Pandemic could help more states to approve sports betting

Sports Betting

The coronavirus pandemic could lead to a quicker expansion of sports betting and online gambling in the United States as states deal with huge budget deficits and look for new tax revenue wherever they can find it.

Most major sports remain shut down due to the virus, but European soccer and Asian baseball have begun play, NASCAR is racing again and PGA Tour golf restarts in two weeks. Major U.S. sports leagues including the NBA and NHL are making plans for resuming their seasons.

The virus “will accelerate the expansion of sports betting and online casinos in the next 12 to 24 months,” said Chris Krafcik, a managing director with Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, which tracks sports and internet betting legislation in the United States. “Both activities provide states, whose economies have been massively disrupted by the outbreak, the opportunity to capture new revenue immediately in the form of upfront license fees, and over time through taxes.”

On Thursday, legislators in California promoted sports betting as a way to help a state budget facing a $54 billion deficit. The nation’s largest state is considering a November referendum on the topic.

Krafcik said Illinois could approve internet gambling by the end of the year, at least in part to recoup tax revenue lost to the virus outbreak.

“States are facing unprecedented financial challenges,” said Matt King, CEO of FanDuel Group. “We are firm believers that mobile sports betting and online gaming legislation will be the type of common-sense legislation that states will look to when legislatures return.”

New York state Sen. Joseph Addabbo has been pushing his state to adopt mobile and online sports betting as a way to generate new revenue, including recapturing money from gamblers crossing the border into New Jersey to bet on sports. He said his state faces a budget deficit of up to $17 billion, “largely because of the virus.” Other estimates have placed the shortfall around $13 billion.

“We should be preparing now, creating regulations, lining up vendors, setting up servers,” said Addabbo, a Democrat. “Let’s get it ready so that when we come back, we don’t miss another Super Bowl.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, maintains that approving mobile sports betting would require amending the state’s constitution.