US Gambling Legislation Update: Sports Betting Bills Progress in Arizona, Maryland

  • An Arizona sports betting bill heads to Gov. Ducey's desk after receiving Senate approval
  • The Senate and House have agreed to a licensing compromise regarding Maryland legislation
  • A consitutional amendment to expand Nebraska's future sports betting market has failed to pass
  • Sen. Jim McClendon's new casino and lottery bill goes to the Alabama Senate floor Tuesday
  • A Senate committee in Florida has approved a controversial bill regarding pari-mutuel venues
A board showing betting options
Sports betting legislation has progressed in Arizona and Maryland, while efforts to push forward gambling legislation in four other states have also seen action. [Image:]

Update April 13, 2021: In Alabama, lottery and casino legislation got the green light from the Senate on Tuesday after a 23-9 vote in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment. The measure will move to the House of Representatives next for approval.

A busy two days for lawmakers

Arizona and Maryland could soon see legal sports betting, with two bills receiving legislature approval this week. Meanwhile, Louisiana, Nebraska, Alabama, and Florida also saw updates to gambling legislation.

SB 1797 will now head to Gov. Doug Ducey

In Arizona, the Senate passed a sports betting bill late Monday. SB 1797 will now head to Gov. Doug Ducey for his approval. That same day, Maryland lawmakers gave the green light to sports wagering legislation at the end of their session.

Nebraska is further behind in the process with the state continuing to shape its own sports betting plans. However, a constitutional amendment to permit sports betting statewide failed to progress on Monday.

Outside of sports wagering, Alabama lawmakers will make a third attempt to advance lottery and casino legislation on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a new Florida bill approved by a Senate commmittee this week has caused controversy among pari-mutuel operators.

Gov. Ducey to consider Arizona bill

Gov. Doug Ducey is next in line to approve Arizona’s sports betting legislation after its Senate approval Monday. He has consistently backed SB 1797, so his signature could come as soon as this week.

The governor took to Twitter within minutes of the vote to share the news of the bill’s passage:

Known as the fantasy sports bill, SB 1797 would permit online and retail wagering at professional sports venues and tribal casinos. Under the legislation, the state can hand out ten licenses for professional sports organizations. These permit holders could offer betting at stadiums, a retail location within a quarter mile, and online.

ten licenses for professional sports organizations

Similarly, the tribes would also get ten licenses for retail and online sports betting. However, Gov. Ducey is yet to release important details of the re-negotiated tribal compacts he completed in January. Lawmakers must approve both the legislation and 20-year compact extensions before sports betting gets the green light.

Maryland lawmakers agree to compromise

Lawmakers in Maryland experienced a busy final day of this year’s legislative session. They passed a bill to legalize sports betting on Monday, granting the wish of 67% of state voters. However, the legislation only gained approval after a compromise between the two chambers.

The House initially set caps on the amount of licensees for sports wagering; limits which were later removed by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. Now, after amendments confirmed this week, Maryland could end up with a particularly large market. The updated bill allows ten licenses for state casinos, 30 class B retail licenses for smaller locations, and an additional 60 for online.

Maryland sports betting could begin as soon as the fall, with state officials expecting the new market to raise between $15m and $19m per year.

Nebraska expansion voted down

In Nebraska, two combined bills, LB 560 and LB 561, are currently progressing through the legislature. Together, they legalize sports wagering at horse race tracks. However, some other legislators are hoping for a more expansive gambling market.

On Monday, the General Affairs Committee voted against a constitutional amendment which would have authorized sports betting statewide. The legislation, introduced by Senator Brett Lindstrom, would have allowed voters to decide on the expansion next year. 

beyond what the voters approve.”

As reported by NET News, Senator Tom Briese, commimttee chair, described the expansion as “beyond what the voters approve.” He said: “I didn’t support it and it looks like virtually no one in the committee did either.”

Nebraska legislators are also considering the introduction of mobile keno. Late last month, representatives from cities across the state raised concerns regarding a potential loss of keno revenue due to the introduction of sports wagering. As a result, legislators added mobile keno to LB 561, but Briese has since argued for its removal through a new amendment.

Third time lucky in Alabama?

So far this legislative session, Alabama lawmakers have tried and failed to pass two gambling bills. This week, Republican Senator Jim McClendon will make a third attempt, with the Senate expected to discuss his new lottery and casino legislation on Tuesday.

The senator’s bill would establish a state lottery and allow nine casinos to open across the state. It shares similarities with legislation introduced earlier this year by Senator Del Marsh. However, McClendon will hope his bill does not share the same fate, with Marsh’s SB 214 falling flat in the Senate last month.

I think this bill will pass. That’s the bottom line”

Despite the failure of past legislation, McClendon has expressed hope in Senate support for the proposed constitutional amendment. According to the Associated Press, the senator believes he has the 21 required votes for the measure to pass through the chamber. “I think this bill will pass. That’s the bottom line,” he commented.

Florida’s controversial pari-mutuel bill

In Florida, some in the pari-mutuel industry have raised concerns regarding new legislation. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee unanimously approved the controversial Senate Bill 7080 on Monday.

The legislation aims to remove some important restrictions on pari-mutuel facilities. If approved, it would allow Florida’s jai alai frontons, quarter horse and harness horse racing tracks to operate poker and slot machine rooms without conducting any live events.

While this might be good news for those venues, thoroughbred racetracks must continue to offer live events to maintain their permits. As reported by AP News, Mike Rogers, president of racing for the Stronach Group, has expressed opposition to such a measure. He argued that pari-mutuels should receive a financial penalty if they stop live events.

Another Florida gambling bill, SB 7076, also progressed through the Senate committee on Monday. It calls for the creation of a Florida Gaming Control Commission to oversee the industry, increasing the capabilities of prosecutors to investigate illegal gambling.

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