US Gambling Legislation Updates: Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina and Maryland

  • Connecticut could soon have betting and iGaming after the approval of emergency regulations
  • The Seminole Tribe of Florida has defended its betting compact in a Washington DC court
  • A North Carolina video gambling machine bill has made it past the House Commerce Committee
  • In Maryland, the regulator has opened up a 30-day public review period for new betting rules
A book with US flag
Efforts to regulate sports betting, iGaming, and video gambling machines in the states of Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, and North Carolina have seen significant updates over the past few days. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Lawmakers hard at work

With the new NFL season fast approaching, lawmakers in several states across America are in a race against time to get new sports betting markets up and running. Meanwhile, officials in some other jurisdictions are hoping to add to their gambling markets in other ways.

This week in Connecticut, a legislative committee okayed emergency sports betting and online gambling rules. Officials are now just waiting for the US Department of Interior (DOI) to approve updated tribal gaming compacts before they can begin dishing out licenses.

Florida’s sports betting plans have hit a bump in the road with two legal challenges

Meanwhile, Florida’s sports betting plans have hit a bump in the road with two legal challenges filed by pari-mutuel operators. Now, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has become embroiled in the issue, filing documents in US District Court in Washington DC on Tuesday.

North Carolina legislators want to regulate video gambling machines, and they have introduced a bill to do just that. It passed through the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

Lawmakers in Maryland are also attempting to finalize sports betting rules before operators can begin taking bets. On Friday, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC) released its proposed regulations for public review. 

Connecticut within touching distance

After the campaigning of Governor Ned Lamont, Connecticut sports betting and iGaming bill HB 6451 became law on July 1 this year. The legislation allows the Mohegan Tribe, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and the Connecticut Lottery to offer online and retail sports betting, in addition to online casino and daily fantasy sports for the two tribes.

On Tuesday, a legislative committee approved a set of emergency regulations in an effort to get the market up and running as soon as possible. They will be valid for 180 days, allowing officials to create more permanent regulations by the beginning of 2022. The panel approved the rules with a vote of 9-4.

Following that approval, betting backers are just waiting on federal officials to okay the state’s updated tribal gaming compacts. If the DOI gives its approval to the agreements, authorities can begin handing out licenses for operators and key employees.

As reported by the Associated Press, Mashantucket Pequot tribe chairman Rodney Butler is hopeful for federal approval very soon. “We expect action from the federal Department of Interior within the next two weeks on the compact amendments,” he commented. “With the NFL season kickoff fast approaching, we are working to launch online gaming and sports betting as soon as we are legally allowed to do so.”

Florida tribe takes on parimutuels

A 30-year compact deal signed earlier this year by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis aims to give the tribe a monopoly over sports wagering in the state. The agreement has received federal approval but is facing a significant hurdle because a pair of parimutuel operators are unhappy with the details of the deal.

The disagreement over the compact centers mainly around its inclusion of mobile betting. According to the lawsuits, by allowing the Seminole to offer sports betting outside of its reservations, the deal contravenes a 1986 law called the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. In contrast, the deal’s backers argue that bets will take place through servers on Indian land, thus constituting on-reservation wagering.

The Southwest Parimutuels-owned companies have now filed two lawsuits; one against the governor himself and the other against the DOI and its secretary. This week, the Seminole joined the court proceedings for the first time in an effort to defend the federal approval of the deal. The tribe filed documents on Tuesday in the federal court in Washington DC.

In its argument, the Seminole pointed to its categorization as an “indispensable party” in the case due to its status as a federally recognized tribe. As a result of its sovereignty, however, federal law bars the tribe from participating to defend its interests. The Seminole has therefore urged the court to dismiss the case completely.

North Carolina backs video gambling

Through HB 954, lawmakers in North Carolina are hoping to expand the state’s gambling market and regulate video gambling machines, which allow users to play games of chance and redeem winnings for cash. The legislation would pave the way for bars, restaurants, and convenience stores to install up to ten machines each.

On Tuesday, officials in the North Carolina House okayed the bill, advancing it to the House Finance Committee. The legislation’s sponsor Rep. Harry Warren has argued that it will help to combat the state’s illegal gambling activity. He has estimated that the legislation will cause the number of video lottery machines in the state to drop 70%.

a large number of additional machines to continue to prey on our citizens”

Despite Warren’s estimations, the bill’s opponents have claimed that legalization will open the door to problem gambling issues for North Carolina citizens. “This bill doesn’t eliminate the machines that are already there,” commented Eddie Caldwell of the North Carolina Sheriffs’s Association. “It just adds a large number of additional machines to continue to prey on our citizens.”

Maryland public to have their say

It’s now time for the residents of Maryland to have their say on proposed sports betting regulations. The MLGCC opened up a 30-day public review period on Friday after releasing its sports betting rules for the new market. All residents and shareholders can suggest any changes to the 227-page set of regulations.

a public meeting on September 22 to allow for comment

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed online and retail sports wagering into law through HB 940 in May this year. This public review period is one of the final stages before operators can actually begin taking wagers. Once the period concludes, the MLGCC will hold a public meeting on September 22 to allow for comment. After that process is complete, the gaming regulator can finally begin doling out sports betting licenses.

Last month, Governor Hogan told Maryland Matters that legislators considered it “impossible” to get the market up and running before the NFL season. However, lawmakers are hopeful that the market can launch early in the new season if the Sports Wagering Application Review Committee votes on accepted venues in September.