In the light of the two industry-changing ballots in the US state of California that so recently took place, we thought we would take a beat, and provide our many cross-disciplined readers with a broad overview of the legality of sports betting across the United States as a whole.
Despite hugely expensive lobbying by the industry and others, November 8th saw Californians deliver a resounding ‘No’ to both Proposition 26, the ‘Legalise Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative’, and Proposition 27, the ‘Legalise Sports Betting & Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Fund Initiative’. Literally viewed as the ‘Golden’ state, one of the potential jewels in US sports betting’s crown, this vote will certainly be viewed as a blow. But the US is a vast, populous and sports-mad nation, so California aside, how are things currently looking in the other 49 states?
Four-and-a-half years ago…
Back in May 2018, a Supreme Court ruling gave all US states the authority to legalise sports betting as they individually chose. Four years later, more than 30 states have undertaken some form of relaxation, with more to inevitably follow suit in the not-too-distant future.
Not only did this dramatic legislative change totally alter the complexion of our industry, and prompt immediate and feverish activity, it also provided a recipe for confusion for the interested observer. Each state can set its own rules and the differences are already many, so we thought it would be a good idea to provide the readers of Global Gambling News with a simple breakdown of where each state currently stands.
The Sweet Little Sixteen
There are currently 16 US states where all forms of sports betting remain illegal. Hell may freeze over before some change their tune but let us not forget that is what Don Henley of The Eagles once said about his band’s reformation. However, the current ‘no-go’ areas are Alabama, Alaska, California (see below), Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont.
The Thriving Thirty-Two
As things stand (this month), there are 33 US states that have, to varying degrees, legalised sports betting. All of these now permit some form of in-person wagering, within a licensed retail setting, although as shown, not all have (yet) permitted online and mobile play.
In addition, the rules relating to betting on in-state professional and collegiate sports teams vary further amongst these legalised states, as do those relating to individual player ‘prop’ (proposition) bets, and these details are not covered here. Those requiring such specifics can refer to the extensive piece by Chris Bengel and Shanna McCarriston of CBS Sports, which can be found here www.cbssports.com
Those state of play as of November 2022 is as follows:
Legal since April 2021 with 20 operators permitted.
Legal since July 2021 with first online sportsbook launched February 2022.
Legal since May 2020. Multiple operators allowed residents to open accounts online and place wagers.
Legal since September 2021.
Legalised less than a month after the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision. Online sports betting is legal, although there are not yet in-state online sportsbooks.
Bets were allowed in the state as of March 2020.
Legal since September 2019 with both mobile and in-person betting permitted at multiple locations.
Legal since 2019, with multiple sites beginning to take bets at the end of that summer.
Legal since July 2022.
Louisiana: Legal, with retail sports betting launched in October 2021 and mobile sports betting launched in January 2022.
Maryland: In-person sports betting legal since December 2021.
Michigan: Legal since late 2019, with both in-person sports betting and online gaming available since March 2020.
Mississippi: Sports betting legal since August 2018.
Montana: Sports betting legal since March 2020 and regulated through the state lottery.
Nebraska: In-person sports betting legal since May 2021.
New Hampshire: Sports betting legal since January 2020. on the second day of 2020, with DraftKings mobile sportsbooks utilised throughout the state.
New Jersey: New Jersey brought the case that led to the 2018 Supreme Court ruling and, as a result, opened its first in-person sports betting outlets in June 2018.
New York: Legal, with first official sportsbook launched in July 2019 and mobile sports betting launched in January this year.
North Carolina: Legalised in July 2019, with all in-person sports betting run exclusively through the Cherokee tribe and launched in March 2021.
Ohio: Legalised in December 2021 with first launches expected no earlier than January 2023.
Oklahoma: Legalised but not yet launched.
Oregon: Legal, with in-person sports betting launched in August 2019.
Pennsylvania: Legal, with in-person sports betting launched in 2018 and further licences subsequently issued, including for online and mobile betting.
Rhode Island: Legalised just six months after the Supreme Court’s decision, with in-person sports betting available at two casinos and online betting launched in September 2019.
South Dakota: Sports betting was approved in the 2020 state elections, with four casinos launching in-person sports betting in September 2021. Online and mobile sports betting not yet available.
Tennessee: Legal since early 2019, but only allowing betting online and on mobile, with first sites launching in November 2021.
Virginia: Legal, with sports betting launched in 2021, both in-person and online.
Washington: Legislation passed in early 2020 to allow sports betting at tribal casinos, but online and mobile wagering remain prohibited.
West Virginia: Became the fifth state to legalise both in-person and online sports wagering in August 2018.
Wisconsin: Legal for in-person and mobile betting while attending Oneida Nation’s gaming locations.
Wyoming: Legalised in September 2021.
Neither one thing nor the other
In New Mexico, sports betting has not been formally legalised but then again, it isn’t explicitly illegal either and it seems that the compacts between the state and the tribes muddy this water still further. The result is that the Pueblo of Santa Ana tribe operates sportsbooks at their Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel. There are sportsbooks inside four further tribal casinos in New Mexico. Their formal status is anybody’s guess.
Whilst down in Florida, sports betting was previously legalised. However, less than a month after the first online betting service was launched, a judge decided that the agreement between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe was illegal. The matter has been somewhere within the federal court system ever since.
The Goose that lays Golden Eggs
Irrespective of the outcome in California, or the pace of change across the 16 current naysayers, the fact remains that the United States of America – en masse – must be considered to be the ‘Goose that lays the Golden Eggs’ for the global betting, gaming and iGaming industries. For the reason that almost always trumps all other reasons – money talking – there seems to be an inevitability about the whole process. For so many reasons, some of which were absolutely unforeseen, public purses around the world have been dramatically depleted in recent years and the need to raise funds for essential works and services is greater than at any time since 1945. Our industry is one of the indisputable solutions to this urgent problem, and provided it is well-regulated and well-managed, it is one that governments the world over should embrace.