Six-For-Six: Gaming Initiatives Pass In Every State They Were On Ballot

Maryland becomes 15th U.S. jurisdiction to approve statewide mobile sports betting while 55 Louisiana parishes say "yes" to retail.
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Too bad bettors couldn’t have strung together a six-state parlay with gaming as the winner in every outcome ahead of Tuesday’s election. Had that been doable, it would have been a win, as voters from the Mountain West to the Deep South to the Mid-Atlantic overwhelmingly approved gaming measures on the presidential ballot in their states.

The biggest news is that Maryland will become the 15th state to offer statewide mobile sports betting after voters there approved a sports betting referendum. The initiative was a stripped-down version of how lawmakers see sports betting in the state after they rushed to get it on the ballot following a COVID-19-shortened session. But the new law calls for statewide mobile and retail sports betting at casinos, racetracks, and potentially other venues around the state.

It could also help the state keep the Washington Football Team. Owner Dan Snyder has been shopping for a new venue ahead of the 2027 expiration of his team’s deal for FedEx Field in Landover, Md. Sports betting could offer a new form of revenue for the team, and Virginia lawmakers already included a provision permitting pro sports teams to offer sports betting in its new law. Legal sports betting in Virginia is projected to go live in early 2021.

When will sports betting be live in Maryland? It’s an open question, as it is in most states. Lawmakers there must still reach agreement on where sports betting can be offered, what the tax rate will be, and other issues. Legislators were close to a consensus before the COVID-19 pandemic broke in March, and they will revisit the issue when the 2021 General Assembly session opens Jan. 13. While Maryland does already have a mature gaming infrastructure, it could still take a year to get to live sports betting when you consider the legislative piece, regulation development, and the application process.

55 Louisiana parishes approve sports betting

Among the other five states that considered gaming, voters in two explicitly authorized sports betting. Voters in 55 of 64 Louisiana parishes OK’d retail sports betting while South Dakotans overwhelmingly approved legal sports wagering in Deadwood and at tribal locations.

Louisiana lawmakers also put a stripped-down, yes-or-no version of sports betting onto the ballot with the promise of developing a framework and passing a tax rate for both daily fantasy and sports betting in 2021. In Louisiana, a two-thirds majority is required to pass any new tax laws, and the legislature has been unable to get that majority in either of the last two sessions after daily fantasy was approved by 47 parishes in 2018. Louisiana, like neighboring Mississippi, will have only in-person sports betting at existing casino and horse-track locations.

In South Dakota, nearly 60% of voters approved sports betting, and like the other two states, lawmakers still have work to do. Lawmakers need to set a tax rate and decide where, outside of Deadwood, that sports wagering will be allowed.

Voters in three other states approved gaming measures. In Colorado, residents of gaming towns Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek now have the right to increase bet limits and determine what new games could be offered; in Nebraska, voters passed three constitutional amendments that allow for “all forms of games of chance,” create the Nebraska Gaming Commission, and set the tax rate at 20% of gross gaming revenue; and voters in four Virginia cities said “yes” to retail casinos.

Nebraskans last considered — and rejected — an expansion of gaming 16 years ago. The battle this time was contentious, pitting state conservatives against the horsemen and tribal interests. Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe, announced this week that it plans to build casinos near South Sioux City, Omaha, and Lincoln.

In Virginia, where lawmakers legalized sports betting earlier this year and launch is set for early 2021, residents in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth overwhelmingly approved retail casinos. Among the operators that already have deals with cities are Hard Rock (Bristol), Caesars (Danville), and Portsmouth (Rush Street Gaming). Digital sports betting platforms tied to retail casinos will be allowed to launch ahead of the completion of the physical locations.

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