Among those 16 are states with massive populations that hold the attention of sports betting operators, including California, Florida, and Texas. While legal sports wagering in those states doesn’t appear imminent, they could make progress in 2023, and a few other jurisdictions appear poised to legalize this year.
Let’s take a closer look at the states that could legalize sports betting, or expand to include mobile wagering, in 2023.
Most likely to legalize in 2023
Georgia: No. 1 University of Georgia plays for the College Football Playoff title Monday, but fans won’t be able to legally wager on the game inside Georgia state lines. Could that change in the future?
Perhaps, as Georgia’s legislative session also begins Monday. There’s an expectation that legal sports betting will come up during the session, although a legal sports betting launch in the state figures to be at least a couple of years away.
New Lt. Gov. Burt Jones is a supporter of legal sports betting, which could be impactful. He’s hopeful the state can make strides toward legalizing in 2023, perhaps putting a proposal in front of voters in 2024.
“I’ve been consistent about the positive return and revenues that safe, secure, and legal sports betting could generate for our state — and look forward to working with the General Assembly to hopefully make it a reality this upcoming legislative session,” Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
North Carolina: North Carolina is toward the top of the list of states most likely to legalize mobile sports betting in 2023, given the state’s close call in 2022. Retail sports betting is allowed in North Carolina at a pair of tribal casinos.
North Carolina’s legislative session begins Wednesday and lasts through the end of August. That’s ample time for the legislature to discuss sports betting, and legal mobile wagering is expected to be a topic of discussion during this year’s legislative session.
Bills from 2023 can carry over to the 2024 legislative session as well, so if a bill makes progress but doesn’t pass this year, it can be discussed again in 2024. For a bill to succeed in 2023, legislators will need to make progress on debates about allowing betting on college sports as well as general concerns about moral and integrity issues.
Minnesota: With 11 gaming tribes in the state, Minnesota’s path to legalization will run right through Indian Country. For the first time, the tribes in 2022 got behind a House bill that would have given them exclusivity, but they pulled their support when the Senate stripped that out of the bill. Going forward, lawmakers and the tribes will have to come to an agreement, which likely means tribal exclusivity, in order for wagering to pass. As is the case in many tribal states, Minnesota’s tribes already offer casino gaming and are loathe to give up their exclusivity when it comes to sports betting.
Former Sen. Karla Bigham recently told Eyewitness 5 that she thinks wagering has a chance in 2023, but only with tribal backing.
So far, no bills have been filed, but stakeholders seem optimistic.
Vermont: The study group created in 2022 offered up a paper to lawmakers in September that outlines what a wagering framework would look like in the state, which, after Massachusetts legalized in August, is the only non-legal state in New England. No bills have been filed yet, but it appears lawmakers are educating themselves.
States that will talk about it … a lot
Alabama: Much like South Carolina, some legislators have pushed for legalized sports betting, but there are significant hurdles to pass legislation. The appetite among many lawmakers just isn’t there, and Alabama isn’t toward the top of our list of states likely to legalize widespread sports betting in 2023.
Still, count Gov. Kay Ivey among those hopeful sports betting gets legalized in the state in the near future. The legislative session starts March 7.
Kentucky: Despite the state having die-hard college football fans and a robust horse racing community, there are widespread moral objections to legal sports betting that have halted bills in past legislative sessions. Gov. Andy Beshear is supportive of legal sports wagering, but that hasn’t mattered much in previous years, and Senate President Robert Stivers doesn’t consider sports betting legalization a top priority.
Wagering will definitely be on the table, though, as a comprehensive House bill that would legalize sports betting, DFS, and online poker was filed last Thursday.
Oklahoma: Like other states, Oklahoma lawmakers have tried previously to pass sports betting legislation, only to fail. Gov. Kevin Stitt even tweeted his support of legalized sports betting last Tuesday, but there have often been disagreements between Oklahoma tribes and state legislators over the best way to set up legal sports wagering in the state.
Let me be clear: I support sports betting in Oklahoma – provided that it’s fair, transparent, and the state can maximize revenue potential to invest in top priorities, like education. More to come.
— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) January 3, 2023
Stitt’s rocky relationship with the tribes has been well documented over the years, and issues between those two sides are among the reasons wagering hasn’t moved forward. Even with hurdles, lawmakers hope to make progress in 2023.
Without that progress, it’s hard to believe in this year’s legalization efforts.
Missouri: At least two bills have already been filed in a state that has moved bills through the Senate in each of the last four sessions. Last year, the casinos and professional sports teams formed a coalition and backed a bill that passed the House, but it was killed by filibuster on the Senate floor. The issue in Missouri has always been tying video gaming terminals to sports betting. Sen. Denny Hoskins, who favors legal VGTs, seemed to yield a bit at the end of the 2022 session, putting forth a last-minute bill that separated the two issues. The bill had other issues and didn’t move.
While stakeholders say they’ll try again this year, Hoskins could still block a bill that doesn’t include VGTs. He’ll term-limit out this year, and we’re not sure if that means he’ll push harder for legal VGTs or back off, but it feels like legal sports betting may have a better shot in 2024.
South Carolina: Some legislators want to legalize sports betting in South Carolina, and House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford proposed a bill in December with hopes of legalizing in the state in 2023. Rutherford’s bill excludes wagering on collegiate sports, which could be a sticking point for some legislators as it reduces potential tax revenue. His bill is one of three dealing with legal wagering that were filed ahead of the session.
South Carolina faces hurdles passing sports betting in part due to concerns of some legislators with moral objections to gambling. The legislative session lasts through May 11, and bills from 2023 can be carried over to 2024, but South Carolina doesn’t crack our list of states likely to legalize mobile sports betting this year.
New: Former Gov. Rick Perry joins the push for legalization of sports gambling in Texas. He'll be a spokesman for the Texas Sports Betting Alliance heading into the next legislative session #txlege pic.twitter.com/3mRQ595U8F
— Scott Braddock (@scottbraddock) November 17, 2022
Texas: Seemingly every year stories circulate about lawmakers who believe this year could be different for Texas’ chances of legalizing sports betting. That’s still the case in 2023, but the optimism from legislators doesn’t usually sway unbiased experts within the industry. A bevy of lobbyists headed down to Texas last fall in an effort to start laying the groundwork for legal gambling, including sports betting.
Don’t expect Texas to legalize sports betting in 2023, although if legislators keep pushing, eventually they may have a breakthrough year. Moral objections to gambling remain a key roadblock for legislation in the state.
Nothing’s going on here
Alaska: The state’s governor, Mike Dunleavy, supports legalize sports betting, but that doesn’t mean much for the state’s chances of legalizing wagering in 2023. Given the state’s modest population, Alaska is not a major priority for sports betting operators hoping to grow their businesses nationwide. Based on previous legislative sessions, don’t expect a notable sports betting push in Alaska in 2023. The legislative session opens Jan. 27, and so far, no bills have been pre-filed.
California: Tribes in California flexed their power in 2022, effectively killing not only a digital sports betting initiative put forth by a consortium of operators, but killing their own in the process. Any legalization will have to go through the tribes, and for now, they are content with the status quo.
California got all these teams but no sports betting 😑😑😑 yall fumbled that prop 27
— JP-AA (@outwestjp) December 30, 2022
Florida: A 2021 compact between the Seminoles and the state made statewide digital wagering legal … until it didn’t. That compact — and sports betting along with it — is tied up in a federal appellate court. The compact would give the Seminoles exclusivity and would require all digital wagering to flow through Seminole servers. No matter what the court decides, legal experts say to expect another appeal, potentially leaving the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue. So, long story short: Unless the Seminoles, commercial operators, and the state can come to an agreement, it’s going to be a while.
Hawaii: Legislators proposed a bill in 2022 that included a tax rate of 55%, which would be the highest of any state in the U.S. We don’t anticipate Hawaii legalizing sports wagering in 2023, and future bills will likely need a different tax setup to interest major operators in coming to Hawaii. The session opens Jan. 18, and so far no bills have been pre-filed.
Idaho: Since PASPA was overturned, lawmakers in Idaho haven’t shown they have an appetite for legal wagering, and we don’t expect 2023 to be any different.
Utah: We don’t anticipate Utah legalizing sports betting any time soon, if it ever does.
Jill R. Dorson contributed to this report