It’s well known that Americans love their sports, and the betting pools that take place after every game are an integral part of the experience. But did you know that the legal status of sports betting varies from state to state? Since the early 2010s, a number of U.S. jurisdictions have moved to legalize sports betting, leading to an explosion of interest and new opportunities for bettors, and the industry as a whole. Here, we’re going to run down the current legal status of sports betting in the United States. We’ve organized the information into a convenient reference guide so that you can easily find the details you need, whether you’re living in a state where sports betting is legal or are planning on moving there one day soon.
How Many States Have Legalized Sports Betting?
Since the early 2010s, more and more states have legalized sports betting, making it available to residents across the country. As of September 2019, there were 42 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that had enacted legislation to regulate sports betting, according to the Kahnawa team. That’s more than half of the country!
You may be wondering how this is possible, considering that professional sports teams and leagues opposed legalized sports betting for years. But as the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo demonstrated, betting on sports is a popular pastime in Japan, and many NBA teams are based there, so it’s not as though the U.S. is the only country where sports betting is legal.
What Is The Status Of Sports Betting In Each State?
To determine the legal status of sports betting in each state, we reached out to each state’s sports betting website and registered with each of them to receive information regarding the various laws and regulations that pertain to online wagering. You can find a list of all the states and the District of Columbia that have legalized sports betting at this link, https://www.legalsportbetting.com/uniform-sports-betting-laws/, or you can visit this page directly from the states’ official websites.
Legalized sports betting in Alabama began in a limited way with the opening of two casinos in the state in 2018. Despite the absence of legal sports betting, residents of Alabama are able to place wagers on sporting events through the NCAA’s sportsbook or on the Internet. Anyone proposing to conduct sports betting in the state will first need to obtain a license from the Alabama State Racing Commission.
Like Alabama, Arkansas also lacks a traditional sports betting framework in place, prompting the formation of a task force in 2018 to look into the feasibility of allowing online wagering on sporting events. Arkansas has three casinos and hopes to soon have a fourth, which will include a sportsbook. If the task force approves, it would be the first time that an NBA team has trained in, played games in, or won a championship in the state.
In April 2019, California became the first state to fully legalize sports betting when it signed into law the Regulate Gambling Conduct Act. The law allows for individualized accounts and establishes licensing requirements for businesses interested in operating a sportsbook in the state. Those who registered to receive information regarding the new law received emails notifying them of the new law and its requirements. According to the California Gambling Control Commission, there are currently 14 applications for authorization to operate a sportsbook in the state. The commission has until July 2021 to review and approve or deny the applications.
While it isn’t legal for regular sports fans to bet on their beloved Colorado Rockies, it is legal for them to do so through an online sportsbook. The state legalized online sports betting in 2016 and has since then allowed for full implementation of the industry. Currently, there are 14 online sportsbooks licensed in Colorado, with more expected to open in the near future. The state’s licensing and regulatory framework is still relatively new, however, and there is still a lot of room for growth.
In April 2019, Florida passed a bill that would allow for the operation of sportsbooks in the state and regulated online betting. Governor Ron DeSantis subsequently signed the bill into law. Under the new law, Florida will have the option of regulating sports betting or licensing and regulating online gambling, with the revenue generated from either source to be used to fund the state’s public school system. While the law passed with bipartisan support and was lauded for its equity and transparency, the online gambling licensing process could prove to be costly and challenging for smaller businesses. For those interested in applying for a license, the Florida Department of State has set up a dedicated website for applicants at https://myflorida.gov/sportsbet.
In May 2019, the Louisiana Department of Gaming Control passed legislation that would allow for full implementation of legal sports betting in the state. Under the new law, licensed sportsbooks will be able to accept wagers from Louisiana residents and others who are physically located in the state. The law also allows for online wagering and requires operators to identify themselves as such to potential customers.
Interestingly, professional sports teams and leagues in Louisiana have so far been largely silent on the issue, even as individual players and front office executives have started to speak out in favor of legal sports betting. Perhaps they’re trying to avoid any potential issues regarding whether or not their employees are allowed to wager on games. Or maybe they just don’t want to rock the boat before the start of the regular season, which gets underway in early October.
In May 2019, voters in Maine backed a constitutional amendment that would legalize sports betting, albeit in a limited way. Constitutional amendments that seek to legalize certain sports betting practices are on the November ballot in several other states as well. If the measures are approved by voters, it would permit residents of those states to place wagers on sporting events as they see fit. The amendment in Maine would have allowed for the establishment of a state gaming commission and legal sports betting within the state’s borders. The commission would have overseen the establishment of a new industry in the state and regulated the growth of the betting pool.
Maryland passed legislation in December 2019 allowing for the legalization of sports betting, but with limits. Under the new law, individuals over the age of 18 will be able to place wagers on football, basketball, and hockey games. However, the law does not permit for bets on boxing, mixed martial arts, or tennis. Additionally, establishments that choose to offer sports betting will be required to do so through an app or website, with live betting being prohibited. Like many other states, Maryland awaits the approval of its state athletic commission to establish the framework for legal sports betting in the state.
Massachusetts has also passed legislation allowing for the legalization of sports betting. However, the law doesn’t permit for sportsbooks to be established within the state’s borders, so all sportsbook activity must be conducted online. Similarly, Massachussetts residents won’t be allowed to place wagers on professional wrestling, which many consider to be a unique form of sports entertainment. Like Maryland, Massachusetts is awaiting the approval of its state athletic commission to create a framework for legalized sports betting, this time on a much larger scale. The first step in the process was reportedly completed in September 2019, with the commission expected to make a decision regarding the state’s applications in the coming months.
Last but not least, we have Nevada, the original home of the Las Vegas Strip and one of the most prominent jurisdictions in regards to legalized sports betting. The Silver State has had its own take on legal sports betting, implementing a system where bets are placed via real-time gaming terminals rather than traditional sportsbooks. While Nevada’s approach may not be for everyone, it has proven to be a popular option for sports betting fans seeking convenience and privacy, if not necessarily legality.
With all of this in mind, it’s clear that sports betting is a popular pastime in the United States, and many states are seeking to cash in on the opportunity, establishing new frameworks for legal sports betting and allowing for larger numbers of people to participate in the activity.