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Gaming industry decisions facing voters in several states

The names of Joe Biden and President Donald Trump aren’t the only choices on the ballot.

In six states, voters will be asked to make some decisions about gambling, from sports wagering to adding game categories to extending betting limits.

It’s all a part of the expansion of gaming, a trend that may, in part, be a result of the need for new tax revenue to battle deficits resulting from the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The measures won’t affect Nevada much, but anything going on outside our state’s borders represents some form of competition the local industry should be aware of.

Here’s what voters in other states are contemplating Tuesday:

Maryland

The nation’s biggest sports-betting opportunity is in Maryland, where voters will be asked to approve Question 2 from the state’s Senate Bill 4.

Analysts have said the hang-up to voter approval on Question 2 is that it defers details to the Legislature at a later time. That doesn’t sit well with some voters who want to know all the nuances of what they’re approving.

But Maryland is under some pressure to approve sports betting because bettors are otherwise going elsewhere to place their bets. Legalized sports betting already is underway in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Approval of the measure would help MGM Resorts International (MGM National Harbor), Caesars Entertainment (Horseshoe Baltimore) and Golden Entertainment (Rocky Gap). Penn National Gaming also has an option to purchase Hollywood Perryville, and passage could push that company forward on the acquisition.

Louisiana

Sports betting also is at stake in Louisiana, where Gov. John Bel Edwards in June signed Senate Bill 130, allowing the state’s 64 parishes to expand sports betting.

In 2018, 47 of 64 parishes voted to approve Daily Fantasy Sports. Louisianans would face similar circumstances to Maryland with lawmakers having to promulgate sports-wagering rules after the fact.

And, because they haven’t created any of the rules for Daily Fantasy Sports, passage would create an opportunity to develop rules for both at the same time.

Boyd Gaming Corp. (Delta Downs), Penn National (L’Auberge), Caesars (Isle of Capri) and Landry’s (Golden Nugget) would benefit from passage.

South Dakota

The smallest of the sports-betting opportunities, Amendment B in South Dakota, would enable sports wagering within the city limits of Deadwood and at the state’s 11 tribal casinos.

The stakes are small, giving supporters hope for an easy passage.

Virginia

Voters in five municipalities across Virginia — Portsmouth, Norfolk, Danville, Bristol and Richmond — are being asked if they want to add casino gambling, the largest potential expansion of casinos in the country.

More votes on casino referendums could be ahead if voters give approval Tuesday.

Virginia lawmakers have incorporated a sports-wagering package within the law and a sliding tax rate of 18 percent to 30 percent.

One project with a high profile is in Danville, where in August Caesars Entertainment kicked off its Caesars For Danville campaign to boost approval to build a $400 million casino.

Nebraska

Three initiatives, all related to casino gambling, are loaded onto the Nebraska ballot, another state pressured by being surrounded on all sides with some form of gaming and watching their citizens go out of state to play.

Initiative 429 would allow casino-style gaming at licensed racetracks at or near Omaha, Lincoln, South Sioux City, Columbus, Hastings and Grand Island.

Initiative 430 would establish the authority to regulate casino gambling in the state with the formation of the Nebraska Gaming Commission.

And Initiative 431 would impose a 20 percent tax on gross gaming revenue.

Tribal gaming already exists in Nebraska, so the allowance of racinos, spread mostly along the eastern side of the state, would represent an expansion of the industry. The biggest opportunities are at the population centers at Omaha and Lincoln.

Approval of the initiatives could result in a leak of customer loyalty to operations in Iowa and tribal entities in Oklahoma.

Colorado

Voters will consider Amendment 77 in Colorado, which will require a supermajority of affirmative votes because it modifies the Colorado Constitution and changes Colorado Revised Statutes.

Amendment 77 would remove the $100-per-hand betting limit at Colorado casinos in Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek and authorizes play of baccarat and pai gow.

Colorado is one of two states with bet limitations. The other is in South Dakota at $1,000.

Coloradans generally have been supportive of gaming initiatives on their ballots if they don’t expand play outside the three mountain towns, approving sports wagering in 2019 but killing a plan in 2014 that would have created racinos.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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