U.S. Legislative Flurry Sees One iGaming Bill Die, While Another Lives On

February 24, 2023
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With key legislative deadlines approaching in several states, this week there has been a flurry of activity that includes new sports-betting bills, sports wagering and internet gaming bills advancing, and in one closely-watched state, online casino legislation dying for another year.

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With key legislative deadlines approaching in several states, this week there has been a flurry of activity that includes new sports-betting bills, sports wagering and internet gaming bills advancing, and in one closely-watched state, online casino legislation dying for another year.

Although a host of states are just beginning to consider legislation, online casino legislation in Indiana died following a Tuesday (February 21) deadline for bills to advance out of committee.

Supporters of online casino legislation faced an uphill climb with only about six weeks to convince legislators to move forward with House Bill 1536, which would have legalized online casino gaming via Indiana's incumbent casino operators and online casino skins partnering with them.

Even if the House had successfully passed the legislation, Republican Senate President Rodric Bray had already signaled that he would not support the proposal, and a Senate version of the bill was never even filed despite vocal support for internet gaming from one Senate member in particular.

The failure is the latest blow to online casino expansion in the U.S., which has moved at a glacial pace in recent years, particularly when compared with the rapid growth of sports betting.

Indiana was considered by some to be the industry’s best hope in 2023, even if that was faint praise, with a local land-based casino industry that was aligned behind the plan and an online sports-betting infrastructure already in place since 2019.

One state where the light remains on for online casino expansion in 2023 is New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Senate voted Wednesday (February 22) to advance Senate Bill 104, which would legalize online casino gaming in the state and enable the state lottery to select operators through a request for a proposal process similar to the one that was authorized in 2019 for sports betting.

That process ultimately led to DraftKings being selected as the state’s lone mobile sports-betting operator after the company offered to pay a 51 percent share of revenues.

The narrow 13-11 Senate vote on the online casino bill allows the measure to advance to the Senate Finance Committee for further review before it would return to the Senate floor for a final vote.

It should be noted that land-based casino expansion proposals have historically been able to pass in the New Hampshire Senate, only to die in the 400-member New Hampshire House.

Internet gaming bills also continue to be considered in New York and Maryland.

On the sports-betting side of the equation, several states where sports-betting efforts have failed in recent years are now seeing new bills introduced for 2023, including Georgia, Minnesota, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

In Minnesota, optimism is appreciably higher this year because of last November's elections that saw the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party assume control of both the Senate and House of Representatives, with a DFL governor also at the helm in Tim Walz, who supports sports-betting legislation provided it has sign-off from the state’s Indian tribes.

In past years, tribes have been reluctant to support legislative proposals that included market access for non-tribal gaming interests, including racetracks and direct licensing for professional sports teams.

Legislation introduced this week in both the Minnesota House and Senate would see the tribes retain exclusive control of sports betting, with each of the 11 federally-recognized tribes receiving the ability to offer land-based wagering, as well as one state-wide mobile betting skin for each tribe.

Tribes would pay a 10 percent tax rate on mobile betting, while land-based wagering at tribal casinos would not be taxed.

House File 2000, authored by Representative Zack Stephenson, is backed by both the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) and an alliance of Minnesota-based professional sports teams.

“MIGA tribes believe the resulting mobile and retail markets operated by Minnesota’s tribal nations would not only support tribes but would also provide a well-regulated and accessible market for the state’s sports bettors and a competitive market that is important to our state’s professional sports teams and market partners,” wrote Andy Platto, MIGA’s executive director, in a letter supporting the proposal.

“Gaming revenues produce the essential tax base tribes rely on to fund basic and essential government services for thousands of tribal members,” Platto continued.

“Any time the state changes the gaming landscape, tribes must carefully consider whether such proposals strengthen or, in fact, threaten tribal sovereignty and self-determination.”

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