Sports betting in the South: A state-by-state legalization status update
Sports betting in the south has made some tremendous inlays since the 2018 repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Louisiana and Arkansas both have legal retail and online sports betting, while a handful of states have partially legalized sports betting.
Still, sports betting has tremendous growth opportunity south of the Mason Dixon Line. Florida, Texas and Georgia are still massive markets that have shown an interest in legalizing sports betting, but must come to a consensus among their lawmakers to get it done.
Where is sports betting legal in the states we cover? Which states are hoping to legalize sports betting moving forward? When will they be able to do so? Let’s take a look and see where sports betting is heading in 2022 and beyond.
Arkansas online sports betting working out kinks
Arkansas sports betting has been legal since 2018 and all three of its brick-and-mortar casinos offer retail sports betting. The Natural State legalized online sports betting in March 2022, but unlike other states included a 51% sports betting revenue clause in its approved sports betting bill. The clause requires state casinos to keep at least 51% of sports betting revenue if partnered with an online sportsbook company. Online sportsbooks typically keep between 85% to 95% of revenue in partnerships with casinos in other states.
This revenue clause has effectively kept national online sports betting operators out of the state. Arkansas sports bettors can only utilize online apps Betly, which is offered through the Southland Casino, and BetSaracen, offered through the Saracen Casino. Both casinos each offer IOS and Android betting apps for state bettors.
Both had hoped to launch their online sportsbook apps before the March Madness tournament, but both launches were delayed. Betly went live for web browsers on March 5, but its iOS app wasn’t available until late April. BetSaracen went live in early May.
Oaklawn Racing Casino hopes to launch its own sportsbook app in the coming months.
Louisiana sports betting a hit
Louisiana sports betting was approved in early 2021. The state launched retail sports betting in late October of the same year. In its first month of operation, eight casinos took in $27.6 million in sports bets. The net proceeds reported by casinos were nearly $5.7 million over that period of time.
Online sports betting launched in January and took in $211.01 million in bets during its first full month of operation. Since its January launch, New Orleans total online sports betting handle is $643.26 million, with $7.8 million going to the state in taxes.
Seven online sports betting operators are currently live in the state.
Plans for Mississippi online sports betting in 2023?
Mississippi legalized retail sports betting in 2018, but despite several tries cannot find a compromise on legalized online sports betting.
There are currently 23 land or water-based retail sports betting locations in the state. Only BetMGM has any type of online sports betting presence in the state, as players can participate in online sports betting only when at the Beau Rivage and Gold Stroke Casinos. Online sports betting outside of these casinos is not legal.
Mississippi legislators have attempted several time to legalize online sports betting, but no piece of legislation has yet to be approved. Four online sports betting bills were introduced in 2022 and all four died in their respective committees.
Mississippi Rep. Casey Eure introduced HB 997 in January, which called for the legalization of online sports betting in the state. The bill allowed each state casino to partner with one online operator, but it also called for in-person registration for online accounts. In-person registration for an online account is typically a huge hindrance to registration numbers for a state.
A fourth bill, SB 2652, was also introduced this year. It included the same language as Eure’s bill, but eliminated the in-person online account registration requirement.
Mississippi’s legislative session ended in April. Online sports betting cannot be discussed again until the 2023 session.
Tennessee online sports betting only game in town
Tennessee sports betting was legalized in 2019, but currently only online sports betting is available in the state. There are currently 10 available online sportsbook operators in Tennessee and no retail sports betting locations.
Tennessee is the only state in the country to offer only untethered online sportsbooks to its bettors. Usually online sportsbooks must partner with a brick-and-mortar casino to operate in a state.
No bills have been discussed to legalize retail sports betting in Tennessee, so it’s highly unlikely anything will get done in the next session.
Here are some of the best options available for legal sports betting in Tennessee:
Alabama fails to legalize sports betting in 2022
Alabama lawmakers killed a bill in April that would have legalized retail and online sports betting in the state. The state’s legislative session has concluded this year, so sports betting will have to wait until 2023 at least.
The Alabama Senate Tourism Committee approved SB 294 in late March. The bill would have legalized a state lottery and allowed for online and retail sports betting at several Alabama casinos. If it had been approved by a three-fifths majority by members of the Alabama House and Senate, a constitutional amendment would have had to be approved by state voters in the November election.
In addition to legalizing sports betting, the bill would have also created an Alabama state lottery.
Alabama lawmakers seem to favor sports betting legalization through a constitutional amendment, which requires voter approval. If this is the preferred method of legalization in 2023, this ensures sports betting will not launch until 2024.
Another year, another session without Georgia sports betting
As has been the case in the past several years, a Georgia sports betting bill died in committee rather than being brought to the House or Senate floor for a vote.
In March, the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee approved SB 142, a bill to legalize online and retail sports betting, and SR 135, a resolution to allow for the vote on a constitutional amendment in November to legalize sports betting. However, neither of the bills received a vote in the Senate and died on the last day of the state’s session.
The bills would have legalized retail and online sports betting in the Georgia. Eighteen online sports betting licenses would have been available, with licenses split between Georgia professional sports franchises and other entities. Professional sports franchises would have been able to offer both retail and online sports betting in the state.
Georgia lawmakers also attempted to legalize sports betting in 2021, but weren’t able to push a bill through the Georgia House of Representatives.
By not approving the pieces of legislation this year, the Peach State likely won’t be able to launch sports betting until 2024 at the earliest. Georgia’s constitution prohibits most forms of gambling, including sports betting and casinos, so any sports betting bill would likely have to be approved by state voters in a general election ballot referendum.
Kentucky comes close in 2022
Kentucky was so close to legalizing sports betting in 2022.
Rep. Adam Koenig’s (R-Erlanger) bill, HB 606, was approved by the Kentucky House of Representatives but lingered in the Senate and never received a vote. The final day of Kentucky’s legislative session came and went without a vote on the much discussed, and much publicized, sports betting bill.
The bill would have legalized retail sports betting at licensed Kentucky horse tracks, such as Churchill Downs, and the Kentucky Speedway, as well as online sports betting throughout the state.
Kentucky Republican Senators typically do not vote on a bill if there is not a consensus among them. The sports betting bill had Democratic support, but reports throughout the day claimed that the bill was likely to come up four votes short on the Republican side of the aisle. If a vote had actually taken place, it may have been able to cross the necessary 20-vote threshold to be approved.
Lawmakers can try again in 2023, but next year’s legislative session may prove to be even more difficult to get something approved. Kentucky odd-year sessions are limited to just 30 days and require a three-fifths majority for bills to be passed.
If not approved in next year’s session, Kentucky may not see sports betting legalized until 2024 and launched until 2025 at the earliest.
Still time for 2022 South Carolina sports betting
For the third year in a row, South Carolina lawmakers have introduced a bill to legalize retail and online sports betting.
Rep. William Herbkersman (R) and Rep. Todd Rutherford (D) introduced HB 5277 in April 2022, which calls for the legalization of online and retail sports betting.
If approved, the bill will allow for eight to 12 online sports betting platform operators in the state, who must partner with a state entity to operate. Professional sports franchises, facilities that host PGA Tour events, and promoters of a national association for stock car auto racing national touring race are eligible to apply for a sports betting license and partner with an operator.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. South Carolina lawmakers have until June 15 to pass identical versions of the bill.
HB 5277 is the second proposed sports betting bill in the state in the last three years. Rutherford co-sponsored and introduced HB 3395 in 2020, which called for the legalization of sports betting in the state through a constitutional amendment. The bill was short on details, not specifying if online sports betting would be legal or just retail betting, and it did not set a tax rate. It did earmark sports betting tax revenues for highway, road, and bridge maintenance.
The bill never came up for a vote and has remained in the House Committee on Judiciary since early 2021.
North Carolina carrying sports betting bill into 2022
North Carolina just kicked off its legislative session and online sports betting may become a reality if the House of Representatives decides to act on an already Senate-approved sports betting bill.
Senate Bill 688, sponsored by Sen. Paul A. Lowe, Jr. (D-32), was approved by the Senate last year in August by a vote of 26-19. Because the state legislative session runs for two years, the bill can still be considered for 2022.
North Carolina currently allows retail sports betting at its brick-and-mortar casinos. Two Caesars Sportsbooks opened in late 2021 at tribal casinos in the Western part of the state.
If approved by the House of Representatives, SB 688 would legalize online sports betting and allow between 10 to 12 online sports betting operators and set the online sports betting tax rate at 8%. In addition to casinos, the law includes language that would allow North Carolina professional sports facilities, race tracks, and PGA-event golf courses to offer online sports betting.
An online sports betting license would cost an applicant $500,000 if approved.
Just this week, Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), told WRAL News that if the bill is approved online sports betting could launch by the start of the NFL season, or at least by the midway point of the season.
The bill has yet to be discussed in this year’s session, but time still remains as the legislative session will conclude on June 30.
Florida sports betting remains in a quagmire
Oh Florida sports betting, you were so close last year. Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe famously agreed to a new 30-year gaming compact in 2021 that would have legalized Seminole controlled online and retail sports betting in the state. However, a U.S. District Court Judge determined the gaming compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and threw the entire compact out in November 2021.
The Seminole Tribe suspended all of its sports betting operations in December 2021 after only several weeks of activity. The Seminole Tribe has filed several appeals of the U.S. District Court Judge’s opinion and was denied an emergency motion of stay to continue offering sports betting throughout the proceedings.
Sports betting remains suspended in Florida as the tribe continues its appeal process in the U.S. Court of Appeals. The process can take more than a year to reach a conclusion.
While the state and the tribe can agree to a new gaming compact at any time, it would not be able to include online sports betting, due to the U.S. District Court’s ruling.
Another attempt to legalize Florida online sports betting failed earlier this year as well. A Florida online sports betting initiative, backed financially by powerhouse sportsbook operators FanDuel and DraftKings, did not reach the required verified signature total for placement on the November 2022 general election ballot.
Another initiative will not be allowed to be attempted again until 2024, meaning Florida online sports betting would likely not launch until 2025 if approved.
It’s very likely that nothing will happen in the Sunshine State until 2024, with any potential launches likely happening in 2025.
Texas sports betting…yeah right
Pardon me while I chuckle about the thought of Texas legalizing sports betting anytime soon.
Texas sports betting bill have been floated in the past, but never seems to gain any traction.
Texas lawmakers only meet during odd-numbered years, so 2022 legalization is out. Texas sports betting seemed to gain slightly momentum last year, as a number of bills were discussed by prominent state legislators. State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-127) attempted to push his bills, HB 2070 and HJR 97, through this last session to give Texas voters the opportunity to approve sports betting in an upcoming election. Sports betting operators and Texas professional sports teams had backed Huberty’s bills throughout discussions.
However, both bills stalled out and did not receive a vote in either the Texas House or Senate before the end of the state’s 2021 legislative session.
Despite the obstacles, sports betting does have some allies in the Longhorn State. Last year, Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said the “handwriting is on the wall” for sports betting during an interview at Cowboys training camp.
“Gaming, as it pertains to our game, is here. It’s frankly been here. But you’re talking about a different form of it, a more recognized form of it, a more sanctioned form of it. Yes I do. Without in any way not being sensitive to the great people that want to keep everything in the right way, but the handwriting is on the wall. Gaming has been here for a long time,” Jones said during the interview.
In April, Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke spoke during a campaign rally and expressed his support for the legalization of sports betting.
O’Rourke, however, is a heavy underdog in the gubernatorial race against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
“From listening to Texans across the state, it’s one, a very popular proposal, and two, it would also help us address some of the challenges we have in reducing inflation and property taxes in the state,” the former Democratic congressman O’Rourke said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “So I think that warrants a very close look and it’s something I’m inclined to support.”
While sports betting has its advocates in Texas, it will still be an uphill battle for legalization in 2023. If a bill is not passed in 2023, 2025 will be the next opportunity Texas has to reach a sports betting compromise.