The availability of legal online sportsbooks and brick-and-mortar sportsbook lounges is rapidly increasing in the United States. This is cause for celebration for Americans interested in safe, legal sports betting options.
Las Vegas has long been the sports betting mecca in the U.S., but other states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania are starting to catch up, with now 20 states permitting at least some form of legal sports betting since the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports wagering in May 2018. At Sports Handle we deliver sports betting news with original reporting; industry coverage, analysis and opinion, betting guides, sportsbook reviews, and more.
If or when legal sports betting comes to your state, we’ll have you covered on everything you need to know about state-licensed sportsbooks and legal U.S. sports betting sites. The sections below provide a history of sports betting in the U.S., along with a state-by-state breakdown of the current legal status of sports wagering, relevant industry stakeholders, and links to a bevy of educational resources.
Is sports betting legal in my state?
The number of legal U.S. sports betting states has grown incrementally and rather quickly, compared with marijuana’s legalization. Some states’ legislative sessions conclude early in the year, while others last year round. There are “special sessions” too, which means that new states may legalize at various points throughout the year.
What states have sports betting?
The table below outlines where and how you can place legal sports bets in the U.S. Go to each of our individual state pages (on dropdown or linked below) for detailed information on that state’s legal sportsbooks.
|State||Online Sports Betting||Retail Sports Betting|
|Virginia||Coming soon||Coming soonish|
How much legal betting handle and tax revenue have legal sports betting states generated?
Go here to our full, detailed legal sports betting revenue tracker if you’re interested in learning about:
- The amount of legal sports bets (in dollars) made in each state since May 2018;
- The “hold” percentage (percentage of bets kept by licensed sportsbooks);
- Sportsbook revenue generated in each state;
- Total state taxes collected in each jurisdiction.
|State||Total Handle||Hold %||Sportsbook Revenue||State Taxes Collected||Legal Betting Start Date|
|District of Columbia||$27,694,355||13.32%||$3,688,480||$368,872||May 2020|
|New Hampshire||$147,726,954||6.88%||$10,170,385||$4,557,372||December 2019|
|New Jersey||$9,116,156,188||6.83%||$616,563,678||$74,931,378||June 2018|
|New Mexico||-||-||-||-||October 2018|
|New York||$142,901,201||7.00%||$9,646,698||$964,671||June 2019|
|Rhode Island||$357,631,085||7.65%||$27,349,043||$13,948,008||November 2018|
|West Virginia||$506,021,882||7.69%||$38,920,932||$3,293,762||August 2018|
Market snapshot by state
The following section provides a glance at the markets:
- In states that have legalized sports betting and where operations are live.
- In states that legalized where operations are pending/forthcoming.
Legal operations up and running:
- Market launch date: July 2019
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Two so far — at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs and Southland Casino in West Memphis.
- Online: No — not yet legal.
- Notes: The state legalized through a ballot referendum in November 2018 that authorized four casinos in the state — two at existing racetracks and two new ones. So far the market is very limited. The sportsbook at Oaklawn is powered by SBTech. The Southland sportsbook is run by Betly.
- Market launch date: May 2020
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Each of Colorado’s 33 commercial and tribal casinos are eligible to apply for online and retail sports betting licenses. Most of them have applied for and obtained at least temporary licenses. So far, 25 have been approved for online licenses.
- Online: Yes, and you can sign up from home.
- Brands: Numerous national and regional brands have entered a growing market that saw a shotgun launch on May 1, 2020 when FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, BetMGM, and BetRivers all went live at the same time. The Las Vegas-based SuperBook and Circa Sports also made forays outside Nevada to the north. William Hill, Wynn Resorts, BetAmerica, Betfred, and theScore have all confirmed they will be in Colorado. Expect many more to join.
- Notes: The monthly handle has continued to grow month-over-month with more of the major U.S. sports coming back, resulting in a high of $60 million in legal wagers placed in July 2020. With a low tax rate (10%) and license fees running just $125K, Colorado is an attractive target for online sportsbook operators. Table game wagers at state casinos are capped at just $100, but there will be no such limit on sports betting. PointsBet has its U.S. headquarters in Denver, Colo.
- Mile High: As of July 2020, the Denver Broncos have signed up three sportsbook sponsors — FanDuel, BetMGM and Betfred. The Broncos were the first NFL team to enter such a partnership.
- Market launch date: June 2018
- Number of land-based books in state: Three — at Delaware Park Casino, Dover Downs, and Harrington Raceway & Casino.
- Online: Although state officials believe existing law permits online wagering, no online sportsbooks are yet approved or available.
- Notes: The Delaware Lottery currently operates and has jurisdiction over sports betting. The Lottery has agreements with both Scientific Games and William Hill to manage its sports betting systems. In accordance with pre-existing (or pre-PASPA) rules, Delaware residents can also make parlay wagers (3 legs or more) on NFL contests at retail/convenience store locations throughout the state.
- Market launch date: March 2020
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: As of Sept. 2020, there are six live retail sportsbooks in the state (they launched before coronavirus concerns shut down casinos and sports) at the Rivers Casino and Argosy Casino Alton. The Illinois Lottery is able to place up to 5,000 sports betting kiosks around the state that can accept parlay wagers during the first two years of operation.
- Online: Legal, and the requirement for patrons to register in person at casino/sportsbooks to establsih accounts is suspended by Gov. J.B. Pritzker second time in two months until at least Sept. 19, 2020. The situation has been chaotic, fluid, contentious and unpredictable, but for the time being, bettors can sign up for online accounts at BetRivers, DraftKings and soon FanDuel and PointsBet.
- Notes: Some lobbying from the casino powers secured a “head start” for them over online-only operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings, which have dominated the New Jersey market. At least that was the intention until both giants found a way around the provision; at some point in 2021, three “master online licenses” will become available, at a cost of $20 million each, to stand-alone mobile and online sportsbooks.
- Path to legalization: The state legalized sports wagering in June 2019 via a massive capital bill, SB 690, that included the framework for legal sports betting.
- Market launch date: September 2019
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: 14.
- Online: Yes, and remote registration is permitted.
- Brands: Licensed casinos are allowed to contract with up to three brands for mobile/online sports wagering. BetRivers, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, Caesars, Unibet, BetMGM, and BetAmerica have all launched in the state. Other major operators like FOX Bet and William Hill are expected to arrive in the coming months.
- Notes: Indiana’s market is shaped to closely resemble New Jersey’s, especially in that each of the license-holders are allowed to offer up to three “skins” or online brands. Betting handle has grown quickly to nearly $200 million in February 2020 — before sports got sidelined due to COVID-19.
- Path to legalization: There were big proponents but there were big doubts legalization would come together in ‘19. However, the state legislature delivered legal sports betting through gambling expansion bill HB 1015, passed at the 11th hour in May 2019. Initially, mobile sports betting was stripped from the bill, but it was added back in later.
- Market launch date: August 2019
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: 18.
- Online: Yes, although in-person registration is required until Jan. 1, 2021.
- Brands: William Hill, Elite Sportsbook, PointsBet, Q Sportsbook, Hard Rock, FanDuel, DraftKings
- Notes: Iowa was the first state to launch retail and online sports betting simultaneously, on the same day. Iowa bettors now have plenty of options for wagering within the state. Of note, you can’t place in-game prop bets on in-state college teams like the Hawkeyes and Cyclones.
- Path to legalization: Iowa’s legislature began discussing legalization prior to PASPA’s fall in May 2018. Things moved along in 2019 with SF 617, which Gov. Kim Reynolds signed on May 13, a day before the anniversary of PASPA’s death. The first bets were placed in the state just a few months later on Aug. 15, 2019.
- Market launch date: In March 2020 the first brick-and-mortar sportsbooks launched at Detroit’s three commercial casinos. Regulations for online betting (and iGaming) may take much of the remainder of 2020, but given the lost revenue due to casino shutdowns, there’s now optimism that MI online sportsbooks could launch sooner.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Michigan has the potential for more than 20 land-based sportsbooks as both commercial casinos and nearly two dozen tribal casinos around the state may open an on-premises lounge.
- Online: Yes. Each online sportsbook in Michigan will be “tethered” to, or partnered with, a land-based casino.
- Brands: Legislation allows for around 15 different brands in Michigan, one for each of the three commercial casinos, and one for each of the 12 tribes. PointsBet, DraftKings, and FOX Bet agreed to casino partnerships in early 2020. FanDuel and BetMGM have paths through the MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino, respectively. William Hill and other prominent online bookmakers will find a way into Michigan.
- Notes: Michigan bettors hit the jackpot in 2019 as their state approved sports betting and iGaming (including casino and poker), and formally approved daily fantasy sports — all at the same time.
- Market launch date: August 2018
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: 29 — both commercial and tribal.
- Online: Only on-premises at casinos/gaming facilities.
- Notes: SEC betting and football wagering is huge in Mississippi. There was some effort in both 2019 and 2020 to legalize sports wagering online throughout the state, but it failed. Betting handle has stagnated and won’t increase much if online (off premises) remains unavailable. The physical casinos are concentrated in two areas of the state — in Biloxi on the Gulf Coast, and in Tunica in the northwestern part of the state near Arkansas and Tennessee.
- Path to legalization: There was actually language in a 2017 bill that contemplated the repeal of PASPA and permitting legal wagering in that event. Well, it happened.
- Market launch date: April 2020.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Taverns and other approved locations may have sports betting kiosks on premises, where patrons can make legal sports bets..
- Online: Not statewide, only at state-sanctioned sites.
- Brands: The Montana State Lottery is in charge of regulation and oversight and is using its existing vendor Intralot to run it sports betting operations/kiosks in the state. The Intralot sportsbook offering in Montana is pretty poor, at best, with pricing well below industry standards.
- Path to legalization: There isn’t much legal gambling in Montana. The “lottery bill” that Gov. Steve Bullock signed was backed by the powerful Montana Tavern Association, with the idea that kiosks could be placed in its members’ establishments, thereby driving business in the door. But the state legislature actually passed two sports betting bills, the other being SB 330, which would have also allowed commercial operators to enter the marketplace. However, Bullock vetoed it and the legislature failed to override. “For the market to succeed, Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively — adopting only one of the two models now,” he said in a May 2019 statement.
- Notes: Continuing with Bullock, a look at the future: “If, in two years, the market can tolerate more entrants, then I fully expect the legislature will revisit whether a second model is prudent for our state.”
- Market launch date: Circa 1949.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Roughly 190.
- Online: Yes, though in-person registration is still required.
- Brands: Numerous.
- Notes: Nevada has been the Mecca of sports betting for decades and it’s the epicenter of industry talent, some of which is leaving the state for other opportunities. The market is obviously very mature, while some new bookmakers and sportsbooks such as Derek Stevens’ Circa Sports are looking to make a splash in the desert. The total Nevada betting handle has exceeded $5 billion annually in recent years and over $600 million in peak months.
- Market launch date: December 2019.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: As many as 10 brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are permitted in New Hampshire. Many NH towns have already voted to approve them. On Aug. 14, 2020, the first land-based sportsbook opened at The Brook In Seabrook, near the border with Massachusetts.
- Online: Yes, and in-person registration is not required.
- Brands: Only DraftKings for now. The Boston-based operator reached an exclusive agreement to be the sole retail and online sports betting provider in New Hampshire. As a part of the deal it will pay half of its gross revenue back to the state.
- Notes: Unlike most states, you only have to be 18 years old to bet on sports in New Hampshire.
- Market launch date: June 2018.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: 10.
- Online: Permitted statewide; remote registration allowed. Online betting began in August 2018.
- Brands: There are 15 unique NJ online sportsbooks currently available, among them:
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- FOX Bet
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- William Hill
- Golden Nugget
- Notes: New Jersey’s sports betting handle exceeded $540 million in January 2020, an increase of more than $150 million from January 2019. Football season was great for the industry as the state reported impressive handles in September ($445M), October ($487M), November ($562M), and December ($557M). The popularity of mobile betting continues to rise, too, as bettors are placing nearly 90% of wagers online, on average, over the past year.
- Market launch date: October 2018
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Five
- Online: Not yet, but there have been legislative rumblings about online gambling and perhaps sports wagering, too.
- Notes: Sportsbook operator USBookmaking was the first in state at the Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel. William Hill entered the market through a partnership with the Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino in early 2019. Later the same year the Route 66 Casino Hotel, the Isleta Resort & Casino, and the Hilton Buffalo Thunder all opened sportsbook facilities. As in many other states, the tribal-state compacts, revenue sharing arrangements, and exclusivity over gaming may stifle the launch of the online market.
- Market launch date: July 2019.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Seven, located at both commercial casinos and tribal gaming properties.
- Online: No — not yet. It’s a point of ongoing contention and debate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has taken the position that mobile sports wagering in NY requires a constitutional amendment. Some lawmakers disagree, and a bill to permit mobile sports wagering statewide passed by an overwhelming margin, but effectively died when the Assembly failed to hold a vote on similar legislation before the end of the 2019 session.
- Brands: FanDuel Sportsbook (Tioga Downs), The Lounge with Caesars (Turning Stone Casino Resort), Yellow Brick Road Casino, Points Place Casino, DraftKings Sportsbook (del Lago Resort & Casino), Bet Rivers (Rivers Casino & Resort), among others.
- Path to legalization: A 2013 law dubbed the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act authorized four new commercial casinos, including sports wagering at those facilities (and tribal properties) in the event that federal law changed to permit legal sports betting. Obviously, that happened when the Supreme Court struck down PASPA.
- Notes: The 2013 law did not permit mobile sports wagering statewide, which leaves New York in its position now where there are retail sportsbooks at great distances from the major population centers, at a time when more than 80% of bets are made on mobile/online in New Jersey. If a constitutional amendment becomes necessary, it first needs to be passed by two consecutive sessions of the state legislature before appearing on a ballot referendum the following year, a process that may take three years.
- Market launch date: August 2019.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: One — on the tribal property Chinook Winds Casino Resort.
- Online: Yes. Online sports betting went live in October 2019. You do not have to visit a casino to register in person.
- Brands: ScoreBoard, the betting app from the Oregon Lottery and SBTech, is currently the only online betting option. Reviews have been mostly negative for its software and sportsbook offerings overall. Things have gone so poorly with ScoreBoard that the state has actually lost money on it.
- Path to legalization: : Oregon was one of just four states with sports betting grandfathered under PASPA, and it thus did not need new legislation to move forward in the market.
- Notes: It’s not currently legal to wager on collegiate athletics in Oregon.
- Market launch date: November 2018.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Thirteen and counting.
- Online: Yes, and remote registration is permitted.
- Brands: FanDuel Sportsbook, BetRivers, FOX Bet, Parx, Unibet, DraftKings, Caesars, BetAmerica, among others. Barstool Sportsbook will be making its U.S. debut in PA in the fall.
- Path to legalization: In 2017, Pennsylvania was among a handful of states that preemptively legalized sports wagering in the event that federal law changed to permit the activity on the state level.
- Notes: Online sports betting was slow to roll out as the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board was busy (and sluggish) developing regulations for both online casino gambling and sports wagering at the same time. But online sports betting finally arrived in May 2019 and has boomed. Betting handle got as high as $348 million in January 2020 with nearly 90% of it coming via online/mobile.
- Market launch date: November 2018.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Two at Twin Rivers Casino Hotel and Tiverton Casino Hotel.
- Online: Yes, legalized in March 2019. Sportsbook Rhode Island, powered by William Hill, accepted its first online bets on Sept. 4, 2019. Mobile bettors can place wagers via browser or use the mobile app. In-person registration is required at one of the Twin River Casino locations, however there is now an effort in the legislature to change the law to permit remote registration.
- Brands: Both retail sportsbooks are operated by William Hill in conjunction with the Rhode Island Lottery. The online app operates under the Sportsbook Rhode Island name.
- Notes: Rhode Island’s legislature passed its law legalizing sports wagering in June 2018. The sportsbooks took a serious $2.4 million beating from Super Bowl LIII and a $900K loss in Februrary 2019 thanks to the regional favorite New England Patriots suffocating the Los Angeles Rams. (Perhaps also due to some poor risk-management.) In a unique revenue-sharing arrangement, the state lottery takes 51% of total sports wagering receipts, more than any state in the country, as supplier IGT keeps 32% and Twin Rivers 17%.
- Market launch date: Mid-2020
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Two.
- Online: No, the current law only permits land-based sportsbooks.
- Path to legalization: North Carolina passed SB 154 in July 2019, legalizing sports betting at two tribal casinos. The casinos, Harrah’s Cherokee and Valley River, have begun construction on their respective sportsbooks, but have not yet launched as of June 2020.
- Notes: The bill allows for wagering on professional and collegiate sports, though it does nothing for mobile betting. Both retail sportsbooks will be in the more rural, western part of the state. The impact on larger population centers may be minimal.
- Market launch date: Mid-2020.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: None. Tennessee does not have any existing casinos/gaming entities. Sports betting will occur online only.
- Online: Yes, and since there are no retail locations, remote registration is the only way to register.
- Brands: There is no limit to the number of operators that can become licensed in Tennessee. After a series delays, DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Tennessee Action 24/7 are close to receiving licenses and set for a shotgun launch on Nov. 1 or possibly a week sooner.
- Path to legalization: It was a surprise state to legalize as the governor opposes any gaming expansion. Nevertheless, the Volunteer State legalized online/mobile-only sports betting in April 2019 with HB 1 (a substitute for SB 16). The law became effective on July 1, 2019. Regulation responsibility belongs to the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation (TELC), under advisement from the Sports Wagering Advisory Council.
- Notes: Tennessee is the first state to approve online/mobile-only sports betting without a retail component. Licensed operators will be required to use “official league data” for in-play sports wagering. There’s a quirky new rule in TN, though: sportsbooks are required to keep at least 10% of bets, while the average hold in most jursidictions is about 7.5%. We’ll monitor how this plays out.
- Market launch date: To be determined.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: None yet.
- Online: Permitted, and the Virginia Lottery will shape the market as regulator. There will be at least four and up to 18 online sportsbooks entering the market, according to the law.
- Brands: We can expect at least BetRivers and Caesars will have physical and online sportsbooks, as both have deals in place to be among the state’s first casinos.
- Path to legalization: Virginia approved sports betting for both online and retail settings in April 2020, and the bill has an effective date of July 1, 2020. Officials are expecting a launch in early 2021. The comment period on recently-approved Phase 2 regulations are open and regulators will meet again on Sept. 15 to discuss.
- Notes: A professional sports team is preemptively authorized to open an on-premises sportsbook. Virginia isn’t home to any franchise presently, but it could see the Redskins moving in.
- Market launch date: May 2020 (online).
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Five maximum, located at the professional sport stadiums including Capital One Arena, home to the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals. The William Hill sportsbook at Capital One open as of July 2020. D.C.’s law allows for “Class B” licenses, meaning bars, restaurants and some other establishments may apply for a sports betting certificate and offer an app or perhaps kiosks available on-premises, as long as they’re located outside a two-block radius from the arenas, so-called “exclusivity zones.”
- Online: Yes, however…
- Brands: Only the app supplied by the D.C. Lottery’s vendor Intralot — “GamBetDC” will be available citywide. So far, reviews are not good, and competition from Virginia and Maryland may make things worse, or at least highlight the many shortcomings of the app.
- Path to legalization: Windy and peppered with corruption. The Washington Post closely tracked the D.C. Council’s controversial awarding of the sports betting contract to Intralot — with benefits flowing to persons and groups connected to the D.C. Council. The council allowed a bypass of the traditional Request for Proposal process and made Intralot its sports betting vendor without considering other proposals.
- Notes: Bypassing the RFP process and allowing the sole-sourcing deal to Intralot was based in large part on a dubious “study” by Spectrum Gaming Group in which the consultant suggested that the city’s platform should target a 20% or higher hold percentage in a business where 5 to 7 percent is more standard. In other words, this app may have a very high vig/overround, or a terrible product that keeps many people betting offshore.
- Market launch date: Pending.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Pending, but each of the state’s 20+ tribal casinos will have the option to open a sportsbook. Regulations are forthcoming.
- Online: Not permitted.
- Brands: To be determined.
- Path to legalization: In early 2020, Gov. Jay Insee signed a tribal-backed bill permitting sports betting on-premises only.
- Notes: The measure saw a lot of resistance for its exclusion of any statewide mobile component. Ultimately, the tribes’ powerful lobby prevailed. Perhaps a future law will open the market to include mobile wagering. For now, tribal casinos do not view online sports betting as a possible revenue driver, but rather as a threat to foot traffic into casinos where slot machines generate higher and more reliable revenue.
- Market launch date: August 2018.
- Number of land-based sportsbooks: Five
- Online: Yes, and you can register remotely.
- Brands: They include FanDuel Sportsbook (The Greenbrier), DraftKings (Hollywood Casino Charles Town), William Hill (Mountaineer Casino Racetrack), BetMGM (The Greenbrier skin), and Betly Sportsbook (Mardi Gras, Wheeling Island).
- Notes: The Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island casinos have also agreed to a partnership with tech provider IGT and have reopened their retail sites under the Betly Sportsbook name after initially opening and closing a Miomni-backed brand..
Other states with decent chance to “go” soon
Many states that have not yet legalized sports betting are kicking around ideas for how to do so. Some have made a lot of progress, others are mired in disagreements involving the various stakeholders: existing casinos, lawmakers, state lotteries, tribes/tribal casinos, leagues, sportsbook operators, and vendors.
Among the states that have discussed legalizing sports wagering in some form in the next year or three, with or without mobile/online sports betting options:
- California – The site of a showdown between tribes and card rooms, which have battled over exclusivity to offering legal gambling for a long time. Lawmakers see a potential revenue source of over $500 million annually and are trying to broker a compromise.
- Connecticut – Lawmakers introduced several bills and held (long) hearings regularly from 2018 to present, but the powerful tribes that operate Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resorts, and other stakeholders, continue to fight over over exclusivity, a new casino location, and who can offer sports betting and iGaming.
- Ohio – Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill 83-10 in late May 2020 to legalize sports betting in the state. This is a developing story, but will likely idle until fall 2020.
- Maine – Maine came close, but Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a very consumer-friendly bill (for dubious reasons), and an attempted override of the veto failed.
- Massachusetts – Lawmakers in Massachusetts continue to make progress in getting a bill passed to legalize sports betting, but they have yet to reach the finish line.
- Missouri – Lots of discussion and hearings, but no consensus. It seems likely 2020 will pass without anything getting done.
- Kansas – A bill has been introduced, and potential sportsbook operators are on board.
- Louisiana – There will be a ballot referendum in November 2020 on whether to legalize in-person sports betting.
- Maryland – Ballot referendum in November 2020 will decide the fate.
For additional states that have seen activity or discussion, check the interactive map above.
Of course, there may be surprises, like Tennessee was, and there may be some that curiously don’t get it done even though there’s lots of legal gambling already permitted in the state.
Sports betting stakeholders: Impact on market, consumers
The present and future of U.S. sports betting will be shaped by the consumers — the American people — but also in large part by the various players who make the gears of sports and sports betting turn. Among them are sportsbook operators, sports leagues, casinos, and gaming facilities, including commercial casinos and Native American entities, as well as state and federal lawmakers and state lotteries.
In this section we discuss the general positions of the various stakeholders, their impacts and goals.
The case that mercifully opened the door to legal sports betting across the U.S. was Murphy v NCAA. Indeed, the NCAA as well as the four major pro sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) were instrumental in getting PASPA through Congress in 1992 and in enforcing it by repeatedly blocking several state-level attempts to legalize sports wagering.
But in 2014, the brand new NBA commissioner at the time, Adam Silver, taking over from longtime commish David Stern, signaled a recognition of the future and reality: Legal sports betting is safe, better for (almost) everyone than rampant sports gambling in unmonitored, illegal markets, and it’s pretty darn good for the business of sports leagues. He generally penned this view in a New York Times op-ed, “Legalize And Regulate Sports Betting.” Still, the federal ban was enforced, and it took four more years for PASPA’s fatal blow.
Even before the high court ruled, the NBA and MLB (with the PGA Tour alongside) began lobbying state legislatures for the implementation of its preferred framework for legal sports betting, its “Model Legislation,” fleshed out and first presented in January 2018.
Among other things, the NBA and MLB were seeking:
- An “integrity fee”: Now called a “royalty” — they began asking for a 1% off-the-top cut of all wagers to pay for league “integrity monitoring” services. Both leagues have generally conceded these sums would be “compensation,” not for integrity purposes. Read all about it here. The NBA, MLB, and PGA Tour have lowered their “request” to 0.25% off the top. The NFL and NHL have deemed such a thing unnecessary and have not publicly pursued it. More recently, in May 2019, Sports Handle uncovered that the NBA and MLB had advised various Nevada sportsbook operators that they were requiring a direct agreement with the league in order to access “official data” through third parties, even where sportsbooks had pre-existing agreements for data supply. And further, the agreements those leagues are seeking would pay the leagues the very same off-the-top cut that the leagues are attempting to have implemented by state governments, even in states that declined to require such. To be continued.
- Mandated usage of “official league data”: What is sports betting data and “official” versus “unofficial” league data? Read about it here. Sports Handle has written and reported about the subject extensively. The gist of the “war” over data involving the NBA and MLB boils down to this: Sports leagues want legal sportsbooks across the country to pay for information about the games. They claim (dishonestly) that it’s necessary to preserve integrity. It’s about monetization. So far, only Illinois and Tennessee have passed laws mandating that their sportsbooks use/purchase “official league data” The NFL and NHL have taken a softer approach — suggesting its usage, but without aggressive campaigning for it. The main objection is that commercial relationships regarding sports betting risk-management and information suppliers should be left to private negotiation — not by government mandate.
- Control through other means: The leagues have also sought the right to request that state regulators prohibit certain kinds of wagers that the leagues deem unsafe. They have also requested access to anonymized betting data at state-licensed sportsbooks. States have generally shown reluctance to accommodate these requests.
All in all, sports betting increases viewership, engagement, and the value of advertising on television and digital streaming. Leagues have struck various partnerships with gaming entities and sportsbooks directly (such as MGM becoming the NBA’s first official gaming partner), NHL with FanDuel, and numerous individual teams with sportsbooks (such as William Hill and the Vegas Golden Knights). Even the NFL now permits team-sportsbook partnerships, and the first came in June 2020 when the Broncos teamed up with FanDuel and Betfred. In other words, brand new revenue streams have opened and existing ones will get buttressed.
Each of the sports leagues — major or a tier or two below, such as NASCAR with its own “data deal” with Betgenius — are seeking and cutting deals related to sports betting.
Another frontier: New statistics and new markets for legal wagering. MLB and MGM are in the process of exploring betting on baseball’s “Statcast” data, which offers advanced stats shown on broadcasts (or available online) such as home run distance. No state has yet approved Statcast wagering. Likewise, the NHL is exploring the use of advanced stats for licensure and betting. And consider that MGM acquired some ashes from the remains of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) — its gambling app — for $125,000.
Large gaming entities for which sports betting is a very small fraction of overall revenue, such as MGM Resorts International and online-only, DFS-turned-sportsbook operators like DraftKings, are racing for market share. The overall gaming market has seen some consolidation — namely Eldorado Resorts’ acquisition of Caesars Entertainment — and access deals such as the Boyd Gaming deal with FanDuel Sportsbook, putting the latter brand into various states in online and retail form.
Here are a couple of articles discussing the various companies involved:
- In A Regulated U.S. Sports Betting Market, Which Operator Will Be King?
- Odds Shift in Race for Operator Dominance in Legal U.S. Sports Betting Market
As more and more states flip the switch for legal sports betting, we will see healthy competition and turf wars, which ultimately are good for the consumer. As exceptions, some states are putting clamps down and implementing market conditions that stifle competition, such as in Washington, D.C. Speaking of…
What role do state lotteries have in sports betting? In some jurisdictions, such as Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and D.C., the lottery commission (or similarly termed body) will either have regulatory and/or oversight authority over sports betting.
Each state has to decide which body is best equipped to implement and manage the jurisdiction’s sports betting market. Does the lottery commission have the requisite experience to do it well and maximize revenue for state coffers? Should commercial operators be allowed to enter? Should the state’s casinos be able to obtain the licenses? What about a model where commercial casinos can operate online and in retail, but the lottery also gets to offer sports betting products of some kind? In almost every state where the lottery exists (which is most), the lottery wants to be involved in some capacity or have a cut.
Native American, tribal gaming entities
Tribal gaming exists all across the U.S. in accordance with federal law (IGRA) and tribal-state compacts, which govern the terms and conditions of gaming in the state, from which games are allowed in casinos, and which mandates revenue sharing between the state and the recognized tribe.
Tribes have exclusivity or the exclusive right to offer certain types of gaming in some states, or some limited exclusivity in others. Some states have only tribal gaming and no commercial casinos at present, such as Minnesota and North Carolina. In states such as Connecticut and Oklahoma, where the tribes generate over $100 million annually for the state through revenue-sharing agreements, they have a lot of sway. There’s a combination of politics, economics, and interpretation at play in every state, trying to balance the various interests.
Overall, while some tribes are progressive and have already embraced and benefited from the sports betting opportunity, many tribes have approached it with skepticism. Sports betting, unlike slot machines, can be pretty volatile and provides much lower profit margin. It takes experience. Sportsbooks take up space. Is it worth it to create or re-appropriate room for a sportsbook? Will it be akin to another amenity like a spa and bring in a new kind of patron? These are among the questions that tribes are exploring nationally. Often, change takes time.
A trio of articles for further reading:
- Tribal Gaming Interests Will Have Major Influence On U.S. Sports Betting
- Tribal Sports Betting: Resolving Myriad Issues: Part II
- The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and Sports Betting
State and federal government
Put simply, states are most interested, in general, in maximizing taxable revenue and shaping the market as such. It should be obvious the primary concern for all stakeholders is indeed preserving the integrity of games — both through betting integrity and sporting integrity. But after that, decisions boil down to money, which lead to decisions about the appropriate tax rate and which regulatory body (perhaps a brand new one) is best equipped to oversee legal sports betting.
PASPA, the 1992 federal ban on sports betting, proved unconstitutional on Tenth Amendment (states’ rights) grounds. When might the feds make another run? Former Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer took a stab with the introduction of the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018 during Congress’ lame duck season. But the bill — which would have basically created a clearinghouse and some federal standards for state sports betting markets — didn’t have any legs. It was mostly symbolic and for conversation’s sake.
In September 2018, a House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing titled “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America.” It was pretty silly and overall inconsequential.
Sports betting education, materials
Come for some practical or actionable sports betting guidance/advice? We’ve got you covered with a variety of articles and explanations.
- Our main betting guides portal is here
- 6 of the Most Common Beginner Sport Bettor Mistakes
- Sports Betting 101: Lines, Odds, Point Spreads and More
- Sports Betting 201: Exotic Bets, Hedging And More
- The Rise And Excitement of In-Play Betting, Explained By Expert
- In-Game Sports Betting Strategy: A Veteran Sports Bettor’s Observations
- Expected Value In Sports Betting (EV), Explained In Understandable Terms
Regulated vs. offshore and illegal bookie sports betting
As a result of PASPA, state-authorized legal sports betting in the U.S. was frozen in time, leaving Nevada as the only state with full-fledged legal sports betting, drawing an annual betting handle of about $5 billion. Now compare that with the annual betting handle estimated in 2017 to be about $150 billion by illegal books and offshore sportsbooks operating illegally. Both of them filled the void created by the now-defunct federal law.
Regulated markets are not homogeneous across the U.S. and regulated sports betting in general is by no means perfect. Illegal operators have some advantages and will retain some or many customers in the era of legalization, but legal sports betting through state-licensed operators has loads of upside, is generally safe, and is only getting better thanks, in part, to technological advancements and fierce competition for market share.
Now some pros and cons of regulated sports betting:
- Safety of identity: This primarily applies to online sportsbooks, where players on legal books will have to complete an exhaustive registration process in order to be approved for real-money wagering. While this could initially be perceived as a con, it’s designed to protect patrons from identity theft and other scams. In addition, bettors on legal books will have the state’s regulatory committee on their side. Should they feel slighted by a book, they will have an outlet to voice, and likely resolve, their complaint.
- Safety of funds: Regulated books have to answer to their respective license-issuing regulatory bodies. Consumer protection standards are much higher. You may find yourself in a dispute, but by and large you can rest assured that your funds are safe and the sportsbook won’t go belly up or offline at random and leave you empty-handed.
- Ease of deposits and withdrawals: As many users of offshore sportsbooks know, due in large part to the federal law UIGEA, it can be quite difficult (and nerve-wracking) to deposit funds and collect winnings/withdrawals. It’s the opposite in regulated markets where you can deposit through ACH, bank transfers, PayPal, and possibly even credit cards.
- Impact of taxes and fees: There is debate about the impact of high tax rates on gross revenue. The bottom line is, higher taxes impact the bottom line and something has to give. This may result in inferior pricing, as competitors in illegal markets have the advantage of lower overhead.
- No credit lines: This is the biggie. Many local bookies extend credit to customers, so they don’t have to deposit in the first place. You lose, pay up. You win, collect. Most states haven’t allowed credit for sports gambling, and likely won’t, in the same way you can’t use credit cards to purchase lottery tickets.
- More restrictive offerings for props or novelty wagering: Regulators must approve the types of sports betting markets that licensees can offer. In the offshore world, anything can go. In most states, so far, you won’t find Oscars or political betting markets or some of the wackier Super Bowl props (such as Gatorade color).
Online sports betting FAQ
In-person versus remote registration: What’s the difference?
Some states including Nevada and Rhode Island allow online/mobile sports betting, however they require patrons to appear in person with an ID in order to establish the account. In other states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it’s much easier. You can use your ID and other verification measures online to establish an account at any state-licensed sportsbook. This saves a trip, gas money, and allows people to easily establish several accounts for the sake of line or price shopping.
It varies from state to state and sportsbook to sportsbook, but with most, you can use ACH (eCheck), an online bank transfer, a debit card or a prepaid card at some kind; in a growing number of states you can use PayPal or deposit funds with cash at the sportsbook’s partner casino. In some states you can fund an account with a credit card or “Pay With Cash” location, or also use Neteller.
How do I withdraw money from a legal online sportsbook?
In most but not all cases, you can withdraw through the same source/means that you used for a deposit.
Do online books offer more bets than retail books?
It depends what book you’re using. But the general answer is probably yes, because it’s much easier to make in-game or live bets using digital technology, as opposed to having to wait on line and see a teller to get down a bet.
Can online sports bets be placed from anywhere?
It depends on the state. In many states, regardless of whether you’ve registered in person or remotely, mobile sports bets can be placed from anywhere: your living room, at Buffalo Wild Wings, the bathroom, etc.
Some states only allow mobile sports bets to be placed on casino premises (or another licensed gaming facility like a tavern). The state is able to enforce this policy through geofencing technology. Basically, the location function on your phone has to be turned on to place a wager, and the app detects where you are located. You must also be located within the state where you are placing the bet. In other words, you can’t book a bet at an NJ online sportsbook if you’re hanging out in New York.
What markets/bet formats are available?
While it varies from sportsbook to sportsbook (and some like PointsBet offer a unique type of “action points” betting), you can make these wagers at nearly every sportsbook across the U.S.:
- Spread bets
- Moneyline wagers
- Totals (team, quarters, halves, etc.)
- Props (player, team and scoring props)
- Futures (such as who will win the Super Bowl or NBA championship)
- At many sportsbooks you will now find live, in-game wagering options/platforms
How are the odds/prices online?
Your mileage may vary from one shop to another, but by and large they’re either competitive with or either slightly to moderately worse than offerings by unregulated, offshore, and illegal markets that are free from regulatory responsibilities. For example, spread bets at most legal books are -110 on both sides for an NFL game.
It’s more than plausible that the gap in pricing could tighten even further as the industry matures.
What are sports betting kiosks?
They’re self-service stations like grocery store self-checkouts or ATM machines. Look through a menu, pick your wager(s), print the ticket and watch the game. Where kiosks are offered you can redeem your winnings at the machine or at the sportsbook ticket window. Read more about kiosks here.
The history behind U.S. sports betting
Everyone who enjoys legal sports betting should be grateful to the state of New Jersey. For roughly a decade leading up to the “Supreme Court sports betting case,” or Murphy v. NCAA, New Jersey found creative ways to challenge the federal law banning full-fledged sports betting outside Nevada, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA, 28 U.S. Code Chapter 178). Congress passed the law in 1992 with backing from the major professional U.S. sports leagues.
The law, which the high court ruled unconstitutional in May 2018, basically said that it was unlawful for a state (its state legislature), Nevada excluded, to authorize or license sportsbooks. (Three other states — Delaware, Montana and Oregon — had some limited forms of sports gambling “grandfathered” under PASPA, allowing them to continue.)
A combination of New Jersey lawmakers led by Ray Lesniak, plus officials from Monmouth Park Racetrack and former Gov. Chris Christie, wouldn’t stand for it. Among other actions, the New Jersey legislature in 2011 put a public question on New Jersey’s November general-election ballot, asking if the state constitution should be amended to authorize wagering on professional and amateur sports at casinos and racetracks. The referendum passed by a wide 64-36% margin.
Ultimately, the battle ended up in the Supreme Court, where top lawyers Ted Olson (for New Jersey) and Paul Clement (for the leagues), both who served at one time as U.S. Solicitor General, argued about the law’s constitutionality. The main sticking point was the way the law worked — what it did and didn’t do. And because, the court found, the law “commandeered” the states, or directed and controlled state legislatures, as opposed to directly regulating or prohibiting sports betting, the Supreme Court found that it violated states’ rights or Tenth Amendment Principles.
Writing the majority opinion in a 6-3 decision (with some agreement by Justice Breyer but some disagreement in part) released on May 14, 2018, Justice Samuel Alito stated:
The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make.
Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not. PASPA ‘regulate[s] state governments’ regulation’ of their citizens, New York, 505 U. S., at 166. The Constitution gives Congress no such power. The judgment of the Third Circuit is reversed.”
Delaware and New Jersey off, running and booking wagers
Because Delaware already had some sports betting systems in place for its NFL parlay betting — which was “grandfathered,” or allowed to continue, under PASPA — it didn’t waste any time racing to become the first post-PASPA state to allow full-fledged legal sports betting. State lottery director Vernon Kirk said the state didn’t need new regulations, rather it just needed to dust off existing technology and re-train employees for a full menu of sports betting offered in partnership with Scientific Games and William Hill.
Delaware Gov. John Carney placed the first bet at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino on June 5, 2018 — a winner.
Though a bit disappointed that Delaware beat it to the punch, New Jersey still needed to pass its actual legal sports betting law before sports wagering could begin at state-licensed operators.
The New Jersey legislature got it done in early June 2018 with Assembly Bill 4111. Then on June 14, 2018, two sportsbooks opened for business in New Jersey — at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport and at the MGM-operated Borgata Race & Sports Book in Atlantic City.
Gov. Phil Murphy placed the first bet that morning around 10 a.m., exactly one month after the Supreme Court struck the ban.
“New Jersey’s spirit and determination prevailed,” Murphy said, prior to stepping to the ticket window to make the first two wagers. “I’ll be betting $20 on Germany to win the World Cup and $20 on the Devils to win the next Stanley Cup.”
Of course, France won the World Cup in 2018 and the St. Louis Blues won the next Stanley Cup, but never mind that. On the same day, NBA legend “Dr. J” Julius Erving placed the first wager at the Borgata half an hour after Murphy’s bet. Dr. J. bet $5 on the Philadelphia Eagles at 8-1 to repeat as Super Bowl Champions in February 2019 (another Patriots title).
From that point, more retail or brick-and-mortar sportsbooks opened across New Jersey, including the FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands, which has proven the most popular spot to bet both in person and online — certainly helped by its proximity to New York State and New York City.
DraftKings Sportsbook did come online first — officially on Aug. 6, 2018, with a platform powered by Kambi. And it proved quite popular, thanks to a large existing database of users through its daily fantasy sports.
Other states get in the game
New Jersey and Delaware were quick out of the gate and so was West Virginia (mobile sports betting came later … sort of) which had preemptively passed its sports betting law in March 2018. Also Mississippi (mobile sports betting allowed on-premises only) in 2017 passed a law that included language allowing legal sports wagering.
Other states that launched legal sports operations in 2018 included Pennsylvania (November 2018, mobile sports betting came later) and Rhode Island (November 2018, mobile sports betting came later).
Out west in New Mexico where tribal casinos are numerous, the Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel, a tribal gaming operation near Albuquerque, opened a sportsbook in October 2018. Although New Mexico did not pass a law explicitly allowing sports wagering, the state’s attorney general determined that casinos could offer it under the existing tribal-state compact. In addition, in November 2018 voters in Arkansas approved a measure to allow casinos as well as legal sports betting at those properties.
That was a lot of action for one year, and 2019 became even busier on the legislative front across the country, and 2020 brought even more action. Bills of all different kinds were introduced, discussed, and passed in multiple jurisdictions. Some would create a market like New Jersey’s, some more like Mississippi’s, with all different tax rates and models for the number of sportsbooks allowed in person and online.
We are excited to see what 2021 has in store.