Sports Betting Laws: In Which States is it Legal?

by Big Al Staff

Sports betting is a common practice of people in all countries.  And over the last 25 years, there’s been a huge evolution in the gambling world, as the placement of bets has largely moved online.  Before the internet, gamblers generally placed their bets at legal, brick-and-mortar books, or over the telephone with illegal bookies.  

The gambling landscape further changed in the United States, in 2018, when the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).  It was through PASPA that sports betting was illegal in most states.  But the Supreme Court lifted the federal ban, so each state now has the opportunity to set its own sports betting laws.

We've taken the effort to review the progress of gambling legislation in every single state in the United States to see what their rules are in terms of sports betting.  It should also be noted that there's a difference between physical sportsbooks and online sportsbooks.  It's essential to be aware of all the federal laws and state laws, so scroll through to see whether or not your state allows sports wagering.

History of sports betting:  When did sports betting become legal?

Before we dive in completely, we'd like to share some history to see what happened before the Supreme Court decided to lift the federal ban in 2018.  We should go back to the early 19th century when horse racing was among the most popular sports in the country.  Bettors would love to go to the racetracks to bet on their favorite horse, and it was, in fact, the only sports which allowed wagering.  However, with the introduction of other professional sports like baseball and football, sports gambling become more common.  It wasn't very much later that legislators started to notice that sports betting started to be common ground for fraudsters.

Now throughout the start of the 19th century, sports betting was still illegal.  In 1931, Nevada legalized sports betting, which caused an influx of bettors.  Regulating sports betting still wasn't a big thing, but the moment Congress lowered the 10% tax rate that bookmakers had to pay, suddenly state legislatures started to look to sports gambling as a means to raise revenue.  Delaware began a state lottery, and Montana passed a lottery with fantasy sports options.

A turning point in legal sports betting in the United States was the passage of PASPA in 1992.  It banned sports betting throughout the United States, but grandfathered in the four states that had already adopted pro-gambling legislation.  And in only one of the four -- Nevada -- did sports wagering exist in the full form we know it today.  That was the most critical moment in the United States’ sports betting history until 2018, when the Supreme Court overturned PASPA to pave the way for the legalization of gambling.

Today, bettors can place their wagers on any sport, ranging from professional sports like the NBA, NFL, or MLB to amateur matches, such as NCAA athletics or even the Olympics.  States are now allowed to set their legislative sessions and choose whether they allow sports betting in general, physical sportsbooks, or online game betting.  Without further ado, let's dive right in to see where each state currently is in terms of its legalization of sports betting!

In which states is sports betting legal?

Let's start with the states where sports betting is entirely legal, which means both online betting and physical sportsbooks (and anything in between).  Please note that this list will surely become outdated relatively soon after our publication, as new states will come on board.

Nevada

We have largely arranged this list alphabetically, with one exception.  We’ve placed the state of Nevada first, since it has been the home for sports gambling ever since the early nineteenth century.  It used to be the only state in the United States to allow legal sports betting, but things changed over the years.  Many sports bettors still consider Nevada to be the best place for betting since it's a central hub where all sorts of skilled bettors get together.

Whereas Nevada is one of the places where sports betting is a regular thing, mobile sports betting is still in its relative infancy.  Most sportsbooks, for example, still require you to physically register before being able to bet through mobile apps.

Arkansas

The Arkansas Racing Commission suddenly came into play as the governing party that takes care of the sports betting branches. On the 1st of July, in 2019, sports betting officially became legal. The Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort was the place where the first legal sports bets were placed. Several retail locations opened brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, but mobile betting is not legal as of yet. There has been a sports betting bill concerning mobile betting, but it has yet to pass.

​Colorado

It wasn't until the 1st of May, 2020 that sports betting became legal in Colorado.   However, the moment it became legal, it started on the right foot with complete legalization. Residents are now allowed to open accounts online and start wagering both online and with brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, but must be physically be within the state’s borders.  And non-residents can also bet on Colorado’s sportsbooks’ apps, provided they’re physically located within the state.  It turned out to become a very competitive state for sportsbooks, creating a very welcoming climate for bettors.  Some of the major names in the sportsbook industry already brought their operations to Colorado, but more are to follow.

Every sportsbook has to comply with a 10% tax rate and a $54,000 operating fee. The revenue the government makes from taxes and operating fees is said to fund various state water projects.

Delaware

Less than a month after the Supreme Court ruling, Delaware decided it was time to open the gates for sports bettors.  On the 5th of June, 2018, Delaware started to allow single-game betting on numerous sports at three casinos.   Note that only physical sportsbooks are authorized to accept wagers.  Mobile betting is not allowed yet.  Gov. John Carney described the new transformation in the industry as "a full-scale sports gaming operation."  Bettors can now head to the casinos to place their wagers, but online sports betting is only available to residents who cross the state line into Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

Washington D.C

Washington, D.C has legalized sports betting, but has not been successful with its handle in the early-going. The bill became law in late March 2019, and the first wagers were taken in May 2020.  Unfortunately, the District has had just 1.2 million dollars in handle for the first two months.  Of course, the fact that there were virtually no major American sports due to the coronavirus had a lot to do with that.  The District did do something noteworthy, though.  And that was that it became the first jurisdiction to have a sportsbook installed at an arena or stadium, when William Hill set up shop at Capital One Arena.

Illinois

Illinois is one of these states that didn't immediately jump the fence when PASPA was overturned.  They took some time to work out a plan thoroughly and, on the 9th of March, 2020, sports betting became legal throughout the state.  As part of the sports betting bill, brick-and-mortar sportsbooks have an advantage over online sportsbooks. The brick-and-mortar sportsbooks may allow mobile betting through their operations 18 months before the online sportsbooks may start accepting bets.  This rule has caused some online entities, like DraftKings, to partner with a land-based entity to expedite offering mobile wagering.

However, bettors must physically register first before being able to make their online bets.
Another cool factor is that several sports stadiums are now allowed to host their betting kiosks.  The one limitation of the sports betting bill is that wagering on "an Illinois collegiate team" is forbidden.  So, there’s no betting on teams like Northwestern, Illinois, Southern Illinois, DePaul or Illinois State.

Indiana

The sports betting bill in Indiana was signed on May 8, 2019, but it wasn't until September 1, 2019 that legal sports betting officially went live.  The Indiana Gaming Commission oversees the sports betting practices of both online and brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, and issues the requisite licenses.  Sports leagues and colleges may request to disallow betting on a particular sporting event.  In-person wagering is allowed, but the major part of betting happens online or through mobile apps.  With the arrival of several major names in the betting industry, Indiana had an average handle of $154.6 million per month in the first two months of legal betting.

Iowa

After the Supreme Court ruling, Iowa required some time to work out its sports betting bill. On August 15, 2019, the state started to officially accept bets with multiple sportsbooks opening their operations to customers on that day.  Operators are required to pay a $45,000 licensing fee and a 6.75 percent tax rate on the revenue made from their sports betting practices.

Anyone is allowed to make their bets at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, but mobile betting isn't widely accepted yet.  When you want to bet using mobile apps or websites with online betting options, you need to register physically with a sportsbook first.  The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission regulates the sports betting environment in the state.

Michigan

The official sports betting bill for Michigan was introduced on the December 11, 2019.  However, it wasn't until March 11, 2020 that betting became widely available throughout the state.  Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed it into law and thereby allowed in-person wagering at the MGM Grand Detroit.  Mobile betting is permitted under the law, but expectations are that it will take at least until 2021 until it is available.

Mississippi

Mississippi was one of the first states to legalize sports betting.  On August 1, 2018, two casinos booked their first sports bets.  The regulations are quite strict, though, with the Mississippi Gaming Commission enforcing strong regulation.  One of these regulatory measurements is the fact that all betting should happen in-person. Mobile betting is allowed, but only while being inside a casino.

Montana

On May 3, 2019, sports betting was officially legalized in Montana.  The goal was to get everything in place for the start of the next NFL season.  But bureaucracy got in the way, and things took longer than expected.  In March of 2020, sports betting became widely available, and bettors can now place their wagers inside licensed venues.  These venues consist of bars, restaurants, and sportsbooks, with oversight by the Montana Lottery.  You can use mobile apps for betting, but it's not permitted outside of the licensed bet shop.

New Hampshire

The moment sports betting becomes legal, there's always that lucky person who gets to place the first legal sports bet.  In New Hampshire, it was Governor Chris Sununo who placed the first wager during an opening ceremony on December 30, 2019.  The state lottery regulates all sports betting practices statewide.  Interestingly, New Hampshire has chosen to go the route of offering just one operator, rather than multiple sportsbooks.  Bettors must be at least 18 years old!

New Jersey

​Just a couple of days after the Supreme Court lifted its federal ban on sports betting, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey signed the sports betting bill which would forever change the state.  For years, the state had been at the forefront of the effort to overturn PASPA.  With the legalization, New Jersey has become a betting paradise.  Sports betting brought in roughly $4.5 billion of wagers in 2019, of which more than 80% was placed through online betting.

There are many sportsbooks active in New Jersey, and mobile betting is entirely legal for sports bettors.  If you're up for a fun weekend of betting, head over to Atlantic City and gamble some big bucks!

New Mexico

New Mexico is the home to many Native Americans who have their tribal casinos.  Ever since the Supreme Court came with its new ruling, New Mexico hasn't introduced new legislation.  Nevertheless, the Native Americans consider their tribal casinos legally able to accept sports bets under a gaming compact.  So, sports betting is quasi-legal, and several tribal casinos take wagers.  But it's still somewhat a grey area how far does the license reach for all parties involved.

New York

The state of New York has legal sports betting, but it’s limited to just under a dozen upstate land-based casinos.  The state is trying hard to legalize mobile betting, but it hasn't found the right support.  So, New York City gamblers will make the trek across the state line to New Jersey to place wagers.  It's rumored that New York is losing roughly $200 million in revenue a year by not legalizing online betting.

Oregon

Before PASPA was overturned, Oregon was one of the four states which already allowed sports betting. With the federal ban lifted, many sportsbooks opened up shop in the state, and several casinos started marketing activities to promote their services.  The Oregon Lottery oversees all sports betting operations in the state, which also allows mobile betting.  As of now, there’s only one wagering app available in the state.  Unfortunately, no betting on college athletics is permitted in Oregon.

Pennsylvania

Just a couple of months after the PASPA act got wiped off the table, the state of Pennsylvania officially legalized sports betting. The first legal sports bet in Pennsylvania took place at the Hollywood Casino. By November 2019, bettors had all the options to start wagering in their state.  The legalization of sports betting in Pennsylvania has brought the state nearly $1.5 billion in bets, which is the third-largest amount in the entire United States.  Bettors can use anything from brick-and-mortar sportsbooks to mobile apps, to online sportsbooks - whatever you prefer.

Rhode Island

Governor Gina Raimondo signed a state budget which provided for two physical locations to host sports wagering in Rhode Island.  On November 26, 2018, the Twin River Casino in Lincoln was the first place to allow legal sports betting.  These days, bettors have two locations to go to, but can also use their mobile device for wagering.  In Rhode Island, you have to be just 18 years old to place your bets legally, and can even be a non-resident, provided you’re within the state’s borders.  The Rhode Island Lottery oversees all sports betting practices, and grants licenses to sportsbooks that want to open up shop in the state.

West Virginia

West Virginia legalized sports betting with the opening of the Hollywood Casino on August 30, 2018.  The West Virginia Lottery Commission oversees all the sports wagering practices that happen across the state.  Within the sports betting bill, both in-person betting and online betting are allowed.  After the legalization, West Virginia brought in roughly $129 million in bets in the last couple of months of 2019.

Which states are close to making sports betting legal?

Some states just need a little extra push to cross the sports betting goal line.  We'll share an overview of the states that are close to legalization but haven't taken the official steps yet.

North Carolina

North Carolina legalized sports betting in July 2019, but it hasn’t figured out which form it will take. The law allows the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to offer sports betting at their two tribal casinos.  The bill does not permit any mobile wagering, only in-person betting.  Now the catch here, the law isn't effective yet.  There still needs to be an amended gaming compact between the Cherokee Indians and the state, so no sports wagering has started.  It’s unclear when an agreement will be reached.

Oklahoma

Two tribal casinos that are federally-recognized reached an agreement with Governor Kevin Stitt on new gaming compacts, including sports betting.  On June 8, 2020, Stitt announced the approval of the new compacts that are seen as the founding soil for legal sports betting.  However, as there are some influential opposing groups, including the Oklahoma Attorney General, it's unclear when the sports betting bill will be active.

Tennessee

Tennessee passed the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act on May 25, 2019, and will have sports betting in 2020.  The law permits statewide mobile sports betting, and doesn't require brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.  The state is one of the few that allow just online wagering, no in-person wagering.  Operating licenses are limited, require a $750,000 licensing fee, and have a cap of 85% payout for bettors.  These rules and regulatory difficulties create a challenging climate for bettors and officials to reach an agreement.

Virginia

On paper, sports betting is entirely legal in Virginia.  In reality, there's no sports betting yet. Governor Ralph Northam signed a sports betting bill in April 2020 to allow in-person and mobile betting, with the Virginia Lottery in charge of approving licenses.  Bettors are allowed to wager on college sports teams, making a pretty welcoming climate for bettors and sportsbooks across the commonwealth.  The earliest that betting could occur would be in December 2020.

Which states are moving towards legal sports betting?

Quite a long list of states are still figuring out the role for sports betting in their jurisdiction.  It's unclear for some, while others are a step closer to passage of an official bill.

Alabama

In April 2019, the officials in Alabama proposed a 44-page bill that formed the plans towards the legalization of sports betting.  It would "permit wagering on certain professional or collegiate sports, or athletic events and other events."  The bill would also form the creation of the Alabama Sports Wagering Commission that would then oversee the regulation of sports wagering in Alabama.  The other fact that's evident is a 10% tax rate on sports wagering receipts by all the operators granted a license.  Since Alabama requires the legislature and the voting public's approval, the introduction of an official law could take a while.

Alaska

​Governor Mike Dunleavy is open to the legalization of sports betting, and attempted legislation in 2020, but it died in the Alaska legislature.  Dunleavy recently opined that it would be a way to diversify revenue coming into the state’s coffers.  However, Alaska is one of five states still without a lottery, and it also has no major sports teams, so the appetite for sports betting is small.

Arizona

In early 2019, lawmakers took the effort to introduce another sports betting bill, but it didn’t gain traction.  It would have authorized certain federally recognized Indian tribes to have sports betting at their tribal casinos.  It would also prohibit other parties from offering the means to bettors to place wagers.  It would not allow mobile betting - just in-person sports betting at one of the 24 tribal casinos in Arizona. It's unclear what the next steps are towards legalization, and the last development is another bill introduced by lawmakers in early 2020.

California

​The legalization in California is quite difficult.  It would require an amendment in the state's constitution, which isn't the easiest thing to do.  It requires at least a million signatures and a whole lot of hearings, voting processes, and the support of dozens of officials.  The other difficulty is the fact that all gaming is under the control of tribes.  It's unclear when the next steps can be taken towards legalization, but California is working on it, as it especially wants to reduce its $54 billion budget deficit.

Connecticut

Technically, sports betting is already legal in Connecticut, as a gaming package was passed in 2017 to establish the state’s sports betting industry pending a change in the federal law (which later occured with the elimination of PASPA).  Unfortunately, the conflicts with the state's tribe have proved very hard to overcome.  The lawmakers have tried to make it work and introduced another bill in 2020.  The goal is to allow in-person betting and mobile wagering, but the tribes have shown no willingness to cooperate.  With the belief that the tribes should have the exclusive rights to operate, legal sports betting might be far from happening anytime soon in Connecticut.

Florida

Florida is another state that conflicts with their tribes. The Seminole tribe would have to grant the state approval before anything can change on the front of legalization. There hasn't been much progress in the past couple of years. But, there's a plan on the table somewhere. The bill should empower the Florida Lottery to oversee sports betting practices in the state, including mobile betting. It will be discussed during the 2020 legislative sessions. Supporters of the bill are aiming for an effective date of the 1st of October.

Georgia

After doing some polls across the state, it became evident that the Georgians are supporters of the legalization of sports betting, as are the Atlanta professional sports teams.  The bill that got introduced in early 2019, allowing wagering on professional and college sports, is still on the table but hasn't progressed past the committee stage yet.  Since the state doesn't have any operating casinos, there's still a long way to go for Georgia to become a welcoming place for bettors.  And it’s also unclear whether sports gambling would require a constitutional amendment.

Hawaii

As one of two states without any gambling in any form or shape (Utah is the other), Hawaii does not seem to be in a hurry to authorize sports betting. Still, in early January 2019, a bill was introduced in support of the legalization of sports wagering.  It would have created the Hawaii Sports Wagering Corporation to regulate and operate sports betting on the islands.  We'll keep an eye on the developments, but the odds are small that sports betting will be legal anytime soon in Hawaii.

Kansas

There have been recent moves by the Kansas legislature to approve sports gambling.  In February 2020, the Senate passed a bill to allow for sports betting at the four state-owned casinos (which are operated by private entities).  But the legislature adjourned early due to the coronavirus.  But the momentum is there for Kansas to legalize sports betting in 2021, if the Senate, House and Governor Laura Kelly can work out the details.

Kentucky

In early 2020, a 27-page bill went through several committees and officials, but it never went through.  The Republican lawmakers called the issue "divisive," and lobbyists managed to get rid of the bill officially.  The goal was that the Kentucky Racing Commission would be the institution to host a system for sports wagering.  Part of that system would be a $250,000 licensing fee, a hefty tax rate, and a 3 percent share of the handle.  Since the last bill got dismissed, Kentucky has to wait until at least 2021 before sports betting might become legal.

Louisiana

There will be a referendum this November which will give Louisiana voters the opportunity to legalize sports betting in their individual parish or county.  Specifically, the question before voters will ask, “Shall sports wagering activities and operation be permitted in [your parish or county]?”  Even if just one parish makes the choice to legalize betting, that would be enough for the state to create a regulatory body, and licensing procedures.  So, it’s likely that Louisiana will have legal sports betting by the end of 2021.

Maine

Maine was very close to legalization.  It would allow mobile belling and in-person betting, even allowing sportsbooks to operate online-only.  The House and the Senate agreed, but Governor Janet Mills decided to use her powers to veto the bill.  On January 10, 2020, it got taken off the table, officially.  The Senate tried to overturn the veto, but the House couldn't follow along.  It won't be until 2021 that there will be another legislative session to discuss the bill.

Maryland

Maryland is close, very close to legalization.  They're trying hard, and a lot of legislative sessions were dedicated to making a sports betting bill happen, but never did anything pull through.  On this November's ballot, voters will have a referendum before them which would allow the expansion of commercial gaming in Maryland.  The referendum will ask, “Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and event betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?”  It's unclear though what the exact details would be for the bill.  Should the voters approve the referendum, then Maryland will likely have something in place before the end of the 2021 NFL season.

Massachusetts

​In early 2018, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission brought a 31-page whitepaper to the public eye. They thought of a roadmap that would pave the way towards complete legalization.  Governor Charlie Baker has been giving it his all to bring legalized sports betting to Massachusetts, but hasn't found the right support.  His goal is to make in-person betting possible, as well as mobile wagering and online betting.  We'll follow the developments carefully, as there’s a good chance the Massachusetts legislature explores options in the fall of 2020.

Missouri

Missouri is working hard to allow bettors to place their wagers without worrying about its legality.  In March 2020, there were two separate sports betting bills that the committee in the House cleared - but it still has to pass a couple of rounds.  Both bills would allow in-person wagering and online betting, but the difference lies in the tax rate. With neighboring states Illinois and Iowa already having their sports betting regulations in place, Missouri wants to make things happen, but there's still a far way to go.  The best guess is that Missouri approves it by the end of 2021.

Nebraska

State senator Justin Wayne introduced a bill that would classify sports betting as an authorized game of skill.  This would remove traditional sports wagering, fantasy sports, and poker from the state's existing ban.  Unfortunately, Wayne’s bills never made it out of committee, so it’s unclear whether there is a path toward the legalization of sports betting in the near term.

​North Dakota

The North Dakota Attorney General have would have been given oversight about all sports betting regulations in the House bill introduced in January 2019.  But that bill failed, and it's unclear whether anything will happen in 2020.  

Ohio

The Ohio House of Representatives passed a sports betting bill on May 28, 2020.  It is hoped that the Ohio House and Senate can reconcile the differences in the bills before their bodies, and agree on a bill before November.  Currently, the biggest divide between the two is over the regulatory body.  The Senate wants the Ohio Casino Control Commission, while the House favors the Ohio Lottery Commission.  If a bill can be agreed upon, it will likely allow bettors to use in-person betting and mobile betting options.  Governor Mike DeWine has expressed his support of legalization many times before, so it will likely happen, it's just unclear when.

South Carolina

In early 2017, there was a House Bill with a constitutional amendment required to legalize sports betting in South Carolina.  There would be some strong regulations, but sports betting would become legal. This bill got taken off the table, but a new bill was introduced in early 2019.  Nevertheless, during the 2019 legislative session, nothing happened with the bill, so it failed.  And there’s been no recent push in 2020 to revive efforts to legalize sports betting.

​South Dakota

Both the House and the Senate passed a sports betting measure in support of legalization.  It would allow a constitutional amendment that would permit sports betting statewide. The voters in the state will be given a referendum in November 2020 to decide the future of legal sports betting in South Dakota.  One downside is that Governor Kristi Noem is opposed to sports betting expansion, plus there are several tribes that would have to support the bill before it is accepted.

Texas

As part of the bill that got introduced on February 1, 2019, sports betting operators in Texas would have to obtain a permit that costs $250,000 and be subject to a 6.25% tax rate.  The Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation would oversee all sports betting practices under the proposed law.  The current bill didn't go anywhere, and the officials couldn't agree on making it work.  Nevertheless, there are some new bills in the works by Texas lawmakers.  And, since there's such a love for sports in the state, legalization will happen eventually.

Vermont

When PASPA was overturned by the Supreme Court, it was the Vermont Lottery's executive director who said that not a single person in Vermont wanted sports betting to become legal.  Nevertheless, Senators Michael Sirotkin and Dick Sears introduced a mobile-only sports betting bill in Vermont in early 2020.  Given the skepticism of government officials in Vermont regarding sports betting, there are many hurdles to overcome, but who knows what the future might bring.

Wyoming

There's not that much happening in terms of legalization in Wyoming. There have been a couple of efforts, but the last effort to authorize sports betting failed by a 32-27-1 margin in early 2020.  With only four licensed casinos in the state, there's not much of a gambling climate in Wyoming.  We're not betting on legalization happening anytime soon in Wyoming.

Which states do not have any sports betting legalization?

Some states don't want anything to do with sports betting. They're simply not having it. Find out why down here.

Idaho & Wisconsin

Idaho and Wisconsin both have laws in place that prohibit any form of sports betting. Thus, there are still a ton of hurdles to overcome before legalization might occur.  However, with the local governments' strong stance against gambling, there probably will not be any form of legalization shortly.

Minnesota

In Minnesota, the big issue is the local tribes. There have been some bills that were introduced to the House and Senate that eventually never went through. The main reason is the firm stance of the 11 federally recognized tribes that do not want to expand gambling beyond their casino games.

Utah

​Utah has some strong regulatory measures against gambling baked into the state's constitution.  Any changes to their anti-gambling stance would require a massive shift in leadership after decades of opposition to gambling.  That includes lottery tickets, table games, and sports betting.

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