• Numerous states are considering sports betting legislation in 2021 as a new revenue stream to help bridge the huge gaps caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic.
  • All of these states made progress in the 2020 legislative sessions only to be thwarted by the time constraints placed upon them because of the outbreak of COVID-19.

BOSTON Seven states in 2020 have passed some form of sports betting measure to legalize the market and more states are rumored to fall in line during the 2021 legislative sessions. In 2020, Louisiana, Maryland, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, and Washington all passed bills to open up industries for gambling on sporting events or add onto their existing markets.

Some states required a vote but all votes were in favor of legalization.

The seventh state, Wyoming, didn’t pass a bill but Tribes have decided to move forward with sportsbook expansions, classifying the pastime as Class III gaming which they are allowed to offer their customers under their current Tribal Gaming Compacts.

States Looking At Sports Betting In 2021

A number of states were on the cusp of legalizing the wagering on sports matchups but the pandemic known as the Coronavirus hit the U.S. early on in 2020 and shifted the focus of governments nationwide. States that did make the industry legal will all likely launch toward the end of 2021 as the beginning of the year will be used for creating the rules and regulations of each state and their individual sports betting markets.

States that could see 2021 legalization are Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma. The reason behind the favorable conditions of these particular states is due to the fact that they had a good amount of discussion on the subject which has allowed lawmakers to be well-versed in what the legalization of sports betting would entail, making them better equipped to pass a future bill on the topic and that future lies in the 2021 sessions.

Alaska’s Governor Mike Dunleavy introduced legislation to make gambling on sporting events legal in his state but not much progress took place as the Alaska State Legislature shut down early because of COVID-19.

Arizona was closer than they’ve ever been with a sports betting bill but, in the end, it came down to lawmakers and Tribal leaders coming to an agreement on the sports gaming market. Policymakers would prefer an all-encompassing market for both Tribal and commercial sportsbooks, but Tribes want exclusivity on the market. The upcoming session will be more of the same but should both sides come to a compromise this time around as they’ll have more time, sports betting will be legal in Arizona in 2021.

California was very close to getting legal sports betting but tremendous opposition from Tribal leaders led to bill sponsors pulling the bill. The proposal allowed for both commercial and Tribal gaming and like Arizona, the Tribes of the Golden State want to have a monopoly on the market. The new year could find Tribal sportsbooks become a legal reality in California though as there has been chatter on the subject.

Connecticut had a few pieces of legislation up for discussion. Again, like other states, the Tribes wanted to have the exclusive rights to the sports betting industry and not allow for commercial sportsbooks to open. The new session in 2021 will likely pass Tribal sports betting as law rather than fight to include commercial operators because if the state chooses to do this, the Tribes will stop paying the state with profits made in their present gaming industry and that’s too much to lose for the economy of Connecticut.

Florida has a possibility to get sports betting legalized because the Seminole Tribe is willing to discuss the market with the government. At the end of the day, the Seminoles’ have the biggest influence on how it will play out for Floridian sports bettors but the fact that they’re open to talking about the subject is good enough to make 2021 favorable for the Sunshine State seeing legal sportsbooks.

Kansas was incredibly close to passing sports wagering in 2020 but they came to a standstill when no one wanted to budge on a few amendments. One bill had an iLottery which Governor Laura Kelly was behind, but lawmakers were not. The other bill could have become law if policymakers decided to include an iLottery but they did not make this amendment as the consensus was they didn’t want a legal iLottery.

Maine passed a bill to make sports betting legal in 2020 but it was vetoed by Governor Janet Mills. The Maine State Legislature held a vote to repeal the veto, but not enough votes were in favor of turning over the Governor’s decision. With that in mind, they are poised to get some kind of sports betting legislation passed and signed in 2021 to the Governor’s liking.

Massachusetts took their sports betting talk all the way down to December of 2020. Governor Charlie Baker added sports wagering to the fiscal budget, but the final draft had policymakers take it out. The Governor is behind legalizing the pastime which is slated to be on the 2022 fiscal budget meaning lawmakers are certain a bill legalizing gambling on sporting events will pass in 2021.

Missouri was nearly at the finish line with their sports betting bills in 2020 but in the end, the Coronavirus Pandemic slowed the momentum until it became nonexistent. Coming off of a positive session with legalization being the goal and the need for revenue because of the outbreak of COVID-19, 2021 should prove fruitful for Missouri to make sports wagering a legal activity.

Ohio went all the way into December 2020 and until the year ends, they are hopeful that a bill, either Senate Bill 111 or House Bill 194 will pass to get sports gaming legalized. However, should that not occur, sponsors from these bills have set the table nicely for any new bill proposal in 2021 to pass and open up a legal sports betting market in the Buckeye State.

Oklahoma could possibly legalize sports betting in 2021 as Governor Kevin Stitt did so in 2020 by changing Tribal Gaming Compacts to include sportsbooks. But Stitt was taken to court as he does not have the authority to bypass the state’s legislative process. With this having happened in 2020, it’s highly possible that Oklahoma will go through the proper channels and make wagering on sporting events a legal pastime in 2021.

The Future For Sports Betting Legalization In The U.S.

The legislative sessions in 2021 look to be very promising for states looking to make sports betting a legal industry.

With COVID-19 causing such huge deficits in the budget, states that previously were opposed to the market have softened because of the revenue stream it could bring.

As more research is done, and the popularity of gambling on sporting events grows with American sports bettors, it’s getting harder and harder for lawmakers to oppose legalizing the industry which is something that will likely be seen as the case in 2021 with new states joining the bandwagon for legal sports betting markets.

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