Casino & games

State of the union

| By contenteditor
This week's State of the Union covers developments across the US, with bills progressing in a number of states, the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Attorneys General taking on the Wire Act, and Rhode Island edging closer to approving mobile wagering.

This week’s State of the Union covers developments across the US, with bills progressing in a number of states, the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Attorneys General taking on the Wire Act, and Rhode Island edging closer to approving mobile wagering.

NJ and Penn AGs take on on Wire Act
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and his Pennsylvania counterpart Josh Shapiro have attacked the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) decision to revise its interpretation of the Wire Act and suggested that the department was influenced by anti-iGaming lobbyists.

The pair have asked for assurances that the Department will not launch any enforcement action against licensed iGaming operators in either state. Grewal has also filed a Freedom of Information Act request to ascertain whether the Department’s decision to shift its opinion could have been influenced by lobbying groups such as the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

Rhode Island Senate approves mobile betting
Mobile wagering has moved a step closer to law in Rhode Island after it was passed by the state Senate. The bill passed by a significant margin, with 32 Senators voting in favour of S37, two abstaining, and just four voting against. The bill must now progress through the state House of Representatives before going to Governor Gina Raimondo for ratification. With Rhode Island’s 2019-20 budget already factoring in $3m from mobile wagering, it appears likely that Raimondo will sign. 

Currently Rhode Island only permits land-based sports betting, at the state’s Twin River-branded casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton.

New York poker push
New York Representative Gary Pretlow Sr. has put forward a new bill with the aim of legalising online poker in the US state. Bill A04924, which sets out plans to classify interactive poker as a game of skill rather than luck, has been passed to the New York Committee on Racing and Wagering for consideration.

Operators that either hold a video lottery licence, or are approved to run Class III gaming facility, will be eligible for licences, and able to partner third parties for the poker offering. In order to secure a licence, operators would need to pay a one-off fee of $10m (£7.7m/€8.8m), with each online poker licence running for 10 years. Operators would also be taxed at a rate of 15% on gross revenue from interactive gaming activities. This tax, as well any funds derived from penalties imposed by the Commission, would be paid into the New York state lottery fund.

Sports betting efforts underway in Maryland
Efforts to regulate sports betting without putting the matter to a public vote are underway in Maryland, with Republican Delegates Jason Buckel and Kevin Hornberger filing a proposal in the state General Assembly. HB1132, which grants the State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency the power to contract sports betting services to third parties. It would allow video lottery and horse racing licensees to apply for wagering licences, for an initial $300,000 fee. These licences would last for one year, with companies required to pay a $50,000 annual renewal fee to extend the licence.

The licence and renewal fees would be used to support problem gambling, with 10% of fees allocated to the Problem Gambling Fund, which is established through the bill. A further 10% will be used for local impact grants, with the remaining 80% to be deposited in the Maryland Education Trust Fund, which will also be established via HB1132. The majority of gross proceeds raised through sports betting will also go to the Education Trust Fund, with licensees to receive 20% of gross proceeds.

The bill aims to test the theory that sports betting can bypass a referendum to go live, provided it launches through the state lottery. This is based on the idea that the lottery itself was established following a 1972 referendum in Maryland, and as such already has permission to operate. Should a new referendum be required, this will not take place until 2020.

Committee hearing on Arizona tribal betting bill pushed back
A Senate Committee hearing on a bill to legalise sports betting at Arizona’s tribal casinos and bars was delayed to give the legislation’s sponsor time to make revisions and amendments to the proposal. SB 1158 has been assigned to the Senate Rules, Appropriations and Commerce Committees. It was due to have its first hearing on Thursday February 7 before the Commerce Committee, only for this to be delayed.

The bill currently includes an emergency provision that would mean it would have to be passed by two-thirds of each legislative house before passing to the governor, then coming into law immediately after being ratified. However this clause is to be removed in order to give the Department of Gaming more time to develop sports betting regulations.

Indiana sports betting bill progresses but faces new hurdles
A complex gambling bill that includes the introduction of sports betting has been approved by Indiana’s Senate Public Policy Committee, but the legislation is likely to face multiple amendments before the end of the US state’s legislative session in April. Senate Bill 552 would allow the state’s casinos to place bets on professional and college sports as early as next year.

However, with several other issues bundled into the bill – including applications for a Terre Haute casino licence and a possible inland relocation of the city of Gary’s Lake Michigan casino, there are concerns that complications could lie ahead despite the committee giving their unanimous support.

DC Lottery sole sourcing proposal moves forward
Intralot is a step closer to delivering sports betting in Washington DC after lawmakers voted narrowly to allow the DC Lottery to negotiate a new contract with its existing supplier and bypass the standard procurement process. The Council of the District of Columbia voted 7-6 in favour of the controversial Sports Wagering Procurement Practices Reform Exemption Act of 2019, although the law still requires approval at a second reading scheduled for February 19.

Virginia sports betting bill clears Senate
The Virginia Senate has passed a bill that could lead to the legalisation of sports betting and permit land-based casinos to open for the first time in the state.

SB 1126, introduced by Democrat Senator Louise Lucas, has already cleared the Senate Committee on General Laws and has now passed the Senate by a vote of 28-12. Following this approval, the bill then headed to the House on February 6 for a first reading, before being referred to the Committee on Rules for further discussion.

Texas Representatives take punt on sports betting
Lawmakers in Texas are to run the rule over a new bill that could lead to the legalisation of online and mobile sports betting in the US state.

Introduced by Representative Eddie Lucio III, H 1725 would make a total of five permits available in the state. Each permit would be designated with two skins. These permits would each cost $250,000 (£191,000/€218,000), while operators that secure approval would pay 6.25% in tax on their sports betting handle. This would be collected on a monthly basis.

However, the bill would not come into effect until early 2020, with the proposed legislation to be put to a public referendum in November of this year. The bill would require approval by a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate prior to a public vote.

Washington State launches tribal betting push
A group of eight Washington Representatives have put forward a new bill that would legalise sports betting at tribal gaming facilities in the state.

House Bill 1975 would permit tribal casinos to offer sports wagering both in-person and via the internet, but does not include specific reference to mobile activities. Only federally recognised Indian tribes would be able to offer sports betting and would be required to enter a Class III gaming compact with the state in order to operate such a service.


Kentucky Representiatves target major gambling expansion
Kentucky lawmakers are to consider a new bill that would legalise sports betting, fantasy sports games and online poker in the US state. Sponsored by 15 Representatives, House Bill 175 would enable racetracks and sports venues in Kentucky to offer in-person, online and mobile sports betting, with players required to first register for an account at the venue.

Sports betting licences would cost an initial $1m (£776,400/€885,400), plus an annual renewal fee of $50,000. Tax rates for sports wagering would differ depending on how players place their bets, with all tax due monthly. In-person wagering would be taxed at 10.25% on adjusted gross revenue of sports wagers, while online or mobile bets would be taxed at a rate of 14.25%.

Fantasy sports licences, meanwhile, would set operators back $5,000, with an annual renewal fee of either 6% of adjusted gross revenue for the prior calendar year or a flat fee of $5,000.

In terms of online poker, consumers aged 18 or over would be able to take part in games, differing from the age restriction of 21 that has been proposed or adopted in other states. Poker would be available via desktop and mobile devices. Licences to offer online poker would cost $250,000, with an annual renewal fee set at $10,000. Operators would face a tax rate of 6.75% of net poker revenue, payable on a monthly basis.

West Virginia looks to launch igaming
A group of West Virginia lawmakers have introduced a new bill in the latest effort to legalise online gambling activities in the US state. The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, or H 2934, would enable the state’s four racetrack casinos – Hollywood Casino, Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino and Delaware North’s properties in Nitro and Wheeling – as well as the Greenbrier resort to offer legal igaming services.

Slots and table games, as well as other services, would be permitted under the bill. Venues seeking to operate online gaming services would need to secure a licence for a fee of $250,000 (£194,500/€221,500). These licences would run for five years, after which the holder would need to pay a renewal fee of $100,000.

Licence-holders would face a tax rate of 10% of their adjusted gross interactive wagering receipts. Tax levied and collected would be due and payable to the Commission in weekly instalments.

Boat-based betting proposed in Missouri
Missouri Senator Denny Hoskins has introduced a new bill that could lead to the legalisation of sports betting on designated gambling boats in the US state. SB 44 would enable consumers to bet in-person on licensed excursion boats and also online via an interactive platform, with a requirement to first register in-person.

Licences to offer online sports wagering services would cost an initial $10,000 (£7,800/€8,800), as well as an annual renewal fee of $5,000. Gaming facilities would face a 12% tax on the adjusted gross receipts received from sports bets, in addition to an administrative fee of 2.5% on betting receipts. In addition, licensees would pay a further administrative fee of 0.5% of the gross amount wagered on sports events to the Commission at least once per quarter in order to support sporting facilities in the state.

Anti-gambling expansion efforts underway in New Mexico
The New Mexico Lottery Authority could be prevented from offering legal sports betting services in the state by a new bill filed in the state legislature.

H 441, sponsored by Republican Representatives Jason Harper and Rod Montoya and Democrat Matthew McQueen, would permit the New Mexico Lottery to continue offering existing products, but block it from adding various other services, including sports betting or wagering on other real events.The bill also seeks to prevent the New Mexico Lottery from offering any form of mobile gambling or video lottery games, including casino-style games such as blackjack, roulette and poker.

It goes beyond blocking online sales, and would also stop the Lottery from selling lottery tickets through a self-service device that is part of or shares a display with a retail petrol dispenser or an automated teller machine.

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