Will They Or Won’t They? Handicapping The States In The 2019 Sports Betting Race

united states map

The 2019 sports betting legalization wave is a very fluid situation (pun intended). The outlook for a state can change significantly over the course of a legislative session.

At this moment in time, there’s a strong likelihood we’ll see multiple states cross the finish line in 2019. The race is on for states to capture a share of a multibillion-dollar national market.

So far, eight states have legal sports betting. Here’s a prognostication for some of the contenders this year:

Good bets

Indiana: A proposal sits in each legislative chamber, and Indiana studied the activity extensively in 2018. The Casino Association of Indiana is all in on sports betting, and all signs point to momentum in the legislature. Online/mobile is more than likely to be part of Indiana’s authorization.

New York: Online/mobile sports betting is a ways off because it would require a constitutional amendment, but the legalization of land-based sportsbooks appears at this moment to be a pretty good bet. The governor is also behind it, and making sports betting legal has backing in both the Senate and Assembly.

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Michigan: All eyes were on Michigan as a frontrunner in 2019 after the legislature passed a series of gambling expansion measures, including online casino gaming, late last year to set the stage for sports betting. However, a last-minute veto by departing Gov. Rick Snyder set the state back. Michigan was able to receive bipartisan support for expanding gambling, so the state still looks to be a favorite in 2019. The newly elected Democratic governor also appears to agree with legalizing sportsbooks.

Louisiana: The state’s Democratic governor is on board with sports betting, though right now he’s more focused on Sunday’s devastating Saints game. There’s also growing bipartisan support in the legislature. Sports betting is expected to be taken up quickly when the session starts in April. Neighboring Mississippi has sportsbooks already, which has created a subtle sense of urgency among folks in the Pelican State.

Iowa: The Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona, Iowa recently provided the state with momentum by announcing a sports betting partnership with William Hill. There’s also growing support in the House. There isn’t a bill on the table yet, but it’s forthcoming. Iowa had a bill in 2018 that stalled out in March of last year, but so far signs point to progress. However, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is a wild card.

Coin tosses

Massachusetts: The Bay State’s governor has taken the extraordinary route of introducing his own sports betting legislation. Gov. Charlie Baker’s bill is one of several. Stakeholder legislative struggles might slow momentum, but Massachusetts is highly motivated to get it done this year, especially with the activity already legal and regulated in neighboring Rhode Island.

Ohio: The Buckeye State’s legislative session isn’t in full swing yet, but when lawmakers get started on sports betting there is likely going to be momentum. Newly elected Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, has publicly supported legalized sports betting. There’s currently shell legislation on the table. Ohio could soon be sandwiched between two states with legal sports betting, which should motivate the Ohio legislature.

New Hampshire: There are chances in the Granite State in 2019, but the long-standing conversation about casino gambling legalization could be a roadblock. Sports betting could make a difference, but you wouldn’t want to bet the house on it. There are bills in both the House and Senate, one from a Republican and one from a Democrat, which does bode well. New Hampshire didn’t have a bill last year.

Kentucky: A Kentucky State Senator believes the activity to be already legal, but it would definitely require legislative approval first. Sports betting is reportedly supported in the House, where legislation sits. There’s also a proposal in the Republican-controlled Senate. It looks to be a good bet on Kentucky passage, as long as the details can be sorted out. Things are fuzzy right now.

Kansas: The Sunflower State has some strong momentum on sports betting, albeit with traction on the “integrity fees,” which are opposed by the gaming industry. Depending on how stubborn lawmakers are with the royalties, Kansas could face an uphill battle. It’s worth noting that there’s consideration of a relatively low 6.75% tax and online/mobile as well, so there is a silver lining.

Missouri: Lawmakers here will also be debating the integrity fees, which will shroud the efforts in some controversy. When you add in a lack of bipartisan support for sports betting so far it makes it probably a coin flip as to whether legislation gets past the finish line in 2019. There’s also a desire for allowing video gambling at truck stops, bars, and restaurants, which might complicate sports betting.

North Dakota: The Peace Garden State is home to legislation, but some of the important provisions of the legislation have yet to be hashed out. Historically, gaming expansion is challenging in the state, but sports betting appears to be a gamechanger here. Online/mobile would require a constitutional amendment.

Long shots

Illinois: Illinois is likely to have sports betting legislation this year, according to recent comments by a pair of lawmakers, but passage is another story. There were a handful of bills last year, so lawmakers are far from aligned on what legislation would ultimately look like. This year will likely be another year of studying sports betting. Illinois is also home to a tough political climate with regard to gambling expansion.

Connecticut: The governor wants the state to have brick-and-mortar and online/mobile sports betting, but a long-standing casino fight between the tribes and MGM poses a daunting task for the state at this moment. The governor is asking both sides to come to a compromise. There’s a Senate bill on the table, but it’s a long shot at this juncture. Connecticut has a real chance of getting left behind with sports betting.

Virginia: There’s been activity early in the year, but casino-less Virginia looks to be pumping the brakes on gambling. The governor wants to study expanded gambling this year, which positions Virginia as a strong candidate in 2020. Sports betting this year is too much to ask from the historically anti-gambling state.

Tennessee: Despite the unusual idea of having local governments weigh in on sports betting, Tennessee actually has some momentum. There’s bipartisan support on the basic idea of sports wagering and local government involvement. However, the newly elected Republican governor said he’s against gambling, so Tennesseans need a hard 180. He’s on the record stating he would try to prevent a bill from passing the legislature.

Photo by Robert Chlopas /

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