The molasses-like rate of passage of sports betting, DFS and online gaming and poker regulations in the States of America has been the norm in the industry rather than the exception. Since it was sparked to life in 2011, only four states have passed any type of regulations regarding online gaming and/or poker, with more states moving forward with sports betting in just the past year. In just the last couple of days, however, two more states – Virginia and Kentucky – have made their decisions on regulating the industry in their states, with one outcome good and one not so hot.
Virginia – Yeah on B&M Casino Gaming, Sports Betting and Online Gaming
In what was a rather surprising move, the state of Virginia passed SB 1126, a bill that will make sweeping changes to gaming in a state that previously banned all “gambling” activities. The bill that went through the Virginia legislature opens the door to legalized casino gaming in the state, full online casino gaming and sports betting. On Saturday, Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill into law, making Virginia the fifth state to offer online casino gaming to its citizens and one of the latest joining the “gold rush” of sports betting in the U. S.
There are some rather stringent requirements for the law to be put into effect, however. There can be only one casino license granted per city. The city then must ensure that the land used for the casino property would be either partially exempt from local property taxation or that a part of the gaming action would be conducted by a Virginia Indian tribe (currently the Pamunkey Indian Tribe is looking to establish a casino operation).
After meeting that hurdle, the potential home for a casino would have to have an unemployment rate of at least 5%, a population decrease of at least 4% and a poverty rate of at least 20%. The potential candidates for cities would also have to be larger than 200,000 (based on 2017 population estimates). According to a look at state statistics, this would limit potential sites to five cities – Danville, Bristol, Portsmouth, Norfolk and the capital, Richmond.
The Joint Legislative and Review Commission will be conducting a study regarding the proposed gaming in the state. It will submit a report by December 1 on the subject and, if everything is in order, online gaming would start in the state in 2020, with the “brick and mortar” (B&M) casinos coming afterwards. Preliminary studies on the economic impact for Virginia? A proposed one-time impact of approximately $119 million, with $12.1 million generated in local taxes in 2022 and over $20 million by 2028.
Kentucky Says Nay to Online Gaming Until 2020
While the news may be good in Virginia, their neighbor Kentucky has decided on a different course.
State Representative Adam Koenig had introduced House Bill 175 that would have put the question of online poker, sports betting and fantasy sports in front of the legislative body. Kentucky, long known for its thoroughbred racing industry (which offers extensive wagering), seems to be a natural for expansion of gaming and cross-promotion inside an expanded industry. HB 175, though it allegedly had support from both parties, will not be considered in the 2019 legislative calendar.
Koenig pointed out that the rules of the House in the Commonwealth worked against him this year. In odd numbered years, any legislation put forth must clear a 60% supermajority if the legislation is raising revenues. Koenig likes the chances for his bill a year from now, however, when the requirement for the supermajority is removed and a simple majority is allowed for passage.
Commonwealth legislators will not want to wait long on any proposed gaming bills. According to a study commissioned by the ownership of Keeneland Racecourse, home to some of the finest thoroughbred racing in the U. S., expanded gaming in the state would bring an additional $20 million into the state. With Kentucky facing some budgeting shortfalls, the extra revenues would come in quite handy.
States are going to continue to dabble with sports betting, casino gaming and DFS legislation, both live and online. They also will have to watch the federal government, with rumblings of a reinstatement of the Wire Act hanging over their heads like the Sword of Damocles. If the feds decide to move to restrict gaming, these states may regret not moving sooner regarding the expansion in their states.