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by: Jill R. Dorson for Sports Handle - posted on:

Of 11 legal-but-not-live states, application process is open only in South Dakota thus far

As we move into the second half of 2021 with lawmakers in Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, and elsewhere still hoping to legalize sports betting, it seemed an apt time to review the status of the 11 jurisdictions — including New York, adding to its in-person wagering — that have (mostly) legal sports betting expansion on the books, but aren’t yet live.

Of those 11 jurisdictions, lawmakers in seven of them have legalized sports wagering since January. In four states, voters approved sports betting on the November 2020 ballot, and lawmakers were tasked in 2021 with creating the necessary enabling framework. Regulators in most jurisdictions are now developing, discussing, or massaging proposed rules, and many are hoping for live sports betting by the end of 2021. That said, as of today, Arizona, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming appear best positioned to meet that goal.

Here’s a look (in alphabetical order) at each jurisdiction:

Arizona: It is the only state with a new tribal-state compact that has already received the blessing of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Arizona Department of Gaming on Wednesday will hold a third stakeholder-input meeting with the goal of approving final rules in mid-July. At the moment, the rules don’t explain how event wagering licenses will be awarded to tribes (there are 10 for 15 gaming tribes), nor has the application process opened. The new law allows for statewide mobile sports betting and retail wagering at tribal casinos and pro sports venues.

Projected live: ADG is aiming for Sept. 9

Connecticut: It took lawmakers and the state’s tribes about three years to come to an agreement on sports betting, and when all is said and done, the state will have three digital platforms and about 17 retail sports betting locations. The legislature approved the tribal-state compact on May 27, but the U.S. Department of the Interior must approve the compacts before they become operational. The Connecticut Lottery will also have skin in the game, as the compacts allow it an online/mobile platform and up to 15 brick-and-mortar locations. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe (Foxwoods), which has already partnered with DraftKings, and the Mohegans (Mohegan Sun) will have sportsbooks at their casinos, as well as digital platforms.

There doesn’t appear to be any movement on the regulatory front as yet, and the application process is not open. Though lawmakers were hoping for a launch enabling betting during football season, things won’t move much until the compacts are approved.

Projected live: Late 2021 or early 2022

Florida: Sports betting is mostly legal in Florida right now, but that could change or continue to be in flux. Gov. Ron DeSantis negotiated a pact with the Seminole Tribe — approved by lawmakers in May — for in-person and statewide wagering controlled by the tribe. The first legal challenge to the new law came on July 3, a little more than a week after a ballot referendum funded by DraftKings and FanDuel was approved for the 2022 ballot.

Right now, it’s wait-and-see if the Department of the Interior approves the pact as is — there is some question as to whether digital wagering around the state via Seminole tribal land servers will be seen as legal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Should Interior approve the pact, there is the pesky matter of the lawsuit, which, in part, asks for an injunction on live sports betting until the outcome of the case is determined. The goal by lawmakers and stakeholders to go live is Oct. 15, but there are a lot of bumps (craters?) on that road.

Projected live: Impossible to say

Louisiana: Voters legalized in November, and lawmakers passed enabling legislation signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in June. The goal, of course, is to go live by the end of the year, and the regulator, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, is most certainly working on rules. Since interim Chair Mike Noel resigned June 9 ahead of confirmation hearings, however, his position has been vacant.

Sports betting champion Page Cortez called the situation a “hiccup,” and Edwards was quoted in a USA Today network story as expecting to make a new appointment “sooner than later.” But until that appointment comes, the process may be at a slowdown, if not a standstill, which could jeopardize a 2021 launch. Voters in 55 of 64 parishes legalized statewide mobile sports betting and retail wagering at casinos and race tracks last November.

Projected live: First half of 2022

Maryland: In another state in which voters approved legal wagering last November, the process isn’t moving all that quickly. When Maryland lawmakers in May passed framework, it included the most sweeping, comprehensive minority and women-owned business provisions in the nation. The new law also calls for a new Sports Wagering Application Review Commission that will develop rules for and approve applications. The last two spots on that commission were filled last week when Gov. Larry Hogan made his appointments, and the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission is aiming to share proposed rules at its July 15 meeting.

The application review commission must now develop rules for its process and then vet applications — a process that in many states takes up to 90 days. The rules must go through at least one public-comment period and will likely be revised at least once. Legal wagering will be allowed via statewide digital platforms and in person at existing casinos, horse racetracks, and a plethora of small businesses.

Projected live: Early 2022

Nebraska: While potential operators would like to be taking in-person bets from Nebraskans by the end of 2021, there’s been no public movement on the regulatory or licensing fronts. Citizens approved a gaming expansion in November 2020, and while lawmakers included sports betting in that definition, they did not allow for statewide mobile wagering and also banned betting on local colleges. The legislative process is done, and the Nebraska Gaming Commission is set to meet July 16.

Projected live: Sometime in 2022

New York: In the biggest state to have all the pieces in place for live statewide mobile sports betting, the New York Gaming Commission on July 2 missed a deadline to publish its Request for Applications for sports betting. The release of the RFA will open the application process for potential sports betting operators. Retail sports betting at four upstate casinos has been happening in New York since July 2019, but it was only April 21 that lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to an agreement on digital wagering.

The setup in New York will be a bit unusual and will resemble New Hampshire, where DraftKings has a monopoly. In NY, the state will likely ask for a minimum 50% cut of gross gaming revenue and the number of operators will be severely limited. Given the sky-high tax rate, smaller operators will likely be shut out of participating.

Projected live: Tough to tell

Puerto Rico: Lawmakers in Puerto Rico legalized sports betting in July 2019, and since then, the process hasn’t been smooth or easy. There have been multiple changes in gaming board chiefs in the last year, and the proposed rules are different in many ways (for example, existing cock-fighting venues are entitled to a free sports betting license for 10 years) than in other U.S. jurisdictions.

The most relevant moves this year? In January, the outgoing governor amended the law to require in-person registration, which is the opposite of what operators want and what most U.S. states have implemented, and the governor called for an advisory council to work through the next phase. The newest director of the Puerto Rico Gambling Commission, Orlando Rivera, was appointed in January. Mobile/internet sports betting will be allowed as well as in-person wagering at casinos, hotels, tracks, and cock-fighting venues.

Projected live: Tough to tell

South Dakota: With an eye toward a September 2021 launch, South Dakota regulators have already approved one set of sports betting rules and are poised to adopt a second set, likely by the end of July after a public-comment session July 14. Voters legalized retail sports betting, to take place only in Deadwood, on the November 2020 ballot. Lawmakers then passed SB 44, and regulators have been moving steadily toward a go-live date. The application process is open.

In addition to the July 14 meeting, the South Dakota Commission on Gaming has a special “sports betting 101” meeting Wednesday open to anyone who wants an overview of sports betting. The meeting is set to start at 9 a.m. local time at the Capitol Building and will also be available via Zoom.

Projected live: September 2021

Washington: The Washington State Gambling Commission will meet Thursday to continue its discussion of sports betting rules. Lawmakers in 2020 legalized tribal-only, retail gaming, and the WSGC has taken its time negotiating compacts with the state’s tribes and drafting rules. So far, the state has agreed to compacts with 15 tribes, and more are coming.

In terms of rules, the first draft was released for stakeholder comment in early June and for public comment on June 23. The latest proposed rules and comments are available in the WSGC “commission packet.” The WSGC has scheduled a July 28 meeting to approve the final rules, which would go into effect 31 days later. The commission has been taking pre-licensing packets from potential operators for months, so it should be in good position to act on applications once that process opens.

Projected live: During 2021 NFL season

Wyoming: Wyoming will be the only state in which operators can accept cryptocurrency to fund a wagering account, and it is one of just two that have legalized online/mobile wagering only. The Wyoming Gambling Commission held several stakeholder input meetings early this year, but the proposed rules that are circulating do not include anything about the application process. Gaming chief Charlie Moore said that once the current rules are finalized, he’d focus on the application process.

Projected live: Early in the 2021 NFL season

Jill R. Dorson
Jill has covered everything from steeplechase to the NFL and then some during a more than 30-year career in sports journalism. The highlight of her career was covering Oakland Raiders during the Charles Woodson/Jon Gruden era, including the infamous “Snow Bowl” and the Raiders’ 2003 trip to Super Bowl XXXVII. Her specialty these days is covering sports betting legislation across the country.

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