Two U.S. States Differ On Gambling But Governors Find Common Ground

February 13, 2023
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Utah and New Jersey are like night and day when it comes to casinos and sports betting, but the governors of both states were on the same page in advocating responsible gaming during the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C.

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Utah and New Jersey are like night and day when it comes to casinos and sports betting, but the governors of both states were on the same page in advocating responsible gaming during the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) in Washington, D.C.

Democratic Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey is the NGA’s chairman and an outspoken supporter of the brick-and-mortar and online casino industry, as well as sports wagering.

Republican Governor Spencer Cox of Utah is the NGA’s vice chairman and represents a state widely considered as the least likely ever to legalize any form of gambling primarily because of the opposition of the Mormon Church.

Cox, 47, describes himself as a “centrist, moderate, liberal Republican,” but he could not resist taking a shot at gambling during a joint news conference with Murphy on Saturday (February 11).

“I’ve always said that, you know, gambling is a tax on people that are bad at math,” he said.

But Cox also said “we have different ideas about [gambling] around the country, and I think that’s OK. I’m not personally opposed to people who decide to gamble.”

His primary concern about the increase in gambling advertising, Cox said, is “the impact it has on the addicted and especially on our young people.”

“We’re seeing more and more college kids that are maxing out credit cards whose brains aren’t fully developed yet.”

Murphy, 65, acknowledged New Jersey is “on the other end of the spectrum” from Utah on gambling.

“I think we’ve got the largest sportsbook in the American [states],” said Murphy, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Germany before being elected as New Jersey governor in 2017 and re-elected in 2021.

“But having said that, I don’t disagree at all with Governor Cox’s observations. You need to do this responsibly … . Enjoy it, but do it responsibly.”

Murphy said he did not have “a quick, pithy reaction” to a bill introduced on February 9 in the U.S. House of Representatives to ban all advertising for sports betting.

So far, the bill, proposed by Democrat Paul Tonko of New York, does not have any co-sponsors.

After the news conference, Murphy told VIXIO GamblingCompliance why he has tasked David Rebuck, the director of New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), with making the Garden State a national leader in esports.

“We just think that’s where the world is headed,” Murphy said.

“I’m in favor of latching on to a trend that we think makes sense for our economy, job creation, etc., but I’m for all of the above. I’m in favor of doing it responsibly, including esports.”

Rebuck, 70, was appointed in May 2011 by Republican Governor Chris Christie to lead the DGE, and served more than six years in that post in the Christie administration.

He has served almost that long in the Murphy administration as he approaches his 12th anniversary as New Jersey’s top gambling regulator.

During remarks on February 8 at the ICE gambling expo in London, Rebuck urged online casinos and sportsbooks across the United States to adopt New Jersey’s new best practices on responsible gambling.

When asked about Rebuck’s comments, Murphy said: “I basically do what Dave Rebuck tells me. He’s the gold standard in the industry. He’s literally — from around the world, people look to Dave as the guy.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky told VIXIO at the NGA conference he is prepared to sign a gambling bill this year if it passes the Kentucky Senate.

“I certainly support expanded gaming. I think specifically sports betting has a better opportunity this session. [Senate] floor leader Damon Thayer has to call it for a vote,” Beshear said.

“If he does, it will pass.”

For more than a decade, Thayer has sponsored casino and sports-betting bills in the Kentucky Senate without success.

Thayer has said he has not given up on this year, but prospects for a sports-betting bill will be better in 2024 because of a longer legislative session.

“I believe if [Thayer] calls it for a vote on the floor of the Senate [this year], they will pass [a sports-betting bill],” Beshear said.

“It’s already passed the House, and will pass the House again, and I’d be happy to sign a sports-betting bill.”

Republican Governor Mark Gordon of Wyoming said it is up to the state legislature to decide if gambling expansion will be considered this year in the Cowboy State.

Wyoming allows sports betting, but not most other forms of gambling.

“I’ll wait and see what our bills look like,” Gordon said. “I asked last year that the legislature, which has the lawmaking authority, if they would make a determination. They did not do that last year, so we’ll see what happens this year.”

Republican Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma reportedly wants the state legislature to pass a sports-betting bill this year, but Stitt was tight-lipped when asked if he thinks that will happen.

Stitt said he is willing to work with Oklahoma’s gaming tribes on a sports-betting bill even though many of them opposed his re-election in November.

When asked if the thinks a bill will pass this year in Oklahoma, Stitt said: “I don’t know.”

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