Sports betting is expanding in the United States

The passage of sports betting legislation by individual states has gone faster than anyone could have predicted. The month of May marks one year since SCOTUS ruled that states could legislate in their own jurisdictions. Since that time, eight states have passed some form of sports betting authorization and over 2 dozen other states have begun the process of considering allowing online casino type of sports betting for their state residents. 

This week sports betting news focused on 4 states – New York, Tennessee, West Virginia and Maine.

Tennessee

A Tennessee sports betting bill has passed an important House committee in the state house, bringing it past one more hurdle on its way to becoming state law.

Tennessee is one of the few states that is considering mobile gaming. House Bill 1 will, if it passes, allow Tennessee gamblers to place their bets online. The goal of the legislation is to give Tennessee’s brick-and-mortar gaming establishments an extra boost so that they can better serve state gamblers who have been, over the last few months, taking their betting money to Mississippi and Arkansas. 

House Minority Leader Karen Camper explained the bill.  “We saw this as an opportunity for Beale Street to have people from the world coming and just thought it would be a great economic opportunity for us.”  

Approval of the bill is uncertain – Governor Bill Lee is opposed to expanding gambling but he said that he hasn’t made a final decision about signing the bill if it passes the legislature. “We try to work with legislators to make a bill as palatable and as beneficial as it can be, but if we can’t get it to a point where we think it’s acceptable, then I won’t sign it. But this bill is moving and we’ll see where it ends up.”

The bill allows for 10 licenses to be given to operate an online gambling app. The Tennessee Lottery would administer the licensing and would collect 20% from gaming operators as a privilege tax plus a $750,000 fee to start doing business.

New York

Sports betting is coming to New York state which is allowing the Mohegan Sun Pocono to offer sports betting at its Plains Township gaming site. The new wagering option is expected to create at least 12 more jobs for kiosk vendors and live tellers. There will be TV screens and monitors where people can watch games which, the casino hopes, will encourage them to buy food and drinks in the casino’s eateries and bars.

Officials at Mohegan Sun Pocono hope that everything will be in place to allow the sports betting to begin before the football season starts. In the near future the Mount Airy Casino Resort in Monroe County is also expected to introduce sports betting. Licensing fees for the sports betting licenses will be $10 million for each casino.

New York-based Unibet Interactive Inc., has signed a deal with Mohegan Sun to serve as the casino’s sports wagering and interactive gaming operator. The casino is expecting to offer all types of sports betting as permitted by state law including an online sportsbook.  Unibet will also operate the sports betting lounge at the Mohegan Sun Pocono. In the near future, in-game betting and future bets will be featured. 

Maine

Sports betting proponents in Maine are hoping that the state will begin to offer on-site and online sports wagers by 2020.  Multiple bills have been introduced to the Maine state legislature including that of Representative Jeffrey Evangelos. Evangelos’s bill would allow adults to bet on professional and amateur sports at casinos, off-track betting parlors and at racetracks as well as online. There would be a $30,000 license fee and a 25% tax. Revenue would be directed to fund primary education.

“It’s pretty obvious why we are doing it,” said Evangelos, “It is fun and everyone else is doing it. Why shouldn’t we get a piece of it, too?” Evangelos modeled his bill on New Jersey’s sports gaming legislation.

Evangelos and sponsors of the other Maine sports gaming bills – three in all, so far – are opposed by critics who say that the revenues that the state will realize from sports betting will be more than offset by the problems that legalized sports betting will bring. There are concerns that expanded gambling will encourage sports corruption and increase risks for bettors with compulsive gambling problems.

Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee  said “Gambling bills are always controversial….anytime we expand gambling we have to consider the negative effects. That always becomes part of the equation,” Luchini is drafting his own bill on sports betting.

West Virginia

West Virginia was one of the first states to legislate mobile sports betting but the Bet Lucky app, which, so far, is the state’s only sports betting app, is proving to be more trouble than it’s worth.

West Virginia was looking forward to enjoying some of the fruits of online sports betting such as New Jersey is experiencing. New Jersey says that 80% of the total revenue from sports betting now comes from mobile wagers. However, West Virginia’s Bet Lucky app is down a good part of the time and users find it hard to log into the system. The site is only open during certain hours and doesn’t offer all betting options.

Sports fans who want to wager are hoping that one of the Daily Fantasy Sports operators, such as DraftKings of FanDuel, will open in West Virginia. The DFS operators are operating in other states, including in New Jersey, and offer customers a user-friendly sports betting experience. Both operators are trying to complete the regulatory process that will enable them to offer sports betting in West Virginia but the wait is frustrating sports betting enthusiasts. 

One angry bettor complained,  “I can specifically remember trying to place a decent-sized paraly on the Big 10 championship game and couldn’t get into the system through the app. I then sat there and watched my potential bet win – $300 to make $750. That happened on  more than one occasion.”

A second said, “I’m screwed with no mobile app. All the sportsbooks are placed on the state lines with zero centralized casinos. The nearest open sportsbook to me is Mountaineer Casino in Chester, which is a round trip over four hours away.

“I’m not driving that far to bet, so I haven’t placed a bet since BetLucky shut down weeks ago. I’m praying DraftKings, FanDuel, or William Hill open up a mobile app soon because all three currently have open brick and mortar sportsbooks in West Virginia.”

One WV bettor even admitted that the frustration over Bet Lucky was causing punters to return to underground betting. “Everybody in my circle was betting on NFL and college football. I have multiple friends in Fairmont who went back to their bookies after the BetLucky app shut down because we have zero legal options here.”

Currently, the industry in WV is at a standstill as everyone waits for more companies to enter the West Virginia mobile gaming market.

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