This week saw four more states make the headlines in the ongoing saga regarding sports betting in the US. Arkansas and Louisiana citizens voted to allow it to happen at some stage, Tennessee revealed new enabling legislation (yet to be made statutory), while South Dakota talked of a long road ahead to creating a suitable framework to introduce sports wagering.
They join California, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Carolina, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Connecticut and Massachusetts in a growing list of states that eye a slice of the revenue pie from sports wagering, but have yet to make it a reality.
Arkansas and Louisiana we’ve already reported on. But to recap, the former voted to enable state powers to allow casinos with sportsbooks and the latter balloted to clear the way for fantasy sports betting. In both cases, the go-live dates appear to be some distance away.
Turning to Tennessee, we learned that Representative Rick Staples had introduced HB 0001 ahead of the Volunteer State’s 2019 legislative session. But, as is seemingly commonplace, a number of hurdles stand between it and a place on the statute books.
After undergoing lengthy scrutiny by a legal committee, HB 0001 will be filtered through the state’s House of Representatives for further debate and approval. It then has to go before the State Senate before facing arguably the toughest stage, passing muster before incoming Governor Bill Lee. Anyone who witnessed Lee during his campaign will have noted that he is not a fan of gambling. It’s also worth noting that neither are Tennesseans generally.
Staples’ vision for legal sports wagering is not, therefore, a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. But should it cut the mustard in whole or part with policy makers, it represents a regulatory and tax framework that potential operators in Tennessee would find hard to ignore. The tax level has been set at 10 per cent and mobile betting has been catered for. Two vital boxes ticked there.
Ultimately, the deciding factor will be revenue. Or, more accurately, how much revenue the state can squeeze from legalized sports wagering. But Tennessee’s bean counters will only have to look at the sports betting aspirations of its neighboring states to realize that it could be left out in the cold with no legal outlet for sports bettors. That’s a lot of dollar going across state lines to the likes of Mississippi, Kentucky et al.
That, for the moment, leaves just South Dakota, which appears to be resigned to a summer 2021 launch date for legal sports wagering. A combination of unfortunate election timing and the need for constitutional amendment to its initial submission are the main culprits here. Again, any legislation will face a challenging obstacle course to full implementation.
As the well-known rock star David Lee Roth sang: “Everybody wants some; I want some too.” But in the case of some of the above states and their aspirations to legalize sports wagering, wanting it may not be enough to cross the finish line. It will come down to exactly how badly they want it before they can break the tape.