2020 US Election Recap: Gambling Ballot Measures Prevail Across the Board

Election Day 2020 included gambling initiatives on the ballot in six US states. Louisiana, Maryland, and South Dakota all voted on sports betting legalization, with the path to legal sports betting very different for each state.

Nebraska and Virginia put retail casino gambling legalization to a public vote, while Colorado’s gambling initiative proposed an expansion of betting limits for the state’s land-based casinos.

All six gambling measures passed Tuesday, and here’s a look at what happens next in each of the six states:

Sports Betting Legalization

Three states put the issue of sports betting legalization to a public vote Tuesday. Voters in Louisiana, Maryland, and South Dakota, had the opportunity to influence the future of legal sports wagering in their respective states. With most of the votes counted, it looks like all three will join the list of states with legal sports betting in the US.

Louisiana

Louisiana presents the most complex situation of the three states legalizing sports betting Tuesday. The state conducts public votes on a parish-by-parish basis, with all 64 parishes conducting an independent election.

With the majority of the votes in, sports betting legalization passed in 55 of the 64 parishes. The measure got the green light from voters in the parishes that include metro areas like New Orleans, Lafayette, and Baton Rouge.

The passage of the sports betting bill would allow those 55 parishes to offer sports betting from within those areas. The bills that passed Tuesday would allow casinos and racetracks in those parishes to operate retail and on-site mobile sports betting. Statewide mobile sports betting wasn’t included on the ballot, however.

Before Louisiana’s sportsbooks can open for business, however, state legislators must outline and approve regulations and taxation on sports wagering revenue. That process could push the actual launch of sports betting in Louisiana as far out as 2022.

Maryland

The sports betting question that appeared on the Maryland ballot Tuesday didn’t include details or proposed regulations for sports betting. The public simply voted yes or no on sports betting legalization, and the measure passed by a two-to-one margin.

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented an originally proposed sports betting bill from going through all of the necessary legal steps to appear on the ballot. A sports betting bill outlining legal online and retail sports betting, taxed at 20%, made it through the State Senate in March but didn’t make it to a House vote in the midst of the pandemic crisis.

The Senate and House agreed to push a simplified version of the bill through the chambers to get it on the ballot for Tuesday’s election. With the public voting yes on the bill, Maryland legislators now plan to hammer out the regulations and other details for the state’s new sports betting industry in 2021.

South Dakota

South Dakota only permits legal gambling in Deadwood, and the sports betting initiative on Tuesday’s ballot proposed legalization of sports betting for the city’s 25 tribal and commercial casinos. The bill passed with about 58% of the public voting yes.

Like the Maryland sports betting measure, the details and regulations of South Dakota’s sports betting industry still have to be determined. Included in those regulations are tax rates on sports betting revenue and the possibility of statewide online sports betting.

Retail Casino Ballot Initiatives

Nebraska

Nebraska presented a ballot initiative proposing the legalization of retail gambling at licensed racetracks, and voters in the Cornhusker State approved that measure by a nearly two-to-one margin.

The 2020 Nebraska ballot passed two other measures related to retail gambling legalization, including a bill that sets a tax rate of 20% on gross gambling revenue.

With the trio of bills getting approval from the public, Nebraska’s six licensed racetracks can now add table games and slot machines to their venues.

Virginia

Four Virginia cities approved the legalization of retail casinos in Tuesday’s elections. The results of the vote pave the way for land-based casino construction to move ahead in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth.

Richmond will vote on a retail casino referendum later this year. 2020 stands as a big year for gambling legalization in Virginia, as mobile sports betting was approved by state lawmakers in April.

Colorado

Some votes are still left to be counted in the Colorado election, but the gambling expansion bill Amendment 77 looks like it has a good chance of getting through.

The bill allows state retail casinos to raise betting limits and offer more games. All Colorado casinos are located in the small mountain towns of Cripple Creek, Central City, and Black Hawk, and current laws limit maximum bets to $100.

Amendment 77, if it does get to the finish line, would allow the casinos to increase that max bet, and also add more games to the list of what’s allowed on the casino floor. Colorado casinos are currently permitted to offer slots, poker, blackjack, roulette, and craps.

About the Author

Geoff Fisk

Geoff Fisk is a San Diego-based freelance writer, specializing in the poker and gambling industries. He’s written for numerous platforms and has traveled the globe as a live poker tournament reporter. Geoff is an avid sports fan, but poker is his passion.