Pair of Minnesota bills

The expansion of sports betting in the United States continues as lawmakers in Minnesota, Georgia, and North Carolina are making pushes to either legalize wagering for the first time in their state or add to its current offerings.

In Minnesota, two related bills were introduced on Monday: House Bill 2000 and Senate Bill 1949. Both would legalize mobile sports betting in the state, creating up to 11 sports betting licenses for Native American tribes who are licensed to offer Class III gaming. Along with those would be another 11 licenses for online sportsbook operators who partner with a tribe. The tribal licenses would be good for 20 years, while the operator partner licenses would last three years.

“Last year, legalized sports betting passed the House with a bipartisan majority, but stalled out in the Senate,” Rep. Zach Stephenson, the main sponsor of the House bill, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We are back this year and intend to finish the job.”

Sen. Jeremy Miller introduced a similar bill in January that would also permit horse racetracks and professional sports teams to operate sportsbooks. He said that he doesn’t think a bill that limits the industry to tribes would have enough support in the Senate, but admitted he “could be wrong.”

Georgia trying a different tactic this time

Georgia lawmakers have been attempting to legalize sports betting for a few years, but nothing has ever made it all that far in either the House or Senate. Every year, though, the idea gets a little more support. Senate Bill 57 was introduced on February 3 and would authorize as many as 18 sportsbooks, half of which would be slotted to sports teams (including Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters tournament). House Bill 380, introduced last week, is quite similar, but instead of creating a sports betting regulator, it would put regulation in the hands of the Georgia Lottery.

One big problem with past bills is that they aimed to amend the state’s Constitution, which requires a two-thirds vote in both the Georgia House and Senate. This year, lawmakers are trying something different: a law that would legalize sports betting “by statute,” meaning a bill would only need a simple majority vote.

Supporters of this method believe this would be legal, citing a ten-page memorandum by former Georgia Chief Justice Harold Melton, who says that betting could be considered a form of lottery and the lottery is already legal in the state.

North Carolina needs one more vote

North Carolina already has brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, but this week, lawmakers plan to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives to legalize mobile sports betting. It will be similar to a bill that failed by just one vote last year.

One big difference between the two bills is that last year’s left out betting on college sporting events, thanks to opponents in the House. This go-around, college sports will be included.

“Because if you did take out college sports betting,” Rep. Jason Saine said, “it really at that point it becomes almost useless to pass it because you’re still sending all the revenue to some other state. So, it’s really a boneheaded approach to do it that way.”

Governor Roy Cooper supports legalized sports betting and believes it will pass this time.

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