Election Night 2022: 3 States Where Legal Sports Betting Hangs In The Balance

Elections have consequences, and while it’s way down on most people’s priority list, gambling policy is one of the results that hangs in the balance. 

After rapidly expanding across the US in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision that struck down PASPA and paved the way for states to control their sports betting policy, sports betting is finding the remaining states a much tougher nut to crack. 

Three states passed sports betting legislation in 2022, Massachusetts, Maine, and Kansas. All three were difficult lifts that required a lot of cajoling to get a bill across the finish line. Several other states came up just short. 

The upshot is that switching a couple of legislative seats from yes to no or no to yes or shifting a pivotal committee chair to or from a supporter and the results could have been very different in each locale.  

With that in mind, legal sports betting’s chances in 2023 may have been decided in these three states on Tuesday night. 

Kentucky: Searching for a New Leader

Gambling bills need shepherds, and Kentucky lost its sports betting champion in a grueling primary. State Rep. Adam Koenig lost his primary to Steve Doan by a 54/46 margin. The loss of Koenig leaves the state’s multi-year effort to legalize sports betting without a leader. 

During the GLI Regulators Conference in Boston this summer, Koenig was hopeful but pessimistic that someone would take up his mantle and lead the Bluegrass State’s charge for sports betting in 2023. His biggest concern was the influence of the state’s many religious leaders, with Koenig quipping, “you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a preacher in Kentucky.”

If and when a sports betting bill is introduced in 2023 (the legislative start date is Jan. 3), we will see who Rep. Koenig’s sports betting successor is and if that person has the same zeal and determination Koenig demonstrated. 

Missouri: The Ancillary Issue That Won’t Go Away

Sports betting came up just short in Missouri in 2022, and the state is seen as a top contender again in 2023. But the Show Me State needs to resolve a longstanding issue that has nothing to do with sports if it wants to legalize sports betting in 2023. That issue is VGTs. 

Missouri lawmakers didn’t vote against sports betting in 2022. They voted against VGTs, with lawmakers divided about adding VGTs to the sports betting bill. The problem moving forward is that unless lawmakers decouple VGTs from sports betting, nothing will likely pass, and VGTs will again blow up efforts to legalize sports betting. 

There is a robust anti-gambling vote in the Missouri legislature, and while sports betting has majority support, many see VGTs as a step too far. The addition of VGTs turns that majority into a minority. 

The two issues were initially separated in 2022. That didn’t last long, as VGTs were tacked on to the state’s sports betting bill at the last minute by State Sen. Denny Hoskins when independent VGT efforts stalled. Hoskins is a longtime supporter of VGTs and has derailed sports betting legislation for several years, refusing to let it move forward without VGTs in tow. 

Bottom line, election night 2022 might not matter much for Missouri sports betting unless a slew of pro-sports betting legislators are swept into office. Hoskins’s next election is in 2025, so Missouri needs to figure out how to appease him if it wants sports betting any time soon, as it’s hard to envision sports betting passing independently of VGTs.  

North Carolina: Close but No Cigar in 2022

North Carolina already legalized retail sports betting at the state’s off-the-beaten-path tribal casinos. Still, with the bulk of revenue coming from online bets, the big prize is mobile betting. Thus far, that has evaded the state. 

It looked like the Tarheel State had brokered a compromise in June 2022, but in the truest sense that every vote matters, the bill failed to pass by a 49-52 margin following a contentious debate in the House. 

Every vote matters in North Carolina, and all 170 legislative seats were up for grabs on Tuesday (50 state Senate seats and 120 House seats). The results were Republicans gaining a veto-proof super-majority in the Senate but not in the House. In the Senate, Republicans went from 28 to 30 seats, and in the House, they gained three seats and now possess a 72-48 majority – one seat short of a super-majority. 

Despite the numerous races, there wasn’t a lot of turnover in either chamber. The good news is the sponsors of the sports betting bill remain in office. Considering how close the vote was in 2022, the big unknown is how the new members will vote. Will their votes line up with their predecessors, or will a no become a yes or a yes become a no?

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