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Many States Looking to Gaming Expansion to Increase Revenue

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

As reported by "With their own revenues in a freefall, some states are looking to tap into the popularity of March Madness and Super Bowl pools by legalizing sports betting to snag
  a cut of the billions of dollars in play.

In New Jersey, state Rep. Ray Lesniak (D) is part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn a 1992 federal law that essentially bans sports betting except for the four states that were grandfathered in because they already had wagering programs: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.

Only Nevada allows betting on sporting events across the country and Montana, for the first time last year, began offering fantasy football betting via its lottery.

With Atlantic City casinos in a slump – winnings were down by nearly 20 percent from the previous year – Lesniak wants the state to get a share of the $380 billion that some experts figure illegal betting generates. “Billions of dollars are being bet offshore through the Internet or through organized crime, and those are revenues that could be coming to New Jersey,” he told The Star-Ledger.
Delaware may be poised to legalize sports betting this year, prodded by a big push from Gov. Jack Markell (D). A proposal won approval in the House May 8 after being earlier rejected by just two votes. The measure now goes to the Senate.

Various forms of gambling are a bona fide business in all but two states for a simple reason: It’s an easy way to get dollars flowing into the states without raising taxes. Thirty years ago, gamblers had to venture to Las Vegas or Atlantic City to bet legally. Today, every state except Hawaii and Utah has some form of legalized gambling.

“States are chasing for every gambling dollar that they can,” said the Rev. Richard McGowan, a Boston College professor and author of the 2008 book, "The Gambling Debate.”

Sports betting may be the newest twist, but far from being the only angle states are taking to get a bigger take from Americans’ love affair with gambling. Consider:


-California voters May 19 will consider allowing the state to borrow $5 billion against future lottery proceeds as part of a deal to balance the budget.

-Illinois has a proposal that would allow lottery tickets to be sold on line.

-Georgia Lottery, under pressure to find new ways to increase revenues to fund the HOPE scholarship program, has pitched casino gambling at Underground Atlanta, a shopping and dining area downtown.

-Iowa introduced two new lottery games to fund veterans’ programs and considered privatizing the lottery.

-Kentucky may have a special session to consider allowing slots at racetracks to boost its famous horseracing industry.

-Maine regulators approved expanding casino gambling hours to include Sunday morning.

-Ohio regulators proposed allowing 14,000 video slot machines at seven horse racetracks and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball team wants voters to decide whether four casinos should be built in the state.

-Pennsylvania is considering expanding casino gambling to include table games and slot machines in bars.

-Texas, which has a lottery but no other legalized gambling, has an array of proposals, including bids to allow slots at horse tracks, casinos and tribal gaming..."


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