Monday, June 17, 2024

Some SEC States Reject Sports Betting, Missouri Still In Play

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Larry Henry

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Some SEC States Reject Sports Betting, Missouri Still In Play

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With the clock winding down, legislative sessions in the South are ending without new votes so far to approve sports betting in the region.

At the beginning of the year, six of the 12 states with universities competing in the Southeastern Conference lacked legal sports betting — the largest regional block of states where sports wagering is outlawed. This includes Oklahoma, where the University of Oklahoma Sooners are joining the SEC this year.

Unless last-second surprises occur, nothing will change in the next few weeks, as lawmakers throughout the region are heading home without legalizing sports betting in half the SEC states.

Legislative Sessions End With No Sports Wagering

Below is the status of three SEC states where legislative sessions have ended recently:

  •  Georgia legislators left the Gold Dome in Atlanta in March without approving sports betting.
  • In Alabama the session ended Thursday without approval for a bill to legalize sports betting. Gov. Kay Ivey said she would not call a special session to address bills that would have expanded gaming in the state but were unsuccessful this year at the Legislature, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
  • South Carolina legislators have not been receptive to expanding gaming and ended this year’s session on Thursday with sports betting still illegal in the state.

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Oklahoma Effort Essentially ‘Dead’

In Oklahoma, a sports-betting bill by Rep. T.J. Marti, R-Broken Arrow, is dead, his spokesperson, Stacie Rathbun, told this week.

Marti’s sports-betting measure, House Bill 3360, was a “shell bill” lacking specifics, Rathbun said. She said the deadline for adding language to shell bills has passed.

Also this session, state Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, had sought to legalize sports betting pools in Oklahoma, but reports indicate his bill, Senate Bill 1434, has stalled and is unlikely to be revived.

The Oklahoma legislative session is set to end May 31.

The most populated SEC state without legal sports betting is Texas, home to more than 30 million residents. Though Texas legislators have shot down sports betting measures in the past, another effort to legalize it is expected when lawmakers next meet in 2025.

At least one Texan who goes out of state to wager millions on sports, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, has told religious groups are among those opposing sports betting in the state.

Other legislative observers have told that gaming bills sometimes have trouble winning support during an election year in part because of pushback from anti-gambling factions.

Missouri Voters Might Get To Decide On Sports Betting

The one SEC state without legal sports betting that might end up with it in the foreseeable future is Missouri.

During past sessions in Jefferson City, sports betting legislation has failed to win support and again this year appears doomed heading into a scheduled May 17 adjournment.

However, voters in Missouri could have a say in deciding on sports betting. If a signature-gathering effort is validated, the issue could be up for a public vote in the Nov. 5 general election. Some in the state contend voters would approve sports betting.

The secretary of state’s spokesman this week told Missourians should know by August whether sports betting will be on the ballot.

If Missouri voters approve sports betting this fall, it would begin no later than Dec. 1, 2015.

Across the country, sports betting is legal in 38 states and Washington, D.C. It is legal in every state that borders Missouri, except Oklahoma.

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SEC Scorecard

Pending a late surprise, the following SEC states will remain without legal sports betting in the near future, though Missouri voters could have a chance to weigh in during the November election.

These six states represent a combined population of about 62 million, more than 18.5 % of the U.S. population. The SEC schools in these states have sports traditions dating back decades.

The SEC states without legal sports betting are:

  • Texas (Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns)
  • Oklahoma (Oklahoma Sooners)
  • Missouri (Missouri Tigers)
  • Alabama (Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers)
  • Georgia (Georgia Bulldogs)
  • South Carolina (South Carolina Gamecocks)

The other six SEC states have either in-person or mobile sports betting — or, in some cases, both. The SEC states with legal sports betting are:

  • Arkansas (Arkansas Razorbacks)
  • Louisiana (LSU Tigers)
  • Kentucky (Kentucky Wildcats)
  • Tennessee (Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores)
  • Mississippi (Mississippi State Bulldogs, Ole Miss Rebels)
  • Florida (Florida Gators)

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