Is Oregon About To Join The List Of States With Legal Sports Betting?

Written By Joss Wood on September 26, 2018Last Updated on March 10, 2022
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Two weeks ago the Oregon Lottery launched a mobile app for its lottery customers. Could this form the basis of the first legal sports betting in the state for a decade?

Keep in mind, the app is lacking a full range of features. It simply allows lottery customers to check for winning numbers. It’s currently available only for iOS, although it looks like a November release for the Android version.

According to press reports, Oregon Lottery officials have said that they are expecting more from the app. It will likely be expanded to include some form of sports betting in the third quarter of 2019.

Matt Shelby, a spokesperson for the Oregon Lottery, explained to us that the strategy outline for sports betting was already in place and that potential financial forecasts had been made:

Oregon has pre-authorized sports betting

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed in 1992. Oregon already allowed sports betting through the lottery, exempting it from the prohibitions on sports betting in the Act.

When SCOTUS overturned PASPA earlier this year, it was therefore much less significant for Oregon.

The Oregon Lottery used to run a game called Sports Action which consisted of parlay sports betting. Players selected multiple teams to win and if all their picks were successful received a substantial payout.

The game faced suspension for political reasons. The NCAA refused to hold its championship events in the state unless the game was removed from the market.

But the Oregon Lottery is authorized to offer it. In fact, the Oregon Lottery can authorize new games under its own powers.

Farshad Allahdadi, chief gaming operations officer for the Oregon Lottery, told LSR:

 “The Oregon State Lottery and its board broad authority to introduce and remove games as it sees fit.

Sports betting on a local level — if it is authorized federally — does not need any additional state legislative action.”

In other words, in the absence of a federal law prohibiting sports betting, the lottery has all the authority it needs to start up sports betting on its own. Of course, nothing is that easy.

Oregon has no fiscal framework for taxing sports betting

The Oregon Lottery may have the power to launch sports betting, but it isn’t going to go forward without getting the approval of the legislature.

At the moment there is no legal framework in place for sports betting taxation or sports betting specific regulation either online or in casinos.

No new bills have been announced, so our only indication that the issue may be on the legislative horizon is the enthusiasm of the Oregon Lottery.

Any legislation will need to take account of the interests of the existing casinos and tribal gaming compacts.

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The current state of Oregon gaming

Oregon has 24 licensed gaming locations ranging from card rooms to tribal casinos. There are also five major horse racing tracks and 11 off-track betting parlors (OTB).

Eight American Indian tribes own casinos in Oregon, built after the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988 and regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).

Since PASPA passed in 1992, the state has signed or renewed over 90 pacts with the tribes. These are likely to affect any legislation.

In the past, the tribes have been lackluster in their attitude to sports betting, but that attitude may have shifted in recent months.

Allahdadi made it clear that any proposals from the Oregon Lottery would involve the existing retailers and that includes the tribes:

“Our single distribution channel is retail partnerships and we want to make sure that any future strategy is inclusive of retailers.“

Online and mobile sports betting may also be on the table

The release of the mobile lottery app makes little sense unless the Lottery expects that it will be offering online gambling, whether online casino or sports betting at some point.

Allahdadi further clarified:

“And while there may be a digital component or mobile component, it won’t be to the exclusion retailers.”

Political enthusiasm for state-regulated sports betting in Oregon doesn’t look strong. Furthermore, the Oregon Lottery doesn’t need any more authority to launch it themselves.

Conversely, the lottery isn’t about to make such a leap without some legislative back-up. Nothing will happen until after the mid-term elections. By the end of 2018, the Oregon Lottery expects to know what its plans are.

2019 may very well be the year for state-regulated sports betting to go live in Oregon.