US Gambling Legislation Updates: South Dakota, Arizona, Georgia, Alabama, and Nebraska

  • A sports betting bill just needs the South Dakota governor’s signature after passing the House
  • Sports betting legislation has reached the Senate in Arizona despite a debate over transparency
  • Georgia residents could get to vote on gambling after the approval of a constitutional amendment
  • Gambling backer Rep. Del Marsh said his Alabama bill will go to the Senate floor next week
  • A Nebraska committee has established sports betting details to new gambling legislation
Legislation files
In the states of South Dakota, Arizona, Georgia, Alabama, and Nebraska, attempts to pass gambling legislation have progressed this week. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update March 18, 2021: South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed off on SB 44, which will likely see legal sports betting launch at Deadwood casinos on September 1.

A busy week for legislators

As the year pushes toward the end of its first quarter, a number of states are now in the process of legalizing sports betting, while others are attempting to expand their gambling markets in alternative ways.

In South Dakota, the House passed SB 44 on Thursday. The bill puts in motion the legalization of retail sports betting, approved by voters in November 2020. Meanwhile, an Arizona sports betting bill, HB 2772, has reached the Senate after receiving House approval on Thursday morning.

Georgia voters will have their say on whether lawmakers legalize three forms of gambling

The issue of Georgia gambling could go to a public vote after a House subcommittee approved a constitutional amendment on Wednesday. If the bill progresses, Georgia voters will have their say on whether the state legalizes three forms of gambling.

In Alabama, the Senate will vote on a casino and lottery bill next week, while Nebraska’s General Affairs Committee has passed two combined gambling bills, LB 560 and LB 561.

South Dakota within striking distance

After the South Dakota House passed SB 44 by a vote of 58-8-4 on Thursday, the legislation only needs Gov. Kristi Noem’s signature before it becomes law. This could make South Dakota the first state to authorize sports wagering in 2021.

The legislation allows for retail sports betting at casinos in Deadwood, but prohibits online wagering and betting on collegiate teams. It sets a tax rate of 9% on sports betting revenue and appoints the South Dakota Commission on Gaming as the state regulator. A sports wagering license will cost just $2,000, one of the nation’s lowest licensing fees.

Last week, the House Taxation Committee voted 11-1 against an online sports betting bill titled HB 1231. This would have allowed players to place mobile bets through servers at casinos in Deadwood.

Progress in Arizona despite debate

An Arizona sports betting bill has reached the Senate after the House voted 48-12 in approval of the legislation. Some lawmakers raised issues, however, regarding the transparency of Gov. Doug Ducey’s renegotiated tribal compact deals, the details of which he has not yet released to the public.

very opposed to the linkage of this bill to the enactment of the compact”

According to the Associated Press, a number of democrats made clear their stance prior to Thursday’s vote. Rep. Randall Friese described himself as “very opposed to the linkage of this bill to the enactment of the compact.” He raised concerns about the secrecy surrounding the deal, which Ducey confirmed as complete in January.

If passed by the Senate, HB 2772, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Weninger, will legalize sportsbooks at professional sports venues and tribal casinos. It will also permit tribes to offer online sports betting.

Georgia residents could get their vote

After a Georgia House subcommittee approved a constitutional amendment on Wednesday, Georgia residents could have their say on the introduction of gambling. The amendment will ask voters whether to legalize casinos, sports betting, and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing.

The House Regulated Industries Committee expected to vote on the amendment at some point this week. Rep. Alan Powell (R – Hartwell), chairman of the committee, urged his fellow lawmakers to let the voters have their say.

“They’re the only ones who can make the decision,” he commented.

If the amendment makes it through the state legislature, it will go to a public vote in November 2022.

Marsh pushing for public vote

This Thursday, Alabama representative Del Marsh said he expects his casino and lottery bill to reach the Senate floor next week. The legislation would allow the state to launch a lottery, permitting up to seven land-based casinos to open their doors to Alabama gamblers.

Marsh is yet to decide a number of details regarding the legislation. Currently, the bill permits casino gambling at five sites, including four dog tracks and one casino run by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. However, Marsh has proposed the addition of two more sites to reflect the state’s congressional districts. He recently outlined plans to rework the bill before it reaches the Senate.

If the Senate approves the legislation, it will then go to a public vote. Marsh expressed confidence in the public’s desire for such a vote, saying: “The polling shows even among Republicans, the vast majority are ready to vote on this.”

Nebraska takes an important step

Nebraska’s freshly combined gambling legislation, passed by the General Affairs Committee Monday, will legalize casino gambling at the state’s racetracks. This includes slot machines and card games, in addition to retail sports betting.

Initially, the bills did not specifically mention sports betting. During a hearing, though, the legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Tom Briese, argued that sports betting fell under the umbrella of games of chance, and should therefore be included in the legislation.

a license fee of $1m for sportsbook operators

The state’s lawmakers subsequently included sports betting within the games of chance category and set out the parameters for a legal market. The legislation sets the legal age for sports wagering at 21 and prohibits prop bets on collegiate sports or wagering on Nebraska-based college teams. It also introduces a license fee of $1m for sportsbook operators.

The combined bill will now head to the legislature floor for a vote.