Where Can I Bet On Sports Legally In The U.S.?

For decades, those wanting to place a sports bet in the U.S. have essentially faced a binary choice.

If you’re anywhere outside of Nevada, short of making a jaunt to the desert, you have various “under-the-radar” methods at your disposal. This includes one of many offshore sportsbooks available online, as well as local bookmakers.

Conversely, if you’re in the Silver State, you can legally walk into one of several casinos to place a legal sports bet.

New Jersey’s years-long challenge of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 has the potential to drastically expand the legal options for would-be bettors. If the Supreme Court declares PASPA unconstitutional in Christie vs. NCAA, any state would at a minimum be free to begin considering legalized sports betting.

Significant legislative push already underway

An increasing number have decided that there’s no better time than the present. Utilizing a preemptive strategy, a total of 16 states have already introduced or reintroduced sports-betting legislation in 2018:

  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • California
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia

The bills are at varying points of the legislative process. While it’s rather unlikely all will make it to the finish line during the calendar year, a certain number would appear to have a good chance of passing.

The laws that the passage of these bills would lead to wouldn’t go into effect unless PASPA was fully repealed by the Supreme Court in Christie vs. NCAA. Moreover, if a favorable decision is indeed rendered, the likelihood of numerous other states pushing for sports-betting legislation moving forward would presumably be very high.

Other (limited) sports wagering options exist

Technically, there are three other states where putting a little extra action on a sporting event has long been possible — Oregon, Delaware and Montana.

Outside of Nevada, these were the three jurisdictions that already had some sort of sports-based wagering in place prior to PASPA’s passage. Consequently, their existing activity was grandfathered in based on the law’s wording.

Each of the three states have put their own unique spin on sports gaming. However, none come close to approximating the level of popularity of the single-game wagering and parlay betting currently offered in Las Vegas. In fact, the level of activity in all three states is minimal-to-non-existent compared to Nevada’s thriving industry.

Oregon

Oregon first began offering a parlay card system for the NFL, Sports Action, in 1989. NBA games were made available as well beginning in 1990, with the home-state Portland Trail Blazers being exempt. The basketball component was discontinued after one year due to lack of public interest. (Dissatisfaction on the part of both the NFL and NCAA led to the eventual passing of a bill to outlaw Sports Action, making the 2007 NFL season its swan song.)

Delaware

The Delaware Lottery had offered three-team or greater parlay cards for just the 1976 NFL season before discontinuing the practice.  However, the law that permitted it remained on the books and unchanged, albeit dormant.

Post-PASPA passage: A struggling economy in 2009 that saw both the state lottery and the casinos take a significant financial hit led to a proposal by Governor Jack Markell for establishments to add single-game sports betting. It passed the Senate by a 17-2 margin in May of that year.

Unsurprisingly, the leagues became involved in this case as well. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately short-circuiting The First State’s plans by declaring that NFL parlay cards were the only forms of sports betting that PASPA grandfathered in with respect to Delaware.

Delaware still offers parlay betting as its one current form of sports-related wagering.

Montana

Montana had taken a different tack altogether. At the time of PASPA’s passage, non-house-banked betting squares contests were being offered in establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. These were allowable under an exemption through a sports pool law.  As per regulations, the boards could have up to 100 squares and payouts were required to include the outcome of a full sporting event.

Post-PASPA passage: Montana has also offered pari-mutuel fantasy sports betting through its state lottery, beginning in 2008. Only NASCAR and NFL fantasy contests are available.

Three states have running start

Meanwhile, three other states got ahead of the curve by actually passing sports betting legislation in 2017.

Connecticut: An omnibus gaming bill (H 6948) signed into law in July 2017 by Governor Danell Malloy included wording that authorized sports betting in the state should PASPA be repealed. The Commissioner of Consumer Protection is designated as the entity that would regulate the activity.

However, a future sports betting landscape in the state is far from settled. There are potential conflicts between tribal and commercial interests overall, which are scheduled to be discussed in a hearing by Connecticut’s Public Safety and Security Committee.

Mississippi: A modification of the state’s Gaming Control Act regulating daily fantasy sports (DFS) that was signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant in March 2017 clears the path to legalized sports betting in the state’s 32 casinos if PASPA is repealed. The updated version of the law eliminated wording that prohibited wagering on any aspect of an athletic event. The state’s Gaming Commission would be responsible for promulgating a regulated sports betting framework.

Pennsylvania: An omnibus gaming bill signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on Oct. 30, 2017 included provisions for legalized sports betting on professional and amateur events — including online wagering — should PASPA be repealed. As currently written, the law contains an initial licensing fee of $10 million for establishments that want to offer sports betting, along with a 36 percent tax on sports wagering revenue. Both of those amounts could potentially be amended before that portion of the law goes into effect.

Empire State was a pioneer

Although it’s listed as a state currently considering a sports betting bill, the reality is that New York already has wording in its statutes that permits the activity if PASPA is repealed.

A 2013 constitutional amendment that authorized commercial casinos states that those gaming facilities may not offer sports betting while federal law prohibits it; however, it also specifies that “a sports pool shall be operated in a sports wagering lounge located at a casino” if such prohibitions are lifted.

The new legislation being pursued seeks to expand possible venues that can offer sports betting if and when it’s possible to horse racing tracks, casinos and off-track betting facilities.