The legal sports betting marketplace is quite crowded these days. That’s a good thing for sports bettors, as more choice translates into more competition among online betting sites for your dollars.
The competitive environment inspires innovation, a commitment to service, and the development and maintenance of platforms that hit all of the right notes. With a number of top sports betting sites to choose, it opens the door to more questions.
At the top of the list is a pretty simple one: Which online sportsbooks are worthy of your time? We’re going to help you figure out the answer to that right here. Read on as we take a detailed look at the best sports betting sites for 2021.
Legal US betting sites and free bet offers
How to choose the right online sportsbook for you
A good part of finding the sportsbook that works best for you comes down to personal preference, but there are some standard wish list items that nearly all users have at the top, such as a solid platform and a good selection of promotional offerings.
We’ll take a look at the operators that hit the mark on those fronts in a bit. Beyond the basics, you’ll want to find a book that provides some solid bang for your buck, as well as an operator that focuses on the little things just as much as the big stuff.
When choosing between places to play, approach it with an eye toward getting the answers to the questions that are most important to you. Here are some important ones you can use to get the ball rolling.
- How early are lines released: An operator that is on the ball is the preferred option as those behind the curve are generally just falling in line with what the rest of the market has to say. For the NFL and college football, you want a spot that’s releasing lines as the current slate is winding down. On the daily sports, odds should start coming out the night before or the day of.
- Which online sportsbooks have the best odds: You’ll find that many of the major operators are in relatively close range. Those that aren’t will stick out, and sharp bettors will pounce when it happens. Finding the book that’s ahead of the pack on certain sports is a matter of line shopping regularly, which is simple in the current environment.
- What sports betting sites offer a break on juice: This is a key tool in the arsenal for a number of operators on the promotional front. They’ll occasionally offer no-juice or reduced rake spreads. Other operators do it consistently and make it a regular feature. For example, PointsBet has offered -105 odds on NFL and NBA spreads as opposed to the standard -110.
- Do any sportsbooks have loyalty programs: If you can earn extra stuff for something you plan on doing anyway, it’s a pretty huge benefit. Sportsbook operators still have a ways to go to match casinos on this front, but some are ahead of the game. Included on that list is BetRivers, a solid book that offers a rewards program that works in tiers.
- Bonuses and promotions: In order to attract attention in the crowded marketplace, sportsbooks offer plenty of bonuses and promotions. These can be one-time things or those of the ongoing variety, and there’s lots out there for the taking. Here’s a quick look at some of the more common ones.
Best online sports betting sites 2021
|Rank||Betting Site||Bonus||Legal In||Bet Now|
|1.||DraftKings Sportsbook||$50 free + up to $1,000||VA, MI, NJ, PA, CO, IN, WV, NH, IA, IL, & TN||Visit DraftKings|
|2.||FanDuel Sportsbook||$1,000 risk free bet||MI, NJ, PA, IN, WV, CO, TN, IA, IL & VA||Visit FanDuel|
|3.||BetMGM Sportsbook||Up to $600 deposit bonus||DC, VA, MI, NJ, CO, TN, WV, NV, PA, IN & IA||Visit BetMGM|
|4.||William Hill Sportsbook||Up to $500 risk free bet with first deposit||TN, VA, IA, MI, NJ, IL, IN, WV & CO||Visit William Hill|
|5.||FOX Bet Sportsbook||Up to $500 risk free bet||MI, NJ, PA & CO||Visit FOX Bet|
|6.||PointsBet Sportsbook||Up to $2,000 in free bets||MI, NJ, IL, CO, IA & IN||Visit PointsBet|
|7.||Unibet Sportsbook||Up to $600 risk free bet||VA, NJ, PA & IN||Visit Unibet|
|8.||BetRivers Sportsbook||Up to $250 bonus||VA, PA, IN, CO, IL, IA & MI||Visit BetRivers|
US sports betting apps – Legal and licensed
In every industry, the cream ultimately rises to the top. While legal sports betting remains in its infancy, that has certainly been the case. The top operators are off to a good start, with stellar platforms, great bonus opportunities and lots of other perks.
Several have been first to market as legal states come online, and they’ll be at the top of the list when new ones come on board as well. We’ve reviewed all of them, and the best of the best have made it to our list of best online betting sites for you to consider.
1. DraftKings Sportsbook App
DraftKings has been one of the big success stories in the early days of legal sports betting, and that hasn’t happened by accident. The same tenets that brought the company to the top of the charts in daily fantasy sports are being applied here.
The platform is slick and filled with features. Among the top offerings is its live betting feature. The app as a whole is quick and intuitive, but DraftKings has really knocked it out of the park on this front.
Odds and lines are very competitive, and you’ll find all of the bet types you could ask for. DraftKings has become a leader in all markets entered to date. We fully expect that story to continue as the company enters new legal states.
- Review: DraftKings Sportsbook
- Bonus: Up to $1,050
- DraftKings is legal in: VA, MI, NJ, PA, CO, IN, WV, NH, IA, IL, & TN
2. FanDuel Sportsbook App
If a user-friendly platform that looks great and works like a charm is at the top of your preference list, then you’re going to find a lot to love about FanDuel. This is another DFS titan that has quickly shown it’s not a one-trick pony by any means.
If you’ve been around the block enough times, you can tell when a company prioritizes tech and the user experience. FanDuel checks off those boxes and then some. The app is smooth, and we found the betting slip function to be top-notch.
That’s just one of many highlights. FanDuel isn’t shy about ongoing promos, so there’s almost always something extra for you. This has become a go-to destination for bettors in numerous markets, and it’ll be more of the same elsewhere.
- Review: FanDuel Sportsbook
- Bonus: Up to $1,000
- FanDuel is legal in: MI, NJ, PA, IN, WV, CO, TN, IA, IL & VA
3. BetMGM Sportsbook App
The folks behind the sports betting app at BetMGM have a wealth of gambling experience, so that places some lofty expectations on the sports betting offering. BetMGM has met them head on, and its vision of being a big deal in sports betting is being fulfilled as a result.
Odds and lines are on point, and BetMGM goes deep into the well with market offerings. If you like niche sports, then you’ll have a lot to get excited about. Those who prefer to stick with the big market movers will be well taken care of, as well.
The navigation online isn’t quite as smooth as other operators, but you can still get right down to business once you get a handle on the layout. BetMGM has designs on being one of the top destinations for sports betting online, and it’s off to a fantastic start.
- Review: BetMGM Sportsbook
- Bonus: Up to $600
- BetMGM is legal in: DC, VA, MI, NJ, CO, TN, WV, NV, PA, IN & IA
4. William Hill Sports Betting App
Across the pond, William Hill is one of the biggest names in sports betting. Its presence continues to grow here in the US as well. William Hill has a retail footprint in multiple states, and is also available both on the web and via mobile app in several spots.
The company has a wealth of experience behind the scenes, and it shows in its product offerings. The website and app are slick and easy to use. There’s a wide range of betting markets to choose from and all of the bet types you could ask for.
William Hill traces its roots back to 1934. The company has been playing with numbers ever since, so let’s just say that the odds are on point and competitive. William Hill is among those poised to be a major player in US sports betting and is more than worthy of your time.
- Review: William Hill Sportsbook
- William Hill Promo Code: LEGALRF
- Bonus: Up to $500
- William Hill is legal in: TN, VA, IA, MI, NJ, IL, IN, WV & CO
5. FOX Bet Sportsbook App
If you’ve tuned in to any FOX Sports programming, then there’s a real good chance that you’ve heard about this offering. Thankfully, this isn’t just some kind of fancy marketing tool that really doesn’t offer all that much.
It’s the complete opposite.The FOX Bet sports betting app is the real deal. There are tons of tie-ins with network personalities to get you in the door, but once you take the step, you’ll realize that this is a great spot to get in the game.
The interface is clean and smooth, and virtually everything you need is just a click or a swipe away. The USA sports betting industry continues to explode, and FOX is among the media entities going all in. This is one of the cases in which it’s a good thing.
6. PointsBet Sportsbook App
Experienced sports bettors know what they want in a sportsbook, and those new to the game will get there before too long. PointsBet is solely focused on sports betting, and it shows in its product offering.
The Australian-based company has made a successful debut here in the US. Great promotional offerings — such as reduced juice on spread bets — have certainly helped, as has the wide range of market offerings and innovative features.
The PointsBet online sports betting app isn’t available in a ton of markets yet, but it’s on its way to several in the near future. If you’d love to find a spot to play that’s geared toward handicappers while also offering up great promos that everyone likes, this is the spot for you.
7. Unibet Sportsbook App
While new to the US online sports betting market, Unibet brings a wealth of gambling experience to the table. This is an entity with a presence in a number of markets across the globe, and its reach continues to spread on our shores as well.
The sportsbook itself is basic and simple. If you’re the type who prefers lots of ancillary features, then you probably won’t be too thrilled. However, those who just want a simple spot to legally and safely place bets will find that Unibet works fine.
One big bright spot on Unibet is the live betting feature. You don’t need to hunt too far to find what’s going on, as Unibet features it front and center. For an under-the-radar option that could become one of your favorite places to play, check out the Unibet sports betting app.
8. BetRivers Sportsbook App
BetRivers may not be a household name just yet, but this is a platform that has been making some serious noise in sports betting circles. The platform itself is solid, and this is an operator that prioritizes repeat business.
To that end, BetRivers offers up one of the best loyalty programs available for sports bettors. Users can sign up to be a part of iRush Rewards. In a nutshell, you earn points for the bets you place, and you can rise to different tiers as they accumulate.
You can redeem points for things like free bets and other perks. It’s far from the only thing to get excited about with BetRivers, but it’s certainly a huge selling point. If you’re looking for a great place to play that’ll incentivize you to stick around, this is the one.
Alternative option to online sports betting: daily fantasy sports sites
For another option to get some skin in the game, consider daily fantasy sports. The industry is still going strong with a very loyal client base, and there’s plenty of room for new users to get involved.
DFS sites offer all of the major sports and several ways to play. You can take your chances on a contest such as a 50/50, which offers up the chance to nearly double your entry fee, or go for the gusto with a huge guaranteed prize pool tournament.
Some of the GPPs are downright massive, with eye-popping first-place prizes of $1 million. DraftKings and FanDuel remain at the top of the charts. They attract the most users and offer the biggest prizes, but there are smaller alternatives for those looking to mix it up. You can find out more in our DraftKings vs. FanDuel comparison guide.
Sports betting apps and features
Sports betting apps provide users with the luxury of having a real live sportsbook on the go. The vast majority of top operators have a mobile option. Those without an app for iOS or Android in certain markets will generally have their site fully optimized to work on mobile.
After you’ve created an account by using our exclusive links, you’ll be able to download the app right from the operator website. Once that step is done, just log in on mobile and you’ll be all set to go.
In most markets, you can handle everything you need to online, but certain states require in-person registration for sports betting at a retail sportsbook. We’ll have some details on state-by-state requirements in a bit.
To actually place bets, you’ll need to be within state lines. In order to verify that you are, operators use what’s known as geolocation tracking. It’s part of the software that runs in the background after an initial download.
You can manage your account when out of state with the app. For example, those in New Jersey can check their accounts or withdraw funds while in New York, but you’ll have to be back on your home turf when it’s time to place bets.
How to find the best odds and lines
Before placing your bets, it’s always a good idea to take the time to make sure you are getting the best possible prices. The difference between -105 and -110 might not sound like much, but it can absolutely add up over the long run.
A great place to check the prices in multiple spots quickly and painlessly is with our live odds feed. We track the prices at multiple books so you don’t have to, so be sure to bookmark and check back often.
Many of the major operators will be in range for most games, but there will still be ticks of difference here and there. Let’s take a look at the top spots to visit for each of the big four sports.
Best NFL betting sites
The NFL is king on the tube, and the same holds true at sportsbooks. Football attracts the most betting volume, so operators devote a ton of time here.
Top betting sites for the NFL: DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Bet, PointsBet
Best MLB betting sites
During the dog days of summer, MLB rules the sports betting landscape. Moneyline odds can vary by operator, so shopping around is definitely worth it.
Top betting sites for MLB: DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, BetRivers
Best NBA betting sites
Pro basketball takes center stage during the winter months, and interest remains high right through the NBA Finals with spreads and totals attracting lots of action.
Top betting sites for the NBA: DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Bet, PointsBet
Best NHL betting sites
The NHL has seen a good spike in betting attention in recent years. Among the options that have been a big hit is first period betting, which affords handicappers the chance to really zero in.
Top betting sites for the NHL: DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, BetRivers
As mentioned, you always want to make sure you’re getting the best prices on your bets. So how can you make sure that’s the case? The answer is to engage in what’s known as line shopping.
This simply means that you are comparing the odds at multiple books in a bid to find the best deal. For example, checking three operators on an MLB moneyline for a favorite may reveal prices of -120, -125 and -115.
The last option on the list is the best deal, but you may not even know it’s out there if you don’t take the time to check it out. Comparing options is really easy, and that’s even more true when you consider that our live odds feed does the work for you.
Betting futures and props
Beyond finding the best odds and lines, you’ll want to be sure that the online sportsbook you plan to play on offers the full range of bet types. Outside of the standard sides and totals, take a look to see what it has to offer on futures and props.
The futures market continues to grow in popularity right along with the legal sports betting environment. These are wagers you can place on an outcome that won’t be known until down the road, such as the winner of the next Super Bowl or Stanley Cup.
Many operators offer the basic futures on signature events, while others go further. For example, one book might go real deep with futures on the winner of the next NL Cy Young Award or which team will get the top pick in the NBA draft.
Props are additional ways to bet on the games, and many books go all out on this front. If you click through on the individual game listings, you should see the available markets for that event.
When choosing between books, don’t be shy about putting them through their paces. There are some stellar product offerings out there, so you should have little trouble finding several that work best for you.
Are US online sportsbooks safe?
It has been a long and winding road to legalization for sports betting, but many operators were at the ready when that at last happened. While many operators have hung out their shingles, it’s not the Wild West by any means. In order to gain approval in legal states, sportsbooks need to check off many boxes to gain approval.
That can be a tough and rigorous process for them, but we all benefit from it. Those who pass gain the right to open their doors with a stamp of approval from the state.
Once that happens, that means they’re legal, regulated and safe to play on. Your funds will be safe and secure as well, so you won’t have to worry about any funny business going on behind the scenes.
It’s a very different story in the unregulated black market and on offshore sites. We’ll have more on that in a bit.
How to spot a legal sports betting site
While you can now access legal and regulated sports betting sites in numerous states without issue, that doesn’t mean the unregulated ones have gone and disappeared.
They’re still out there, and they’ll be more than happy to take your money to boot. So how can you tell the difference between who is on the up and up and who’s not? Here are a few flags to watch out for.
- An unusual domain name ending, such as .ag or .lv. The legal operators have a .com slapped on the tail end of their address.
- Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies offered as funding options. Legal online sports betting sites stick to the basics such as credit cards and PayPal.
- Odds on markets that can’t be bet on in the US, such as on the presidential election. Legal online sportsbooks won’t take the risk on something they’d get slapped around on.
- Poorly constructed web or app presence, such as long load times or an unusual number of ads. Legit operators invest heavily on the tech side.
When in doubt on an operator, a simple Google search will tell you what you need to know. If you can’t easily find information about the company — or if it has an absolutely atrocious reputation — then it’s time to keep shopping.
Why you should avoid offshore betting sites
While options abound on the legal front in numerous states, offshore betting sites aren’t going away. Many of them also make rather convincing arguments on why you should use them over other available options.
Don’t fall for it. This goes beyond the legal gray areas that they attempt to tiptoe around. There are lots of horror stories out there about offshore sites operating in less than reputable ways.
In fact, there are a number of Reddit threads and online sports betting forums devoted to the topic. Here’s just a sampling of the problems that may arise.
- Bankroll funds that disappear.
- Bonus offers that never clear.
- Payouts that take an ungodly amount of time or simply never happen.
- Operators that completely vanish without warning.
- Getting locked out of your account after winning.
There are a number of other scams out there, but you get the gist. Quite simply, it’s just not worth the head pain. Take your sports betting action to legal and reputable shops and save the headaches for bad beats and close calls.
Online sportsbook bonuses and promotions
In order to attract attention in the crowded marketplace, online sportsbooks offer plenty of bonuses and promotions. These can be one-time things or those of the ongoing variety, and there’s lots out there for the taking. Here’s a quick look at some of the more common ones.
|Bonus Offer||How It Works||Pros / Cons|
|No deposit||Typically a small free bet of $10 or so just for signing up.||Free funds to play with. Need to deposit to continue.|
|Risk free bet||Place your first bet in risk-free fashion, sometimes for as much as $500.||If the bet is a loser, you’ll get a refund for that amount. However, you’ll have to play it through on the site.|
|Deposit match||A match of your initial deposit up to a certain dollar amount.||Nice bankroll booster, but matched funds aren’t eligible for withdrawal.|
|Free play contests||Contests with a nominal prize amount in which you compete against other users.||Good way to try out a site, but a free contest can attract lots of users and be tough to win.|
|Odds boost||Books will boost the odds for certain bets in the favor of bettors.||A chance to earn enhanced returns on bets you may place anyway.|
|Parlay insurance||If you lose one leg on a designated multi-team parlay, you get your bet back.||Good way to mitigate a little of the parlay risk, but the number of total legs required will vary.|
|Score bonus||An offer for extra winnings for certain game events, such as 3-pointers or home runs.||Can be a great way to boost your returns on the games you’ve zeroed in on.|
|Bet guarantee||If you're ahead by a certain point, such as after seven innings in MLB, the bet is automatically a winner.||Another piece of insurance to lean on for the games you plan to bet on.|
Not all operators will offer every single promo, and terms and conditions will vary. To stay on top of current offerings, be sure to regularly check the main betting lobbies and promo tabs for the operators you play on. Also, opt in for promotional offerings when signing up, and follow your preferred operators on the major social media platforms for the latest news.
Online sports betting launch dates by state
The days of sportsbooks residing only in Nevada are long gone. Since 2018, every state in the country has been able to determine its own destiny with regard to sports betting. Here’s the rundown on all the different places in the US where you can wager on sports.
|State||Law Passed?||Launch Date||Mobile Launch|
|Arizona Sports Betting||Yes||Pending||Pending|
|Arkansas Sports Betting||Yes||July 2019||NA|
|Colorado Sports Betting||Yes||May 2020||May 2020|
|Connecticut Sports Betting||Yes*||Pending||Pending|
|Delaware Sports Betting||Yes||June 2018||Pending|
|Florida Sports Betting||Yes*||Pending||Pending|
|Illinois Sports Betting||Yes||March 2020||August 2020|
|Indiana Sports Betting||Yes||September 2019||October 2019|
|Iowa Sports Betting||Yes||August 2019||August 2019|
|Maryland Sports Betting||Yes||Pending||Pending|
|Michigan Sports Betting||Yes||March 2020||January 2021|
|Mississippi Sports Betting||Yes||August 2018||August 2018|
|Montana Sports Betting||Yes||March 2020||March 2020|
|New Hampshire Sports Betting||Yes||August 2020||December 2019|
|New Jersey Sports Betting||Yes||June 2018||August 2018|
|New Mexico Sports Betting||No*||October 2018||NA|
|Nevada Sports Betting||Yes||1949||2010|
|New York Sports Betting||Yes||July 2019||Pending|
|North Carolina Sports Betting||Yes||March 2021||NA|
|Oregon Sports Betting||No*||August 2019||October 2019|
|Pennsylvania Sports Betting||Yes||November 2018||May 2019|
|Rhode Island Sports Betting||Yes||November 2018||September 2019|
|South Dakota Sports Betting||Yes||Pending||NA|
|Tennessee Sports Betting||Yes||November 2020||November 2020|
|Virginia Sports Betting||Yes||January 2021||January 2021|
|Washington, D.C. Sports Betting||Yes||May 2020||August 2020|
|West Virginia Sports Betting||Yes||August 2018||August 2019|
|Wyoming Sports Betting||Yes||Pending||Pending|
*Sportsbooks in Oregon and New Mexico opened due to interpretations of existing laws. Sports betting laws in Florida and Connecticut included new tribal compacts, which require federal approval.
Obviously, this table is not the final list. Many states remain in various stages of the process. As states pass legislation or launch, we will update the table accordingly. Click on any state’s name above to be whisked to our in-depth guide of how things work there.
Unfortunately, the rules and regulations aren’t uniform for each and every state. Certain states allow retail sports betting but not online, while some that offer those two options still require in-person registration. But, while each state has different ideas about what types of bets are allowed (college sports, Oscars, drafts), all legal states have a few things in common:
- All bets must be placed within the state using a licensed sportsbook app.
- High school sports or events where the majority of participants are minors are off limits.
Legal sports betting by state
There is now legal sports betting in roughly half the country. Furthermore, there are a host of other states that are in the process of debating and legalizing their own sportsbooks. Even states that traditionally resist gambling expansion, such as Tennessee and Virginia, are playing host to online sportsbooks these days. So, laying out all the different options for states with sports betting is always a moving target. However, here are the ones we can tell you about:
Online and retail sports betting active
If you want full-service sports betting, there are several states that fit the bill. Many of these states were among the earliest to launch sports betting after the fall of PASPA.
The Land of Lincoln officially joined the ranks of sports betting states in 2020. Unfortunately, the launch was troubled by decisions in both the state’s legislature and law enforcement effort. Oddly, the Illinois law that legalized sports betting created a scheme in which the default position is that the registration and initial funding of an online sportsbook account in Illinois requires an in-person visit.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to spread and cause lockdowns in 2020, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker temporarily suspended the location registration requirement and allowed residents to sign up from their homes. However, Pritzker made it clear that remote registration was not a permanent feature of the market, and Illinois’ sports betting market reverted back to in-person registration in April 2021. Nevertheless, once you get everything set up, you can bet sports online and in-person in Illinois.
Indiana was part of the “second wave” of sportsbook launches that took place in 2019. Although online sports betting was in full swing elsewhere by the October 2019 launch in the Hoosier State, Indiana still managed to be ahead of the curve in terms of its debut.
There’s nothing terribly restrictive or significant about the rule scheme in the Hoosier State regarding betting on sports. You can register through your computer or mobile device and bet on almost anything — even in-state college teams. While the Indiana Gaming Commission maintains veto power over live betting and data sources in sports betting, it is largely a wide-open field among the dozen or so online and retail sportsbooks in Indiana.
Iowa was a bit of a surprise when it launched its sports betting market in August 2019. Unlike other states that have taken six months to a year between legalization and launch (or longer), the Hawkeye State managed to debut sportsbooks a mere three months after Gov. Kim Reynolds affixed her signature on SF 617.
Like neighboring Illinois, Iowa mandated through its law that players must register and make their initial deposits into online sportsbooks in the state in person. But unlike Illinois, Iowa lawmakers wisely set that provision to sunset at the end of 2020. So, it is now perfectly possible to register for an account, transfer money, and place your bets from anywhere inside Iowa. The only thing that you cannot do is make proposition wagers on in-state college teams.
If you need an example of starting with a bang, Michigan’s entry into online gambling and sports betting fits the bill. No other state has ever launched more online sportsbooks on the same day as the Great Lakes State. Ten different apps came online at once, and most of them were representatives of the largest and most prestigious sportsbook brands in the world. Michigan’s launch also made it one of only four states that offer (or will offer) online casinos, poker, and sports betting.
Michigan Gaming Control Board does allow bets on in-state college teams and has given the OK to Oscars betting, too. However, there are no prop bets on college sports at Michigan sportsbook apps.
Nevada is the first state to offer online sports betting in the US. Thanks to PASPA and Nevada’s grandfathered status under federal law, the Silver State enjoyed a monopoly on online sports betting for nearly a decade and a monopoly on sports betting in general for decades. As a result, even though many states are now coming online, Nevada is a key nexus for sports betting in the US because of the collective expertise inside state lines.
However, the Silver State requires players to visit the land-based partner casino of their chosen sportsbook app in person in order to complete their registration. In addition, all deposits and withdrawals must be completed in person. This rule is likely here to stay, since it acts as a protection for the state’s biggest taxpayers (the casinos).
New Hampshire is probably the best example of how to offer sports betting as a kind of state-run endeavor. Instead of issuing a set number of licenses to internal and external sportsbook providers, the state elected to conduct an open bidding process for a single license. After the process was complete, DraftKings emerged as the sole online sports betting provider in the state.
DraftKings had to agree to share 50% of its adjusted revenue with the state as tax. Although this rate is quite a bit higher than most other states, the virtual monopoly means that DraftKings won’t have to worry about any competition. DraftKings also powers the land-based sportsbooks around New Hampshire.
Without New Jersey, there would be no sports betting outside of Nevada. Although the Garden State was not the first non-Nevada state to offer single-event sports betting (Delaware beat them by a week), it is the new center of sports betting in the US. Sports bettors routinely wager close to $1 billion per month on sportsbooks in New Jersey, and the vast majority (more than 90%) of those wagers occur online.
New Jersey has also been the launching pad for many sportsbooks and sports betting features that are now commonplace in the US. Both DraftKings and FanDuel made their bones as sportsbook operators, rather than simply DFS companies, in the Garden State. In addition, New Jersey was the first place in the US to experience the cashout option and one of the first states to explore the possibilities of live betting and Oscars betting.
Oregon is not often mentioned as a full-service sports betting state because of some of the limitations associated with its sportsbook app. Like New Hampshire, Oregon lawmakers chose to keep online sports betting much more “in-house” than other states and placed the entire industry under the control of the Oregon Lottery.
Oregon’s venture into the sports betting world is also unique due to the Beaver State’s claim for its right to offer wagering on sporting events. Oregon was one of only a few states other than Nevada to retain a sports betting product (of sorts) after PASPA became law. Sports Action was a short-lived series of parlay games, and lottery officials used its presence to justify the fact that Oregon did not need to pass a whole other sports betting law. That’s why the Scoreboard app is the only app in the state.
Pennsylvania was the first “big” state to offer online sports betting inside its borders. Like New Jersey, the Keystone State had a sports betting law already on the books when the Supreme Court threw out PASPA. So, launching sports betting was only a matter of creating the rules and licensing companies to operate.
The truth of the matter, though, is that Pennsylvania could’ve been underway even sooner than it was. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board required a $10 million license fee and a 36% tax rate for any online sportsbooks, which caused a months-long delay in the issuance of licenses. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania soon became home to a dozen online sportsbooks. Most sports are on the board for betting, including PA college sports.
West Virginia probably surprised many people with the speed of its launch of online sports betting. The Mountain State was on the forefront of the expansion of gambling post-PASPA, and it probably seemed rather progressive for the unassuming West Virginia.
The launch date of Sept. 1, 2018, is a bit misleading, however. Eagle-eyed observers will note that DraftKings and FanDuel didn’t appear in the Mountain State until 2019, and BetMGM and William Hill only showed up in 2020. Unfortunately, West Virginia became the only state forced to restart its online sports betting after the first app, BetLucky, flamed out in March 2019. However, all’s well that ends well, and online sports betting (along with retail) is in full swing in West Virginia now.
Rhode Island was the first state to take a more state-run approach to sports betting. Sports betting began in November 2018 as a retail operation at the state’s two casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton. Both casinos are owned by Bally’s Corporation, and the sports betting operations in the state are powered by IGT. As of September 2019, both online and retail sports betting are available in the Ocean State.
The lone online sportsbook brand in the Ocean State is the aptly-named Sportsbook Rhode Island. The sportsbook offers betting on most major sporting events but stops short on some of the more esoteric offerings. However, it is a fine-looking site and operates smoothly, so it’s not too bad for being the only option that Rhode Islanders have at home.
Our nation’s capital is also a sports betting destination. Although Washington, D.C., is extremely small in terms of area (18 times smaller than Rhode Island), its more than 700,000 residents and constant stream of visitors make it an ideal location for sports betting. Of course, since it’s DC, sports betting is both oddly organized and complicated.
The DC Lottery oversees sports betting in the district and is the only entity authorized to offer online sports betting across the district. Its GambetDC app is available anywhere inside the boundaries. DC also allows other companies to offer retail and online sportsbooks, but only within designated areas. Unfortunately for lottery officials, DC sports bettors have spurned GambetDC and have been willing to drive to the competing areas of the city. The district is one of the few places where retail sports betting has been more successful than online. The William Hill app operates in a two-block radius around Capital One Arena, and a BetMGM app is anticipated to launch soon (also in a restricted two-block area near Nationals Park).
Montana is a state that flies under the radar for everything except pure, undistilled natural beauty. Its foray into sports betting has largely occupied the same space, with very little fanfare accompanying the launch or its continuing operations. Montana is technically active with both online and retail sports betting, but due to Montana law, its setup is similar to that of Mississippi, where online sports betting is only permitted while onsite at registered sportsbook locations.
Montana kept things “in-house” instead of allowing for a competitive bidding process and competition. The only authorized sportsbook provider is Intralot, which powers both the retail and limited online applications. Intralot includes extremely noncompetitive market pricing. A game that would typically list at -110 is often present on Sportsbook Montana at -118 or above.
Online sports betting active
Tennessee’s entrance into sports betting was nothing short of a shock. After all, traditionally gambling-hostile states without a single casino are not typically receptive to massive gambling expansions. However, in November 2020, that’s exactly what the Volunteer State did when it permitted four sportsbooks to begin offering service online.
The launch was a first in the US precisely because of the dearth of land-based alternatives in Tennessee. Rather than authorize the creation of standalone sportsbook venues, Tennessee lawmakers elected to have the Volunteer State become the very first state in the nation to offer sports betting exclusively online.
Virginia launched its own sports betting market in January 2021 when it permitted FanDuel to begin taking wagers. Like Tennessee, Virginia is not home to any casino locations, but the intent is for retail betting to go live once casinos are built.
Virginia’s legalization and launch is part of a broader movement toward increased gambling options in the state. Along with its sports betting legalization, Commonwealth citizens voted to allow the construction of five land-based casinos in the state — the first five ever to be built in Virginia. So for the time being, sports betting in Virginia is just online.
Retail sports betting active
Delaware’s nickname is the First State, and it’s a fitting name, since it was, indeed, the first state to offer single-event wagering after the demise of PASPA. There are three racinos in the state, and all three are now sportsbook locations. Delaware also legalized online betting, but it is not live yet.
Delaware was one of a handful of states that already had sports betting legal and on the books when the Supreme Court’s gavel came down, and regulators set things in motion as quickly as possible. The era of Nevada’s virtual monopoly ended when Delaware Gov. John Carney placed a bet at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino on June 5, 2018.
Mississippi was the first state in the American Southeast to legalize and launch sports betting. Many of the state’s 32 casinos now have a sportsbook onsite. However, Mississippi has been much slower to adopt the online version of sports betting. The initial state law makes online sports betting legal only while the player is physically on the premises of the casino. So far, efforts to legalize mobile sports betting in Mississippi have fallen short, but there have been multiple attempts during each legislative session. So, there is hope that one of them will stick soon.
New York is certainly the most populous state to offer any kind of sports betting within its borders. The Empire State has allowed its four commercial casinos and some of its tribal casinos to host retail sports betting on their properties since July 2019. Every commercial casino in the state has a sportsbook now, and with the addition of the tribal properties, there are nearly a dozen sportsbooks taking wagers in New York at the moment.
Meanwhile, it looks like NY online sports betting is in the works after months of back-and-forth between lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In April 2021, lawmakers in the state signed off on a state budget that includes the addition of online sportsbooks. The wait now is for rules, licensing, and which apps will sign up for the revenue share format and license fees.
Arkansas’ entry into the sports betting world came as a bit of a surprise for most people. After all, the Natural State enjoys a similar reputation for gambling hostility as most of its neighboring states. However, the last two decades in Arkansas have seen the state undergo a dramatic transformation and expansion, so the debut of sports betting isn’t as unusual as it seems.
Arkansas’ sports betting law did not include any provisions for mobile or online wagering. Sports betting is only permitted at the three (soon to be four) casino locations in the state. There have been several bills to legalize online wagering since the launch in 2019, but none have made it through the legislature so far.
North Carolina likely did not think that it would be a part of the wave of sports betting. There is no comprehensive legislation to enable sports betting outright in the state. For that matter, there are no regular casinos in the Tar Heel State. However, there are two similarly-named tribal casinos that are owned and operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the lone federally recognized tribe in the state. So, the legislature decided to pass a law to allow sports betting at those locations in July 2019.
The tribe managed to open its first retail sportsbook in March 2021. Both casinos, Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, have sports betting operations now. However, the compact does not allow for online sports betting, so sports betting, although certainly active in North Carolina, remains quite limited.
Despite the fact that there was no legislation on the books or active in the New Mexico Legislature, the Santa Ana Star Casino opened betting windows for sports betting in October 2018. The debut secured New Mexico as only the sixth state to have legal sports betting.
The launch became possible due to a disputed claim from the Santa Ana’s ownership, the Pueblo of Santa Ana Tribe. The tribe alleged that since its existing compact with the state permitted the tribe to offer Class III gaming, the Santa Ana could open a sportsbook. Whether sports betting is, in fact, a Class III gaming activity is not completely settled, but it has not stopped the operation at the Santa Ana and it has not dissuaded other tribes in New Mexico from opening four other sportsbooks.
Sports betting legalized but not active
There are several states that have passed legislation that authorizes sports betting inside state lines. Most of these states are now working to promulgate rules for managing the new industries. As they launch, we will have more details about how sports betting works in the states in question.
- Arizona – Legal in April 2021 – Online and retail
- Connecticut – Legal in May 2021 – Online and retail (tribal compact needs federal approval)
- Florida – Legal in May 2021 – Online and retail (tribal compact needs federal approval)
- Maryland – Legal in May 2021 – Online and retail
- New York – Legal in April 2021 – Online only (retail already launched)
- South Dakota – Legal in March 2021 – Retail only
- Washington – Legal in March 2020 – Retail only
- Wyoming – Legal in April 2021 – Online only
Sports betting legislation in progress
There are also several states that are either working a sports betting bill through their various legislative chambers or are having serious discussions about it. Because tracking sports betting legislation is a constantly moving target, we are only listing the states where those issues are taking place, rather than providing a status update. As the bills do or do not progress, we will move these states to the appropriate sections above.
- South Carolina
Make sure to check back with us at The Lines frequently to stay abreast of the latest developments. As we patiently wait to see what’s next, there are a number of operators that are crushing it right now. When you’re looking for new spots to check out, be sure to refer back to our picks for the best sports betting sites of 2021.