November 15, 2018 / 10:37 PM / in a month

More U.S. states could swarm into legal sports betting next year

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At least a dozen more U.S. states could legalize sports betting in the coming year, and up to eight could have operational sports books ready to take wagers before the start of the 2019 football season, industry experts said at a conference on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A sign is seen at Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill, ahead of the opening of the first day of legal betting on sports in Oceanport, New Jersey, U.S., June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

In addition to the five states where legal sports wagering is up and running, another four to eight will “probably be accepting bets by the coming football season,” Jake Williams, Sportradar Group’s vice president of legal and regulatory affairs, told Reuters in an interview after a conference co-sponsored by the sports data provider.

The surge comes after the U.S. Supreme Court in a May ruling overturned a 1992 law that had barred it in most places, allowing states to legalize, regulate and tax sports bets.

Within 24 months, there could be a total of 24 states offering legal sports betting, Williams said.

Fans can now wager legally on sporting events in New Jersey, West Virginia and Mississippi, as well as Nevada and Delaware, which were grandfathered into the 1992 law banning the activity in the rest of the country.

Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are expected to roll out live betting soon, and one tribal casino in New Mexico has begun operating a sportsbook without the need for state legislation.

The casino industry, bookmakers and sport leagues think the states that could close in on legislation or new regulations by the end of 2019 include Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oregon and others. Michigan, which has both tribal and commercial casinos, as well as a lottery, could be among those states.

Michigan state Representative Brandt Iden said at the conference that he expects a bill introduced last year to allow mobile gaming to soon pass, and he hopes it will be signed by the governor by the end of this year.

That would allow Michigan to implement a statutory framework for sports betting next year, then combine it with this year’s legislation so both online and retail sportsbooks could roll out at once.

Iden, chairman of the Regulatory Reform Committee, would consider including integrity fees paid to sports leagues - a portion of sports betting revenue - to help them fight game fixing. The casino industry opposes the fees, and no other state has passed legislation that includes them.

Iden told Reuters he changed his mind on the fees after “spending significant time with the leagues.”

“In other countries there is some sort of fee,” he said. “There’s a place for that.”

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Leslie Adler

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