In case you didn't know there was a federal ban on sports betting in place until 2018 under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The law granted immunity to 4 states including Nevada which left us with your Vegas sports betting hub of the US. It also led to a lot of US punters taking their business to offshore sportsbooks. The state of New Jersey fought the legality of such a law for almost 8 years before finally, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in late 2017. In May 2018, the SCOTUS issued a decision reversing the ban by a vote of 6-3. This decision put the issue of sports betting back in the hands of the state to make and since, the talk of legalized sports wagering in the US has been huge. 2018 saw 6 states begin offering legal sports betting with Deleware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island among the first outside of Nevada to offer legal sports betting within the US.
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While 2018 was a historic year for the industry with the decision that changed the course of sports wagering in the US 2019 will probably be a year that has the most action and movement among the states. The gambling man in me says we see at least 8 additional states pass legislation to legalize. Which states look primed to begin accepting wagers in 2019. Let's take a quick look around the landscape and identify those I would mark as favorites for 2019.
States Already on the Books
Kentucky is high on the list as they have already put a few bills on file and they have formed a 9 member panel to study the issue and draft legislation. Two bills are already up for consideration in 2019 with BR 15 and BR320. The natural appeal is there with the ties to horse racing being so strong so Kentucky in 2019 looks more like a question of when rather than if.
Missouri was among one of the more active states in 2018 as far as legislation but was unable to get anything finalized. Various politicians ran bills up the flagpole but none really gained traction (a fun bonus of dealing with politicians). S44 is pre-filed for 2019 but still has some kinks to work out. Missouri is another state that is more a matter of when they get everything ironed out.
Ohio is on the fringe of getting serious about the process. No formal bill was presented in 2018 but two Senators began piecing a bill together with the intent of enacting legislation to legalize sports betting. Sen. Bill Coley recently attended a sports betting policy summit in Washington DC and spoke favorably regarding regulation in 2019. While not as much of a sure thing as the two above Ohio remains a good bet to legalize sometime in 2019.
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Tennessee state law actually prohibits all forms of gambling with any changes requiring a voter referendum at the county level. This has happened twice before to enact the state lottery and pari-mutuel horse betting. This proves it is possible to do although it will be tougher than for most states. So what makes Tennessee a favorite? Both gubernatorial candidates in 2018 weighed in positively regarding sports betting and a new bill has recently appeared on the 2019 calendar. Tennessee H1/S16 would create a new Tennessee Gaming Commission whose job will be to regulate both retail and mobile wagering.
Others With 2019 Potential
A quick rundown of several other states that could move to legalize sometime in 2019.
Virginia will have to get moving due to geographical pressure as neighbors already have sports betting active.
Illinois presents one of my dark horses for possible 2019. The sports population of Illinois along with the diehard fans could create an enormous market.
Indiana sports betting bills did not garner enough support for passage in 2018 but the interest remains. The state has come too far at this point to just abandon the effort.
What's Your Game?
Louisiana actually legalized daily fantasy sports betting in 2018 so the potential is there. New legislation is bound to show up sometime in 2019.
Massachusetts began studying sports betting in 2018 and looks to 2019 to begin the legislative process. Geographical pressure can again be a motivating factor in this decision but I'd wager it is closer toward the end of the year before we really start to see anything moving along.
The list gives my best bets for progress in 2019 but of course, there will be a few wildcards that join the discussion. Let’s hope a few more come out of the woodwork to make betting more widely available across the states in 2019.