What States Have Legalized Gambling?

Legalized gambling has recently become a hot topic in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world focuses on “flattening the curve,” more and more states are weighing in on whether or not to lift their restrictions on gambling. As of July 13, 2020, there are 28 states that have legalized some form of gambling. Here’s a look at the states that have adjusted their laws to allow for certain forms of gambling, as well as the dates when these laws were enacted.

New York

On March 24, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that would allow for sports betting in the state. Thanks in part to the signing of this law, sports betting in New York is now officially legal. The law took effect on June 1, 2020, and applies only to sports betting and betting on horse races. It does not cover all forms of gambling, and it specifically prohibits states from banning sports betting. This ban was in place prior to the pandemic, but it is now up to the states to decide how they want to regulate sports betting in the wake of the pandemic.

California

In California, gambling is legal, but it’s regulated by the state. Still, the most popular forms of gambling in the Golden State are poker, blackjack, and slots. In November 2019, the state’s legislature passed a law that would have made it the first state to legalize online gambling, but it was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom. The law allowed for “real-money gaming”, which includes online poker, online blackjack, and other forms of online gambling. It did not, however, specify what forms of gaming would be permitted or when it would go into effect. This law provides an example of how the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred some states to change their laws, and in particular, how it has prompted them to consider legalizing online gaming, regardless of whether or not it was previously allowed under state law. It is still up to individual states to decide whether or not to permit these legal forms of gaming, but as of July 13, 2020, several states have done so.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania residents may now gamble online, as the state’s legislature passed a law in November 2019 that would have made online poker and other forms of gaming legal. This was, in fact, one of the items on Democrats’ to-do list in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there is no official data on how much revenue the state has gained from online gambling, it is estimated that the industry has brought in between $1 million and $2 million per month. Some casinos in the state have already introduced online gambling as a result of the pandemic, and more and more venues are expected to make the switch soon. Just like in New York, the ability to legally gamble online in Pennsylvania provides an example of how the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred some states to change their laws. As of July 13, 2020, Pennsylvania remains one of the states that have not yet adjusted their laws to allow for online gambling.

Virginia

Virginia’s Democratic governor Ralph Northam signed a law in February 2020 that would have made online poker and other forms of gaming legal. It was one of the first actions that he took after being sworn in. He also signed a law in March 2020 that lowered the state’s betting age to 18. Online gambling had previously been prohibited in Virginia, but the bill that was signed into law exempted certain horse racing forms from the state’s prohibitions on gambling. Like in many other states, the ability to legally gamble online in Virginia provides an example of how the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred some states to change their laws. As of July 13, 2020, Virginia remains one of the states that have not yet adjusted their laws to allow for online gambling.

Maryland

Maryland residents may now gamble online, as the state’s legislature passed a bill in March 2020 that would have made online poker and other forms of gaming legal. This was, in fact, one of the items on Democrats’ to-do list in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there is no official data on how much revenue the state has gained from online gambling, it is estimated that the industry has brought in between $1 million and $2 million per month. Some casinos in the state have already introduced online gambling as a result of the pandemic, and more and more venues are expected to make the switch soon. Like in many other states, the ability to legally gamble online in Maryland provides an example of how the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred some states to change their laws. On July 5, 2020, Maryland became the 22nd state to legalize betting on all sports. The new law will allow for sports betting at casinos and horse racing tracks, as well as the opening of sports books at bookstores and libraries. On top of that, it will also allow for the professional sports teams in the state to accept bets. This will give fans of these teams the ability to place bets while following the games live. The bill was met with resistance and criticism from the NCAA and the NFL, but Governor Larry Hogan (R) who supports and defends the rights of sports leagues to govern themselves, sees the law as a boost for the state’s economy and as a way to allow its residents to “have some fun” during the pandemic.

New Jersey

A law that was signed into effect by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in May 2020 will make it possible for the state’s residents to legally gamble online. Thanks to a partnership between the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Indian tribe of the Delaware, this is the first state to offer legal online gambling. It is also one of the few that offer online casino games and a safe and secure way to gamble, which is crucial in this day and age. Online gambling and betting in New Jersey is now officially legal. The state also provides a lucrative monopoly on sports betting, which is expected to bring in millions of dollars per year. This is largely thanks to the fact that the state legislature voted down an attempt by the American Gaming Association (AGA) to introduce online gambling and betting throughout the US. Several other states, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia, had previously voted to join the American Indian tribes in New Jersey to form an alliance that would make legal online casino gambling and betting possible. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was decided that it was more important for states to protect their residents than to try to profit from them. This is one of the reasons why several states have changed their minds on whether or not to legalize online gambling, even though it had previously been allowed under state law.

Massachusetts

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, gambling is legal, but it’s regulated by the state. Still, the most popular forms of gambling in the Bay State are casinos and racetracks. In October 2019, the state’s legislature passed a bill that would have made online banking and purchasing of games online legal. The bill was one of the first pieces of legislation passed after the COVID-19 pandemic. It was, however, vetoed by Governor Charlie Baker. In April 2020, casino magnate and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson purchased the Boston Globe, which is the main newspaper in the state, and in July 2020, he purchased the New York Daily News. Both papers have an editorial board that works closely with his Las Vegas based newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It would appear that Adelson wants to change the editorial content of both papers to push a pro-gambling platform. If he succeeds, it will be another victory for the gambling industry and yet another example of how the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred some states to change their laws. Thanks to the pandemic, Adelson and the gambling industry have been able to persuade several states to legalize online poker and sports betting, which will bring significant revenues to the states and their residents. It remains to be seen whether or not these efforts will be successful, but as of July 13, 2020, several states have already done so.

Washington

Washington residents may now gamble online, as the state’s legislature passed a law in March 2020 that would have made online poker and other forms of gaming legal. This was, in fact, one of the items on Democrats’ to-do list in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there is no official data on how much revenue the state has gained from online gambling, it is estimated that the industry has brought in between $1 million and $2 million per month. Some casinos in the state have already introduced online gambling as a result of the pandemic, and more and more venues are expected to make the switch soon. Like in many other states, the ability to legally gamble online in Washington provides an example of how the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred some states to change their laws. As of July 13, 2020, Washington remains one of the states that have not yet adjusted their laws to allow for online gambling.