12 States Face Various Paths To Sports Betting Legalization In 2022

Twelve of 18 states where  sports betting is now illegal look likely to vote on the issue in 2022, if not before. But the path to legalization is expected to vary.

Six of the 12 states have two-year session cycles that allow them to carry bills filed in 2021 into 2022.  Five of those states —  KansasMaineMassachusettsOhio, and Vermont — could legalize sportsbooks by statute alone. A proposed constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting will likely be pushed next year in Georgia, however.

Two other states — Kentucky and Missouri — have annual sessions, which means no hold-over bills. But sports betting proponents in those state’s legislatures remain focused, saying they intend to file new legislation that could legalize sportsbooks by statute in 2022. 

Missouri could also end up deciding the issue at the polls. A group of professional sports teams filed nine ballot proposals before Halloween that could put the issue on the 2022 ballot, so long as the Missouri state legislature doesn’t take action first. 

Legislative action, referendum, tribal action, or a mix of the three, could determine sports betting legalization in the remaining states in 2022. Those states are AlabamaCalifornia, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. 

Here’s an in-depth look at what is brewing in each of the 12 states. 

Possible 2022 Action On Sports Betting Legislation Filed In 2021

Georgia

Georgia State Rep. Ron Stephens proposed legalizing sports betting by statute in the Peach State in 2021. But his colleagues in the Senate had another idea — namely, requiring a constitutional amendment to allow sportsbooks to operate in the state. 

The constitutional requirement was included in SB 142, which passed the Senate in March 2021 only to stall in the House. But the bill is not dead, thanks to Georgia’s two-year session cycle. 

Georgia voters still have a chance to approve sports betting in their state next year as long as the state House and Senate agree in coming months to put the question on the Nov. 2022 ballot. Sportsbooks could launch in 2023 if the ballot measure gets voter approval. 

Kansas 

Kansas lawmakers made progress on sports betting legalization in 2021 but weren’t able to get a bill through to the governor.  

Legislation

 filed under SB 84 passed the Senate by a vote of 26-12 on March 3, 2021 but eventually stalled in the House. The good news is the two-year session cycle in Kansas allows any bill to be picked back up before adjournment on or around May 25, 2022. That would allow for final passage in 2022 on either SB 84 or with sports betting tied to another bill. 

Maine

Eyes were on Maine in mid-2021 as sports bettors waited to see if the state legislature would legalize sports betting at casinos and tracks before the MLB All-Star Game. Lawmakers instead punted on the bill for the year.

Legalization of sportsbooks could come in 2022, however. The Maine Senate agreed on July 19, 2021 to “carry over” the proposal in LD 1352 to anytime before the current two-year session ends around April 29, 2022.  That should keep Maine sports betting hopes alive into the new year. 

Massachusetts

Bay State lawmakers appear conflicted about legal sports betting in 2021. Two attempts to legalize sportsbooks through the Senate budget failed in May, followed by inaction on a House sports betting proposal that has sat in a Senate committee since July. 

That said, there’s still time to get a bill legalizing sports betting through to Governor Charlie Baker before the state’s two-year session cycle ends on Dec. 31, 2022. Two bills now awaiting hearings in the Senate budget committee could make it to the Senate floor at any time, proponents say. Those bills are S.269 sponsored by Sen. Eric Lesser, and H.3993 passed by the House on July 23. 

Ohio

A vote on Ohio sports betting in Columbus may not happen this year. But odds are increasing that state lawmakers will reach an agreement in early 2022. 

That’s the indication from Senate President Matt Huffman, who told the Statehouse News Bureau on Nov. 1 that a House and Senate conference committee hopes to have something for both chambers to vote on soon. A conference committee vote on sports betting amendments to a military veterans’ ID bill was initially expected around Halloween of this year. 

Issues to be worked out include which types of businesses will be licensed and how many licenses will be available for professional sports teams, casinos, and small venues like bowling centers and bars.  

Vermont 

New life could be breathed into a sports betting bill pending in Montpelier when Vermont lawmakers return to the statehouse for their second regular session of the 2021-2022 biennium. 

That would give legislators until around Memorial Day next year to decide whether to pass a pending Senate bill that would legalize mobile and lottery-based sports betting through the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery. The bill has been holed up in a Senate committee since February 2021. 

Possible 2022 Action on Legislation Filed In 2022

Kentucky 

State Rep. Adam Koenig has tried since 2018 to legalize sports betting in the Bluegrass State, and he’s not stopping now. 

The Erlanger Republican plans to file a new bill in 2022 that would legalize statewide mobile and retail sports betting through the state’s horse tracks, the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, and any other venue licensed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The legislation will be similar to legislation filed by Koenig in 2020. 

Missouri

Missouri State Sen. Denny Hoskins in July announced his plan to prefile sports betting legislation for 2022 after a last-minute amendment derailed efforts for legalization in 2021.  The proposal would legalize retail and mobile sportsbooks tied to the state’s riverboat casinos. 

Just in case the Missouri General Assembly falls short, four Missouri professional sports teams have teamed up to push the issue through at the polls as a last resort. They are hoping first for a legislative solution.

Missouri lawmakers can start prefiling bills for the 2022 Regular Session on Dec. 1, 2021. 

Possible 2022 Action By Legislation, Referendum, And/Or Tribes

Alabama

Alabama looked surprisingly close to passing sports betting legislation this year, but looks can be deceiving. Hopes were dashed when legislation that would have allowed a 2022 referendum vote on sports betting died in the state House. 

The Alabama Legislature will have another chance to vet legal sports betting when they convene for the 2022 Regular Session on Jan. 11. That could put the issue before voters as soon as Nov. 2022.

California 

A tribal ballot initiative to legalize retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos and licensed racetracks in California has qualified for the Nov. 2022 ballot. 

Three other sports betting initiatives  have been filed and hope to qualify as well. With two of the ballot initiatives backed by tribes, one supported by cardrooms, and a fourth fronted by big-name sportsbooks FanDuel and DraftKings who want a more competitive market, the race to the finish line should be interesting. 

Minnesota 

Minnesota state lawmakers had two chances this year to bring sports betting to the North Star State by tethering sports betting to tribal casinos and racetracks. Mobile would have launched after a one-year retail rollout at the casinos. 

It seemed to be a near-perfect chance to legalize sportsbooks in a state that has been a holdout. But neither the House nor Senate bill came to the floor for a vote. Minnesota will have another chance to legalize sports betting during the 2022 yearly session that begins on Jan. 31. 

Oklahoma 

Two Oklahoma tribes that penned 2020 tribal-state gaming compacts allowing sports betting at their casinos are holding off on a launch. They say they are instead waiting for Oklahoma’s complex gaming issues to be tackled by the state legislature in 2022. 

That could happen as soon as February when the Oklahoma State Legislature convenes in session, according to an Aug. 2021 article Oklahoma’s KFOR TV. 

The station reported in Aug. 2021 that lawmakers and tribal leaders are ready for sports betting in the state. 

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