In the event that the United States Supreme Court strikes down federal law banning full-fledged sports betting outside Nevada, several states will be ready to open up betting shops without delay. Hence the flurry of activity in statehouses across country, where lawmakers have considered or held hearings to prepare for legal sports betting and all the associated regulatory, taxation, and operational issues.
States prepared to go by virtue of the passage of bills authorizing sports betting — contingent upon a change in federal law, most likely via the case Murphy v NCAA — include Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Mississippi, New Jersey and possibly Delaware (the latter two based on clearly expressed intentions). Other states are almost there or getting in line: Iowa, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Missouri and Kansas have interest but may take a bit longer.
Things are fluid but the picture is coming into focus as states continue their sports betting educations, digest the MLB/NBA lobbying onslaught talking points, and face legislative deadlines. The purpose here is to look into the crystal ball and determine approximately what percentage of U.S. citizens might be able to legally wager on sports at state-licensed sports books by the end of 2018. And just for fun, we’ll compare this number with the amount of Americans who currently have the ability to legally purchase marijuana for recreational purposes.
With Legal Sports Betting on The Horizon, What Percentage of U.S. Citizens May Be Able to Bet on Sports Legally In 2018?
Before we get into the nine states that may flip the switch by the end of 2018, pending of course the Supreme Court decision, we need to rule out the states that are likely to authorize sports betting in the future, but likely will not do so before the close of ’18 for a variety of reasons, based on what we have observed (a topic for a separate article).
Those states include Kansas (pumping brakes), Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana (brakes, legislative session has ended), Kentucky, Maryland (ballot referendum may come in November 2018 with regulations to follow), Rhode Island, South Carolina, California. All good candidates for 2019 and 2020, with the possibility that a couple of them (Missouri, Massachusetts) hustle and end up in the good-to-go column.
One more note: The ability to bet on sports legally in these states means walking into a casino and placing a wager at a sportsbook, and/or making a bet remotely, which may or may not require having to go to a casino first to register for an online betting account.
Also there’s a couple caveats after the chart. The chart references 2017 population estimates available here.
17.5 percent in Year One of a post-PASPA world in which states are free to legalize sports betting, or not, is a pretty big number off the bat. If California and its nearly 40 million residents joins in 2019 or 2020, that alone would jack up the percentage close to 30%.
Caveat One: A proportion of that population is under 21, which is, or likely will be, the age requirement to place a wager in the nine states considered. So reduce that 17.5% accordingly.
Caveat Two: These states would all bring in out of state tourists from non-sports betting states. Connecticut would draw a lot from Massachusetts, Iowa from Missouri, West Virginia from Virginia and so forth. I won’t venture a guess on tourism figures, but it should be good business. So increase the 17.5% accordingly.
Now for the legal marijuana comparison!
Recreational use of cannabis is currently legal in nine states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington), plus the District of Columbia.
Total population of those states? 69,156,197. Care to wager on how legal sports betting and legal marijuana figures compare in five years?