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State Of The States Part Three: Sports Betting In The South Central Region

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This is part three in a continuing series. Part one covered the northeastern region, and part two the south atlantic

Since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May, seven states have launched sports betting and two more have either legalized it or are very close to, but play has not yet begun.

In order, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island launched sports betting in 2018 and are open for business. Arkansas voters legalized sports betting by ballot initiative in November and in December, the D.C. Council took a massive step toward making sports betting legal in our nation’s capital.

In addition, many states have started the sports betting conversation, and lawmakers in five states have filed bills ahead of their 2019 sessions. It’s been a lot to digest. So, if you’re wondering where things are at in your state, or anywhere across the nation, read on. This is the third of a five-part series detailing the status of sports betting in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.

Legislative sessions across the country begin in January, some as early as Jan. 3.

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State of the States: South Central

ALABAMA: No sports betting bills were filed in 2018, and there was little to no discussion among lawmakers about sports betting.

ARKANSAS: On Nov. 6, Arkansas voters legalized sports betting by ballot initiative. According to the initiative, four licenses will be granted, including two automatically to Oaklawn Racing and Southland Racing. Next up: the state legislature must still pass some enabling legislation, regulations must be developed and the sites that will host sports betting must build out their sports betting facilities.

KENTUCKY: The Bluegrass State will likely be among the first movers of 2019. One bill has already been filed ahead of the session, and a second lawmaker is promising to file, as well. There have been sports betting conversations across the state — from the state house to horsemen’s councils — about what sports betting will look like. As the state tries to manage its enormous pension crisis, lawmakers have done enough talking and research to be ready to craft and pass sports betting legislation.

LOUISIANA: At least one Louisiana lawmaker wants to see sports betting legalized, and Danny Martiny pushed as far as he could in 2018, but with no luck. He’s promising another sports betting bill in 2019. The state is under pressure to legalize — neighboring Mississippi has already done so, and it beat Louisiana to the punch about 20 years ago when it came to legalizing gaming, as well. Four sports betting-related bills were filed in 2018, but none so far ahead of the 2019 session. The state has a history of letting politics get in the way making decisions when it comes to gaming. Voters in the state legalized fantasy sports in 47 of 64 parishes in November, so maybe sports betting is next. 

MISSISSIPPI: The third state to launch sports betting post-PASPA, Mississippi didn’t need new sports betting laws. The state currently has more than 20 sportsbooks open, including several tribal sportsbooks, the first of their kind and currently only outside of New Mexico. Mississippi law allows interactive wagering only if the bettor is on site.

OKLAHOMA: The governor signed an expansion of the tribal-state gaming pact in April, but it didn’t affect sports betting. The state legislature has made no action to legalize sports betting to date. But on the periphery, the WinStar Casino Resort partnered with the Dallas Cowboys in the fall.

TENNESSEE: Tennessee Representative Rick Staples filed a sports betting bill ahead of the 2019 session. The bill calls for a 10 percent tax rate, allows for mobile/internet sports betting and would create the Tennessee Gaming Commission to regulate sports betting. But the bill also says sports betting would only be legal via “local option election,” meaning that each country (or town?) would be able to decide whether or not to legalize.

TEXAS: While Texas would be one of the biggest gaming states in the nation, there is currently no gambling allowed in the state, and little appetite, it appears, to make it legal. No lawmaker is championing sports betting and no bills have been filed ahead of the 2019 session.

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