Mixed Fortunes in iGaming’s Race Across America

As the host of the world-famous Kentucky Derby horse race, a two-minute sprint that generates around US$150 million (£114.44m/€135.8m) in bets each year, punters in the Bluegrass State well know the meaning of “long shot”.

Long shot, that’s the estimation of Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer when weighing up the likelihood of iGaming–sports betting, fantasy sports wagering and online casino–being legalised in the state any time soon.

“It’s a long shot, but at least it’s still in the race,” said Thayer, commenting on the legal passage of House Bill 606, which has passed muster in the lower House but now faces stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled upper chamber Senate.

To continue the horseracing analogy, “the biggest hurdle to passage is in the form of Republican senators from rural areas, mostly for religious reasons,” Thayer reasoned.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, Republican, is certainly no fan of online gambling.

“It’s not a tax generator,” said Stivers. “I think it’s just a small item on a menu for entertainment. So, it really created no energy with me. I just don’t think that there’s a lot of support for it and that there is much energy in my caucus or on this floor about [this] issue.”

So there’s still plenty of work to be done to get House Bill 606 through the senate.

Fortunately for Kentucky iGaming fans and boosters—unlike the runners in the legendary 10-furlong horserace, which is restricted to three-year-old thoroughbreds, giving horses only one shot at derby glory–they can try and try again to win the race to legalise online betting in the state.

Thayer remains convinced that, as online gambling marches across America, that day will eventual come.

“But if I had to make a prediction, it would be that we’ll be one of the last states to do it,” he said.

Missouri

Meanwhile, in Missouri, House Bill 2556, which aims to legalize sports betting in the state, is heading to the Senate after it passed its final House reading on March 24.

Perhaps–unlike a veritable host of previous bills designed to bring iGaming to Missouri–it can advance past the all-powerful House Emerging Issues Committee and become law.

Under the bill, operators must pay an application fee of US$150,000 (£114,440/€135,800) and a renewal fee of US$125,000 (£95,370/€113,158) if they wish to obtain an interactive sports wagering license.

Minnesota

A bill that will make sports betting legal in Minnesota, albeit of a somewhat constrained and truncated nature, has also made progress.

House Bill 167, introduced at the start of the year, would allow for the issuance of two “master” sports betting licences, valid for 20-years – but only to Native American Indian tribes in the state.

Master licensees would be able to partner with mobile sports betting operators, who must also be from tribal peoples.

A maximum of 11 sub-licences, at an annual cost of US$2,125 (£1,620/€1,920) will be made available if the bill becomes law.