For decades, Nevada, the home of Las Vegas, was the only state where you could legally place a bet on a sports game, either online or in a bricks and mortar casino. This is no longer the case as over the last year sports betting has spread like wildfire from one state to the next. It has not done so without opposition however, and the terms and conditions under which betting providers can operate often vary greatly from one territory to the next.
The historical background
All sports betting was banned in the US (with Nevada excepted) under the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This was introduced in response to perceived corruption and gangland involvement in major league sports, though the logic of this was somewhat flawed in that criminalizing sports betting potentially created more criminals, not less.
New Jersey first made attempts to offer legal sports betting in 2013, following a public referendum the previous year that returned in its favor. A bill permitting sports betting at racetracks and Atlantic City casinos was fought vociferously by various sports leagues, finally reaching the Supreme Court. This resulted in the repeal of PASPA as being unconstitutional in May 2018.
The first state to take advantage of the repeal was Delaware, which already offered limited sports betting in casinos. It has, however, yet to license online sports betting. New Jersey legalized online gambling on sports and sports betting in casinos in June 2018. Mississippi legalized sports betting in casinos only on August 1, while West Virginia authorized both online and land-based sports betting on August 30.
In New Mexico, the Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel launched a sports book last October. Sport betting is still illegal in the rest of the state, but because the casino is on tribal land it’s allowed to accept bets under the auspices of the Pueblo of Santa Ana Gaming Regulatory Commission.
PASPA never explicitly outlawed online sports betting as the internet was still in its infancy in 1992. Since it was repealed, states have responded in different ways to this challenge. Pennsylvania legalized land-based sports betting and online betting in casinos in November 2018, but has only just started to license internet sports betting as alongside PA online casino games. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board authorized mobile sports betting from May 2019, with the first sports betting apps expected to be launched over the summer.
Rhode Island legalized sports betting in casinos in November 2018 and has recently cleared the way for online and mobile betting to launch by the end of this year. The most recent state to legalize sports betting is Tennessee, becoming the fourth to do so in 2019. This follows similar moves by Montana, Indiana and Iowa. The volunteer state is unique in that its law only allows online sports betting and does not permit the introduction of casinos into Tennessee.
Over 75% of US states currently have sports betting bills on their books. Michigan passed such a bill in December, but it has yet to become law; other states where legalization looks imminent include Arkansas, Oregon and New York. It looks like sports betting is officially here to stay in the United States.