US Gambling Legislation: California, Connecticut, Nebraska

California is one step closer to legal sports betting with a measure approved for the 2022 ballot, while Connecticut and Nebraska could see legal wagering this year after their governors approved gambling expansion bills. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A progressive week for legislation

Gambling expansion backers in California, Connecticut, and Nebraska have cause to celebrate this week, with legislation making significant progress.

the proposal would add roulette, dice games, and sports wagering at tribal casinos

The California secretary of state’s office confirmed on Thursday that a measure to approve sports betting in the state has qualified for the 2022 ballot. Pushed by a coalition of Californian tribes, the proposal would add roulette, dice games, and sports wagering at tribal casinos.

In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont has signed legislation legalizing sports wagering and online gambling. Two renegotiated tribal gaming compacts now just require the approval of the US Department of Interior before they can become law.

Similarly, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts put his name to a gambling expansion bill on Wednesday, paving the way for new casinos at racetracks and legal sports betting in the state.

Reaching the ballot box in California

Boasting a population of more than 39 million, California could prove a particularly lucrative market for sports betting. Now, voters will have their say on legalization as soon as next year.

A sports betting initiative, backed by 18 tribal nations, received signatures from more than 1 million registered voters, surpassing the 997,139 required to qualify for the ballot. As a result, the California secretary of state’s office confirmed on Wednesday that it will appear on the ballot in November 2022.

If voters approve the proposal, then the state would have to negotiate tribal gaming compacts to allow for the gambling expansion. As well as tribal casinos, licensed horse racetracks could also apply for retail sportsbook licenses. The initiative does not allow for online sports betting in any form.

The measure also sets out a tax framework. Profits from sports bets at racetracks would be subject to a tax of 10%, of which the government would distribute 15% to the California Department of Health for problem gambling. A further 15% would go to the Bureau of Gambling Control to help in gaming regulation.

Lamont seals the deal in Connecticut

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has put his weight behind gambling expansion this year. Those efforts are close to conclusion after the governor signed legislation HB 6451 on Thursday, setting the wheels in motion for the Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to introduce sports betting and iGaming.

Approved by the Senate on Tuesday night, the bill authorizes Lamont to approve renegotiated gaming compacts with the state’s two tribes. Lamont completed the second of those deals in March, describing the agreement at the time as “best for Connecticut residents and their respective tribal members.”

a modernized, 21st century gaming experience in Connecticut.”

After passing the compacts on to the federal government, Gov. Lamont is hopeful that the legislation will make it into law. As reported by AP News, the governor said: “I am confident that the federal government will see fit to approve these amendments to our compact, and in coming months we can launch a modernized, 21st century gaming experience in Connecticut.”

The compacts will allow the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes to offer sports betting, online gambling, and online fantasy sports on and off their reservations. They will pay a tax of 18% on online gambling for the first five years, and then 20% for the next five years. Sports betting and fantasy contests will face a tax of 13.75%.

LB 561 gets its final green light

Residents of Nebraska voted to legalize sports betting last November, and residents could place sports bets as soon as the fall following Governor Pete Ricketts’s approval of LB 561 on Wednesday. The state legislature passed the bill in a vote of 44-3-2 earlier in the week.

The legislation allows for racetracks to open casinos, and will make tribal casinos, racinos and horse racetracks eligible for sports wagering licenses. The new State Racing and Gaming Commission will oversee the expanded industry, formed from the already existing State Racing Commission.

The application process for LB 561 can begin immediately due to emergency clauses within the legislation. The Nebraska Gaming Commission will create the regulatory framework for the retail sports betting sector over the coming weeks.

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