduce in the new sessions. These six states are Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

Alabama has been opposed to any type of gambling in their state for years but a recent study has found that $700 million in revenue could be made annually by a gaming industry with $10 million of that coming from sports wagering.

California’s Coalition to Authorize Sports Wagering and the California Nations Indian Gaming Association submitted a petition to the state with the required number of signatures to get legal sports betting on the 2022 November ballot for residents to vote on the subject. Should this receive the majority vote, the Golden State could have legal sportsbooks in 2023.

Florida has already pre-filed a sports betting bill to be run by the Florida Lottery if it passes in 2021. The Seminole Tribe of Florida will likely oppose this bill with their own as they’d like to have the Tribes of the Sunshine State be the only operators of sportsbooks, leaving out the commercial aspect of the market.

Georgia has been in talks for a completely mobile-only sports betting industry. While a number of gaming bills are expected to be seen in the Peach State in 2021 for retail and mobile sportsbooks and casino games, lawmakers believe the best route for sports betting is to mirror Tennessee with an online-only market.

This would allow the state to launch sportsbooks without the requirement of amending the constitution regarding gambling and have the Georgia Lottery regulate the industry, making live platforms become available more quickly.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt overplayed his hand and made sports betting legal in the state through the Tribal Gaming Compacts of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Comanche Nation in 2020. After being taken to court, those compacts with sportsbook expansions were void as the governor jumped over the entire process of making sports gaming law through the legislature.

But with Stitt being in favor of legal sports betting and the need for revenue in Oklahoma, 2021 could prove to be fruitful in properly legalizing sportsbooks in the Sooner State.

Last on this list is South Carolina, which has already filed House Joint Resolution 3395 that would amend the constitution and add legal sports gambling to its documents.

This wouldn’t be able to take place until 2022 however, making for a 2023 launch. The 2021 session will be caught up with putting together a committee to study the effects that sports betting legalization will have on the state.

The findings of these studies will be available for the 2022 session that could lead to legal sports gaming in South Carolina in the 2022 session with a rollout happening as early as 2023.

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