United States Federal Online Sports Betting Legislation
To tell the tale of online sports betting legislation in the United States, we start in Nevada, way back in 1931. On March 19, 1931, Nevada Governor Fred Balzar signed Bill 98 into law, which legalized gambling for the first time in any US state’s history. This put Nevada, and more specifically, Las Vegas, on the path to becoming the sports betting destination we know today.
So why was Nevada the only state in the US where people could legally bet on sports for nearly a century?
First, that’s not quite true. There is one state that had something in common with Nevada: Delaware. While no other state offered legal sports betting until 2018, Delaware featured parlays of three or more NFL games. Still, Nevada was entirely on its own in offering full-scale sports betting.
For the reasons why sports betting remained sequestered in Nevada until 2018, enter the Big Bad in this story: the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, better known as PASPA. In 1992, PASPA – a law put in place by the US federal government in order to curtail corrupt sports gambling – essentially banned sports betting across the US, except in states where it already existed (Nevada and Delaware).
When Congress voted PASPA into law, there was a clause which gave states that operated casinos a one-year window during which they could pass legislation to allow sports betting. Many states with an existing gambling infrastructure, rued the day they failed take advantage of the carve out – for the next 25 years.
Nevertheless, 17 years after PASPA, the battle for online sports betting in the US began. In 2009, Senator Ray Lesniak rallied support to question the constitutionality of PASPA. In 2011, a constitutional amendment that would allow sports betting in New Jersey was given the thumbs up by 64% of voters. Soon after, Lesniak introduced the Sports Wagering Act, the first step toward fully legalized NJ sports betting.
In 2012, NJ lawmakers approved the Sports Wagering Act, which Governor Chris Christie signed into law. Progress stalled, however, when the the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA sued Christie and NJ in order to prevent legalized sports betting.
2013 was a bad year for the fight against PASPA. A judge ruled in favor of the leagues, and PASPA was upheld. Every appeal yielded the same result, and the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear the case.
In 2014, Christie switched tactics by proposing to end the self-imposed ban on sports betting. Christie claimed that because there would be no regulation by the state, it didn’t violate PASPA. He introduced and signed the bill, and by October, 2016, casinos began preparing to launch sportsbooks.
When the professional sport leagues didn’t back down, NJ’s Sports Wagering Act was denied a second time by both the US District Court and Third Circuit Court. In a surprising and encouraging move, SCOTUS agreed to hear the case – a massive turning point for online sports betting in the US.
On December 4, 2017, oral arguments were heard in the officially named Murphy vs. NCAA case. By all accounts, the hearings went extremely well for the pro-sports betting side, and optimism swelled. In May 2018, SCOTUS announced a 6-3 win for Murphy and New Jersey, striking down PASPA once and for all, and paving the way for legal online sports betting in the United States.
State-by-State US Online Sports Betting Update
Below we’ve created an up to date table that includes every state that has some sort of online sports betting.
|State||Sports Betting Legality||Retail / Online||Market Launch|
|New Jersey||Legal & Live||Retail & Online||Jun. 2018|
|West VA||Legal & Live||Retail & Online||Aug. 2018|
|Mississippi||Legal & Live||Retail, online is available on site at casinos||Aug. 2018|
|Pennsylvania||Legal & Live||Retail & Online||Nov. 2018|
|Rhode Island||Legal & Live||Retail & Online||Nov. 2018|
|Iowa||Legal & Live||Retail & Online||Aug. 2019|
|Oregon||Legal & Live||Retail & Online||Aug. 2019|
|Indiana||Legal & Live||Retail & Online||Sep. 2019|
|New Hampshire||Legal & Live||Retail & Online, though retail has not launched||Dec. 2019|
|Illinois||Legal & Live||Retail & Online, though online has not launched||Mar. 2020|
|Michigan||Legal & Live||Retail & Online, though online has not launched||Mar. 2020|
|Colorado||Legal & Live||Retail & Online||May 2020|
|Tennessee||Legal, Awaiting Launch||Online||TBA|
|Virginia||Almost there||Retail & Online||TBA|
For the purposes of this page, we’ll break each state down into the following categories:
UP IN THE AIR – State’s plans regarding sports betting are in flux
PLACE YOUR BETS! – State offers full-scale sports betting, both live and online
HALFWAY THERE – State offers full-scale live sports betting with online sportsbooks pending the approval of state regulations
GETTING CLOSER – State does not yet offer sports betting but is working on legislation and/or regulations
PLACE YOUR BETS!
On October 30, 2018, Tom Wolf signed a sports betting bill into law, leaving only PASPA in the way of legal sports betting in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is typically in no rush to get anything moving but on November 16, 2018, Hollywood Casino took the first legal sports bet in Pennsylvania. Since then, many new retail sportsbooks have opened their doors.
After a series of delays, on June 1st, 2019, SugarHouse PA made history when they launched the first online sportsbook in Pennsylvania. Sites like, Parx, Rivers and the number one online sportsbook in NJ, FanDuel, all went live soon after. Many others would join the action in the months to follow. Pennsylvania is currently one of the busiest regulated sports betting markets in the country.
On March 3, 2018, West Virginia legalized sports betting. When PASPA was finally struck down a few months later in May 2018, the state was in a great position to offer full-scale sports betting – and quickly.
On August 30, the first official sports bet in West Virginia was made at Hollywood Casino Charles Town Races – a $50 wager on West Virginia to win the 2019 NCAA championship game.
West Virginia got its first taste of online sports betting in late 2018 with the BetLucky app, but it ran into service provider issues and was taken down soon after. After a lengthy delay, West Virginia got back in the game with the launch of the FanDuel and DraftKings online sportsbooks in late August 2019.
Each of West Virginia’s five casinos is eligible to host up to three online skins. This relatively small state will have plenty of options for online sports betting.
Indiana sports betting kicked off on Sunday, September 1, 2019. That day, Gov. Eric Holcomb placed bets on the Colts and Pacers to win 2020 championships, and on Indiana’s WNBA team to win their game that night (he lost this bet). Holcomb signed the Hoosier state’s sports gambling bill into law on May 8, 2019.
On October 3, 2019, just a month and two days after retail sports kicked off, BetRivers online sportsbook and DraftKings online sportsbook launched giving Indiana bettors the option to bet from anywhere in the state, including their own living rooms. FanDuel launched its online sportsbook on October 22, 2019 and with 12 casinos in the state, the industry is growing quickly.
Sports betting has legally existed in Nevada since 1931. But it wasn’t until 1982, when the federal government further reduced its tax rate all the way down to 0.25%, that sports betting in Nevada flourished. The modern-era of sportsbooks dawned in 1986 when The Hilton opened its Superbook, full of luxurious seats and equipped with many large TVs. The site is now Westgate, which is now home to what is widely recognized as the best sportsbook in Las Vegas.
Sports betting in Nevada is alive and well, despite PASPA no longer blocking other states. Almost every casino in Las Vegas has a sportsbook, with many of them featuring large, stadium-like areas with massive screens and plush seating areas.
Las Vegas has also embraced the Digital Age, with many sportsbooks offering online sports betting. A significant amount of the sports betting handle in Nevada now comes from online wagering, with sites like William Hill, Golden Nugget, Wynn, Caesars, and BetMGM leading the way.
Iowa online and retail sports betting went live on August 15, 2019, becoming the first state to launch both simultaneously. To place bets online, you can sign up online, but must visit the casino associated with the app you signed up for in order to finalize your registration. The in-person registration requirement will stand until January 1, 2021. After that, customers will be eligible to sign up and wager online.
All of Iowa’s 19 casinos now hold sports betting licenses and can host up to 2 online skins each. Many of the industry’s top operators have already arrived in the Hawkeye State including William Hill, DraftKings, and PointsBet. Iowa is also home to two well run ‘local’ online books – Q Sportsbook and Elite Sportsbook, which are only found in Iowa.
Notably, Iowa does not accept wagers on college prop bets – so you won’t find them offered on betting sheets in the state.
Online sports betting in the United States is now legal thanks in large part to New Jersey and its lawmakers. In May 2018, the SCOTUS announced a 6-3 win in the Murphy vs NCAA case, thus striking down PASPA once and for all and opening up the online sports betting floodgates.
Shortly after the ruling, New Jersey unanimously passed a new sports betting bill and Gov. Phil Murphy signed it into law. NJ sports betting officially went live on June 14, 2018. The Governor officially launched sports betting by placing $20 on Germany to win the World Cup, and $20 on the NJ Devils to win the 2019 Stanley Cup.
According to the bill, NJ online sports betting was legal 30 days after June 14, although DraftKings Sportsbook – the first operator to offer NJ online sports betting – did not launch until August 2018. More than 10 online sportsbooks are available now within the Garden State.
The main betting restriction in the state of New Jersey surrounds in-state collegiate athletics. It’s not legal to wager on any New Jersey colleges (no matter where they’re playing), nor any college game taking place in the state. Thus, events like NCAAF Bowl games or NCAA basketball tournament action hosted in New Jersey are off limits for in-state sportsbooks.
When Governor Gina Raimondo signed off on Rhode Island’s 2018 budget, people took notice that it contained language that would allow retail sports betting, but not online. Retail wagering began in November of the same year at both of the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos.
Rhode Island passed an expansion in March 2019 that includes online wagering. Online sports betting officially launched in the state in September 2019. William Hill is the sole sports betting provider in the state, partnering with the state lottery to run the Sportsbook Rhode Island online book and mobile app.
We’ll list New Hampshire as ‘Place Your Bets’, but it’s really only half there. New Hampshire launched online sports betting in December 2019, but has yet to open retail sportsbooks.
The state took applications for online sports betting licenses, but ended up picking DraftKings to be the lone option. The DraftKings online sportsbook will be the only game in town for New Hampshire bettors.
As of August 2019, sports betting is both legal and live in the state of Oregon. There’s only one online sports betting option though, which is called Scoreboard, and operates through the Oregon lottery. For now, Oregon won’t boast the robust marketplaces we’ve seen in other legal states.
On June 5, 2018, Delaware became the first state outside of Nevada to accept a single-game sports bet when Governor John Carney placed $10 wager on the Philadelphia Phillies to beat the Chicago Cubs.
Delaware has three casinos that offer sports betting – Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington. Currently, there are no legislative details for online sports betting in Delaware. Lawmakers have said they are in no rush to get into the online sports betting market and are focused on ensuring the casino sports books are functioning efficiently. That said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see online regulations begin to take shape in the coming months.
On August 1, the state of Mississippi began accepting sports bets. Sports betting in Mississippi must take place in one if its land or water-based casinos. Beau Rivage, Gold Strike, Sam’s Town, Horseshoe and IP Casino were among the first casinos taking sports bets in Mississippi. In total there are now more than 20 brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in the state.
Currently, gambling and sports betting in Mississippi must take place on the physical presence of a casino. Some casinos have electronic betting, but it is limited to patrons on the premises. It’s likely full fledged online and mobile sports betting in Mississippi will eventually land, but we aren’t there yet.
In 2013, New York passed a law that legalized sports betting at four on-site locations, but the bill stalled due to the presence of PASPA. Even post-PASPA, legislation for legal sports betting in New York has been slow going. 2018 bore no fruit.
2019 finally brought some good news in New York as retail sportsbooks got the go-ahead in January. Rivers Sportsbook at Schnectady and FanDuel Sportsbook at Tioga Downs, plus a number of others began taking bets in-person later in the year. For now, online remains off-limits in NY. Neighboring New Jersey continues to see online wagers make up an enormous portion of its handle, we’ll see if New York can take the hint.
Illinois online and retail sports betting are a go. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed SB 0690 into law on June 28, 2019. It took nearly 9 months of prep, but the state’s first retail sportsbook opened for business on March 9, 2020. Rivers Casino Des Plaines had the honors.
Online sports betting will be available soon, with partnership agreements and license applications coming in quick. In addition to BetRivers with the aforementioned Rivers Casino, PointsBet and Harrah’s are both expected to have a significant online presence in the state. Penn National, and their recently acquired Barstool Sports brand are also rumored to be on the way to Illinois. With such a large population, expect a lot of online competition in Illinois.
Michigan got its sports betting legislation over the line in the dying days of 2019. After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Lawful Sports Betting Act, both online and retail wagering are now permitted under state law. While online betting isn’t likely to begin until 2021, retail sports books have already opened their doors. The MGM Grand Detroit and the Greektown Casino both accepted bets on March 11, 2020, officially opening the market.
Michigan has a whopping 26 casinos, 23 of which are run by federally recognized Indian tribes. The online landscape has already begun to take shape. FOX Bet, William Hill, BetMGM, and PointsBet have already announced partnerships and intent to operate in MI. Many more will follow.
In April 2019, Tennessee passed legislation to allow mobile only sports betting. Originally slated to be a live and online bill, legislators decided that the mobile only option was the best bet for the state. There’s been significant debate surrounding the state’s betting rules, but they were finally locked down in April 2020. Current estimates have legal online sports betting starting between July – September 2020.
Sports betting is coming to Colorado! Colorado voters approved the measure in early November 2019 by a narrow 2.5 percentage points leading to what will be statewide retail and online sports betting. Each of the state’s 33 casinos is eligible to apply for a sports betting license, and host one online skin.
May 1st remains the target launch date for both retail and online Colorado sportsbooks. A bunch of partnerships have already been announced – we know we’ll see all of the following online operators in Colorado: PointsBet, Wynn, BetAmerica, DraftKings, FanDuel, theScore, William Hill, and more.
Virginia is a welcome addition to this list, and one of the biggest surprises of the early 2020 legislative sessions. A bill approving both mobile and retail sports betting arrived on the Governor’s desk in March. In April, Gov. Northam sent it back down with a few common sense amendments that aren’t expected to cause problems. Legal sports betting should get the go-ahead soon.
Virginia has no retail casinos, yet, so it’s likely that online sportsbooks will be faster out of the gate. We’ll update this space as we learn more.
UP IN THE AIR
Neighbors Mississippi and Tennessee are both getting involved, which will ultimately pull revenue across the border. Alabama lis spending all of 2020 studying the potential impact of sports betting in their state, but there seems to be interest.
Connecticut has seen several proposed bills, but nothing is sticking. The state and the local tribes that operate casinos like Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun can’t seem to get on the same page.
Maryland passed a very basic sports betting bill in March 2020 and is hoping to get a referendum in front of voters come November. Due to state law, if it doesn’t happen in 2020, they’ll have to wait until 2022 for another shot. Maryland faces serious competition from Virginia and Washington D.C. who are hoping their sports betting-friendly laws will help pry the Redskins away.
A bill for full online and retail sports betting passed the senate in February ’20, but there’s still a long way to go before this becomes a reality for Kansas.
Kentucky nearly got it done in 2020. The Governor was on board, and the votes seemed in place – but some intense lobbying turned the tide. More support from both sides of the aisle will be needed when they try again in 2021.
Wyoming moved the needle a little bit in February 2020 with a proposed sports betting bill. It’s online only, and doesn’t allow for betting on college sports. Interestingly enough, the proposed age limit is just 18.
U.S. Sports and Sports Betting
Over the years the relationship between sports betting and the major sports leagues in the US has been tenuous, at best. Then NBA commissioner David Stern even testified for the implementation of PASPA, which effectively banned sports betting in the U.S. in 1992. Today, its not just the law that’s changed. Many leagues have come full circle and have embraced sports betting as a new, exciting way to engage with fans. Major sports networks like ESPN and FOX now have regular programming dedicated to sports betting. Let’s have a look at each of the top leagues in the U.S., and their current sports betting stance.
National Basketball Association (NBA)
We mentioned in the intro to this section that former NBA commissioner David Stern testified in favor of PASPA in the early 90s, fearing the impact of sports betting on his league. However, his successor has had the opposite effect. Soon after taking over as commissioner from Stern, Adam Silver published an opinion piece in the New York Times calling for the legalization of sports betting. With a look to the future, Silver saw the potential impact of a regulated sports betting market on the NBA.
The NBA now has official authorized sports betting partners that include DFS/sports betting titans like FanDuel and DraftKings, digital media company’s like theScore, famous online gaming operators like Unibet and Stars Group, and traditional B+M giants like MGM. It’s a night and day difference from the Stern-era NBA.
The NBA has been one of the leading advocates for integrity fees. With an integrity fee, the sports betting operators essentially pay the league a percentage of their revenue in exchange for official licensing materials and data. The NBA can then use those funds to more closely monitor sports betting and its impact on the league.
National Football League (NFL)
The NFL is the most popular sport in the country by a wide margin and where it goes, others will follow. TV agreements prevented the slightest mention of sports betting during broadcasts for years, but that’s over. Announcers are now able to organically discuss betting as they see fit. In addition, 2020 will be year 1 for the Las Vegas Raiders. One of the league’s oldest franchises has left Oakland behind for a shiny new stadium just off the Vegas Strip. A partnership agreement with MGM was announced on the teams first official day as a resident of Nevada.
On the east coast, Redskins Owner Dan Snyder has created a legislative arms race in the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia). Snyder wants the teams new stadium to be a licensed sports betting operator, which has prompted the entire region to aggressively pursue legislation in hopes of landing the team. The writing is on the wall – retail sportsbooks will be coming to NFL stadiums in the very near future.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
Betting scandals have loomed over baseball’s head for more than 100 years. In 1919 the White Sox allegedly threw the World Series in exchange for cash from an underground gambling syndicate. With sports betting now in vogue, the league has been strongly in favor of integrity fees to help prevent any future issues with additional investment in security.
Similar to the NBA, Major League Baseball has now partnered with numerous sports betting companies. FanDuel, FOX Bet, and MGM have all signed on with the league.
National Hockey League (NHL)
FanDuel, MGM, and William Hill are now official partners of the National Hockey League. Like with the basketball and baseball, they can use official NHL data and marketing tools.
The NHL was also the first professional sport to bring a team to Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Golden Knights made their debut in 2017 and greatly increased the overall sports betting handle for the league. The Knights paved the way for the NFL’s Raiders, who are now moving in to a brand new facility just a mile up the road. The NHL has transformed Las Vegas into one of the most relevant sports cities in the country.
College Sports (NCAA)
College sports are some of the most popular events to wager on, but unfortunately the NCAA isn’t the biggest fan of sports betting. PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act sought specifically to protect amateur college athletes from any unwanted pressures that may come about from illegal wagering.
As an added safety measure, some states have begun building restrictions on college wagers into their betting rules. For example, in New Jersey you can’t wager on any local, in-state college teams – no matter where the game is taking place. Similarly, you can’t bet on any college events taking place inside the state. Not every state has taken such extreme measures, but it’s not uncommon to see strict rules on college wagering.
The NCAA has backed off a bit from its whole hearted opposition of sports betting. In 2019, as more and more states began to legalize, it removed its ban on any championship games taking place in states with legal sports betting.
United States Online Sports Betting FAQs
Is sports betting currently legal in the United States?
As of May, 2018, when the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA, individual states are free to pass sports betting legislation.
Thus far, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia, Delaware Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, New York, and Mississippi have launched legal and regulated sports betting.
Where can you bet on sports in the United States?
The first avenue for a state to get into the sports betting market is thru its existing land or water-based casinos. Any state looking to legalize sports betting will start with brick and mortar sportsbooks.
From there, mobile apps and online sportsbooks will follow, much to the delight of bettors everywhere. However, there are two main hurdles for online sports betting in the United States.
First, states must determine online sports betting license fees, tax rates and regulations. Some states are flying through this process while others, like New York, are struggling.
The other thing sports fans and bettors should know is that due to the Federal Wire Act of 1961, online sportsbooks are prohibited from accepting out-of-state wagers. Sports betting in each individual state is completely tethered to its lawmakers and regulators, which is why it’s so important keep up to date with the latest news, like what we’ve got here at RotoGrinders.
Which US states currently have online sports betting?
Nevada has many sports betting apps, but accounts and deposits are tied to physical casinos.
The states that have full online and live sports betting include Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, West Virginia, Oregon, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Iowa. More states are on the way soon, expect Illinois, Tennessee, and Colorado – and potentially others – to launch before the end of 2020.
What kind of sports bets are legal to place in the US?
The following types of bets (and more!) are commonly accepted in US states with regulated sports betting:
Do DFS sites offer sports betting?
Yes, both FanDuel and DraftKings have online sportsbooks up and running in many states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia.