US Sports Betting: New York, Arkansas Make Progress as Efforts Fall Flat in Kansas, Massachusetts

  • Gov. Cuomo has signed New York’s 2022 budget containing a mobile sports betting market
  • Arkansas lawmakers will consider new legislation which would permit online sports wagering
  • Efforts to legalize the activity in Kansas have failed again, with the legislative session all but over
  • A Massachusetts House committee has excluded sports wagering from its 2022 budget proposal
Various sports equipment next to dollars
New York and Arkansas have seen positive action in regard to sports betting legislation, while Kansas and Arkansas efforts have failed to progress. [Image:]

Two steps forward, two steps back

Efforts to pass sports betting legislation in Arkansas, New York, Kansas, and Massachusetts have seen significant recent updates.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has paved the way for mobile betting in New York. On Monday, he signed a final 2022 budget which includes provisions for a legal market. On the same day, Representative Lee Johnson introduced House Bill 1942 for online wagering in Arkansas.

Kansas has failed to pass sports betting legislation for the second year in a row

Elsewhere, things don’t look quite as bright. Kansas has failed to pass sports betting legislation for the second year in a row. Meanwhile, Massachusetts lawmakers have excluded a legal market from their 2022 budget proposal.

Cuomo okays final budget

New York has been on a path towards mobile sports betting since Gov. Andrew Cuomo embraced the idea at the beginning of the year. Now, the governor has signed those plans into law, approving the state’s final 2022 budget this week.

Cuomo took to Twitter to publicize the signing of the bill:

Earlier this month, lawmakers reached an agreement over the official budget, which contains the provisions for a mobile sports wagering market. Notably, it opts for a state-run model with a request for licensee applications run by the New York State Gaming Commission. The regulator will begin this process no later than July 1 this year.

Cuomo has expressed hope that the budget can help New York recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he was confident that the state would “bounce back stronger and better than before”, adding: “It’s critical we support the New Yorkers who helped get us through this crisis and take steps to rebuild an economy that works for all.”

Arkansas to mull online

Arkansas sports betting first launched in July 2019, after voters opted to legalize the market at up to four casino locations the previous year. To date, the activity has generated upwards of $55.8m in handle, and it could soon add online wagering to its offering.

as many as 12 mobile licenses would be up for grabs

Introduced this week, Rep. Lee Johnson’s online sports wagering bill would permit each casino licensee three online skins, meaning as many as 12 mobile licenses would be up for grabs across the state. The Arkansas Racing Commission would oversee the market, with bettors permitted to wager on professional and college sports.

Although Johnson may have set the ball rolling when it comes to sports wagering, Arkansas lawmakers will not have long to consider his new legislation. The legislative session will end later this month, and any gambling expansion remains a divisive issue in the traditionally conservative state.

Another year lost in Kansas

Although Kansas’ legislative session officially adjourns on May 15, it is now in recess until May 3. This means it is unlikely that state lawmakers will pass any sports betting legislation this year, pushing back any hope of a legal market to 2022.

Kansas had two chances of passing sports betting legislation this session. Senate Bill 84 made it through the Senate in early March. It would have introduced mobile sportsbooks and retail sports betting. However, it failed to pass through the House at the end of the month, being voted down with a count of 48-71.

More recently, lawmakers introduced the online-focused House Bill 2444 on March 18. Although it provided another opportunity for legalization, the proposal did not make it to the floor before the recess. Without a hearing date, it will likely die on the House floor when the session adjourns.

This is the second year in a row that state officials have tried and failed to pass sports betting legislation in Kansas. Last year saw the exact same situation, in which one bill passed through the Senate and failed in the House, while the second didn’t receive a hearing at all.

Hope dimming in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ sports betting hopes took a major blow last week when the House Ways and Means Committee excluded a legal market from its $47.6bn 2022 full-year budget. The proposal passed through the committee on Thursday and will go to the House floor later this month for a vote.

lawmakers can add projections at any point during the month-long process

Despite its exclusion in the first draft, sports betting could still make it into the final budget. Lawmakers can add revenue projections at any point during the month-long process, and the proposal will still need the approval of the Senate and sports betting backer Governor Charlie Baker.

The governor attempted to include plans for sports betting legalization in his 2021 budget proposal, but lawmakers removed them from the document’s final draft. Legislators chose to focus their efforts on providing coronavirus relief instead.

Speaking with MassLive, House speaker Ron Mariano expressed hope that lawmakers will add sports betting before the budget reaches the Senate. “I think there is potential to get it (sports betting regulation) done in the House yet,” he commented.

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