The legalization of sports betting in the United States has not been without its hiccups. Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 1992 to regulate sports wagering, and the Supreme Court effectively killed off a number of states’ efforts to legalize sports betting in 2005. But since the beginning of this year, as of March 2019, 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized or decriminalized sports gambling. Here’s a breakdown of what states are currently permitted to regulate and sanction sports betting, plus a few that aren’t so lucky.
The Full List Of Legal States
When PASPA was passed, it opened the door for states to reclassify betting on sporting events as either a sports betting law or as a public policy exception to the state’s sports bar ban. Currently, 28 states and D.C. have passed legislation that allows for some form of legalized gambling on sporting events, with a few more efforts brewing that would make for a total of 30. Here’s a breakdown of the 28 fully legalized states:
In Alabama, casino sportsbooks and race tracks can offer a combination of football, baseball, and basketball games. The state also allows for “pari-mutuel wagering” on horse races, which basically means that patrons can bet on the outcomes of horse races. It was the first state to legalize gambling on sporting events with the passage of the Sports Gambling Law in 2018. However, the law limits betting to sportsbooks that are licensed in the state. The Alabama Constitution also prohibits lotteries and the creation of a lottery enterprise. For more information, check out the Alabama Constitution and PASPA’s federal regulations.
The Grand Canyon State doesn’t just allow for legalized gambling on sporting events; it also allows for charity lotteries, where participants can win prizes by playing games on lottery tickets. Arizona is also the only state that permits “electronic gambling” on sporting events, which can be confusing. As a result of the 2019 Arizona Gambling Regulation Act, however, the state’s electronic sportsbooks will be required to pay out winnings within 15 days. Finally, the state’s Constitution forbids the creation of a monopoly, and the Arizona Corporation Commission regulates all gaming activities in the state, including sports betting. For more information, check out the Arizona Constitution, PASPA’s federal regulations, and the Arizona Gambling Regulation Act.
In Arkansas, bettors can place wagers on sporting events at casinos and racetracks located inside the state. The only legal sportsbook in the state is the Arkansas Gaming Corporation, which also operates the Hot Springs National Park Racetrack and Tourism Complex. It was the first state in the nation to legalize casino gaming, which meant that all casinos opened their doors to all Arkansans. In 2019, the state legislature expanded the definition of gambling to include “fixed odds competitions” (like the lottery), pari-mutuel betting on horse races, and online sports gambling. As for the national legalization question, the Arkansas Supreme Court has stated that it’s against the law to “promote, promote, or advertise” gambling in the state. Furthermore, it’s illegal to give “any consideration” for gambling, which essentially means you can’t pay to play. For more information, check out the Arkansas Constitution, PASPA’s federal regulations, and the Arkansas Gaming Corporation Act.
The Golden State doesn’t just allow for legal sports gambling; it also has its own state-funded sports promotion program that uses professional sports teams to promote responsible gambling. Known as the “California Winery Responsibility Initiative” (or “CalWIN”), the program covers the costs of administering and governing legal sports gambling in the state. In 2019, California became the first state to adopt a sports gambling law that allows for legal, regulated, and overseen wagering on all professional and collegiate sports in the state. It also means that the state’s existing tribal casinos are now empowered to accept wagers on sporting events. The only caveat is that all sportsbooks must be located within the state, as the California Constitution does not allow for “foreign corporations” to conduct business in the state. Furthermore, the California Lottery and Gambling Control Commission regulates all electronic, online, and social media aspects of sports betting, as it falls under the auspices of the California Department of Justice.
In Colorado, sports fans can place bets on nearly all professional and collegiate sports at casinos and racetracks. It is also one of the only states that permits casino gaming nationwide, which means that all of the state’s racetracks offer these games. The only thing fans have to watch out for is where they place their bets. The state’s Constitution prohibits lotteries and “public gambling houses.” However, the ban on lotteries doesn’t apply to charity lotteries, and the state government has regulated and licensed charities that conduct lotteries for decades. For more information, check out the Colorado Constitution, PASPA’s federal regulations, and the Colorado Gaming and Gaming Control Act.
The Sunshine State is home to arguably the largest collection of sportsbooks in the country, where bettors can place wagers on all major sports events. However, as a part of the 2019 federal budget, Congress has banned the state from regulating sports betting, making it an illegal activity. The only remaining option for Floridians is to create their own sportsbooks, or go to an unlicensed bookmaker. Similarly, the state’s Constitution prohibits lotteries and “public gambling.” However, the ban on lotteries doesn’t apply to charities, and the state government has regulated and licensed charities that conduct lotteries for decades. For more information, check out the Florida Constitution, PASPA’s federal regulations, and the Florida Gambling Regulation Act.
As the home to the NFL’s headquarters and the Iowa State University Cyclones, it should come as no surprise that sports are fairly popular in the Hawkeye State. But even though it’s legal to bet on sporting events in Iowa, it’s not necessarily easy. For example, the only legal betting parlor in the state is the River Casino in Sac City, which has four sports books. The only other form of legal gambling in the state is “racing,” which covers greyhounds and horses. It was the first state to legalize casino gaming and sports betting, respectively. For more information, check out the Iowa Constitution, PASPA’s federal regulations, and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Act.
Idaho is another state that allows for legalized gambling on sporting events at casinos and racetracks inside the state. However, as it has the same restrictions on lotteries and pari-mutuel betting as California, it’s not necessarily easy for sports fans to find a place to bet. There are simply not enough legal gambling options in the state for everyone. For more information, check out the Idaho Constitution, PASPA’s federal regulations, and the Idaho Gambling Control Act.
In Illinois, it’s legal to bet on almost all professional and collegiate sports at casinos and racetracks inside the state, with the exception of professional football and New York sports that are covered by the professional sports protection act. The only drawback to placing a bet in Illinois is the lack of an online sportsbook. However, the state’s sports betting law does authorize the creation of an intrastate sports betting exchange. Fortunately for Illinois sports fans, some of the biggest names in the sports betting industry have offices in the state and are therefore able to take bets. Among them are the Chicago Books, which is the largest sports book in the region, and the South Chicago Bookstore and Casino, which offers patrons to chance to bet on sporting events. Finally, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that lotteries are essentially games of skill, not chance, which means that they are legal under the state constitution. For more information, check out the Illinois Constitution, PASPA’s federal regulations, and the Illinois Sports and Gaming Act.
In Maine, nearly all forms of gambling are legal, with the exception of lottery games, pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, and wagering on professional football and basketball games. However, the state has no legal sportsbooks, and the only way for fans to place bets on sports is to do it illegally through offshore sites or unlicensed bookmakers. Similarly, the state’s Gambling Control Commission regulates all aspects of electronic and online sports betting, including licensing, rules, and security. For more information, check out the Maine Constitution, PASPA’s federal regulations, and the Maine Sports Gambling Law (2020).