The world of sports changed on May 14, 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional.
PASPA was enacted in 1992. In the years that followed, online gambling opened a whole new world of access for people who were not able to make regular trips to Nevada (which was exempt from PASPA due to a grandfather clause). Sensing an opportunity to increase revenue, then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie challenged the legality of PASPA on the grounds that it should be up to each individual state to decide its stance on sports gambling, especially since Nevada was able to enjoy the benefits that sports betting had on the state’s budget. After years of legal wrangling, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 in favor or repealing PASPA, arguing that it was in violation of the Tenth Amendment.
“A more direct affront to state sovereignty is not easy to imagine,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito.
Since that day, several states have legalized gambling on sports, while others have various bills making their way through state governments. Our goal here is to keep you up-to-date on where sports gaming stands in each state in the country.
SPORTS GAMING IS LEGAL:
Nevada has been the crown jewel of gambling in America, and that is unlikely to change. Despite now being legal in other states, Nevada still took in a record $581 million in sports bets in November 2018. That led to a revenue of $27 million for the state coffers. It’s been legal to bet on sports in Nevada since 1949, so established rules and regulations in place there will likely serve as templates for other states to follow once they enter the world of sports gaming.
- Read more about Nevada Sports Betting
While New Jersey was the public face of the push to legalize sports betting, “The First State” lived up to its moniker in becoming the first to open legal sportsbooks since PASPA was overturned. Delaware legalized single-game wagers on June 5, 2018.
The state offered some parlay-based sports wagering through the state lottery system that earned it a partial exemption from PAPSA, and now fully-operational sports books are located at the state’s three casinos: Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, Delaware Park Casino, and Harrington Raceway & Casino. Online gambling on sports is legal here but isn’t currently being offered.
- Read more about Delaware Sports Betting
After becoming legal on June 11, 2018, betting locations opened in casinos and pari-mutuel facilities up and down the state, from Atlantic City casinos to the Meadowlands racetrack. Betting is also legal online, but you must physically be in the state to place these wagers. If you drive through the Holland Tunnel, when you emerge in Manhattan, you will be blocked from taking any action with mobile gaming providers.
This provides an unprecedented level of convenience. But with online sportsbooks venturing into uncharted waters, bumps in the road like DraftKings’ disputed contest during the NFL playoffs are likely to occur and will require further regulation from the state.
- Read more about New Jersey Sports Betting
On August 1, 2018, people in Mississippi could place legal wagers on sports for the first time. It’s currently only allowed at land- and water-based casinos. There is a bill currently making its way through the state legislature that, if approved, would legalize online sports betting throughout the state.
- Read more about Mississippi Sports Betting
The Mountain State joined the ranks of sportsbook-friendly states on August 30, 2018. Sports wagering is allowed at five locations: Hollywood Casino, Mardi Gras Casino, Mountaineer Casino, Wheeling Island, and The Casino Club at The Greenbrier. West Virginia also joins Nevada and New Jersey with active online sports gaming options. Betlucky.com is currently in operation, and DraftKings will soon join the fray.
- Read more about West Virginia Sports Betting
The Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel opened a sportsbook on October 16, 2018. Sports wagering has not been legalized by the state, but the casino made the move through a tribal compact. When PASPA was ruled unconstitutional, it paved the way for the casino about 15 miles north of Albuquerque to offer sports betting thanks to the verbiage in the compact with the state. There are currently no bills in the New Mexico legislature that would bring sports gaming to a state level.
- Read more about New Mexico Sports Betting
Pennsylvania is among the states that passed legislation to legalize sports gambling, daily fantasy sports, and online poker prior to PASPA’s demise. The Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course outside of Harrisburg was the first to take bets in November 2018. Sportsbooks in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia soon followed, and many more are on the way.
There were concerns that operators might shy away from Pennsylvania due to the state requiring a licensing fee of $10 million, along with levying a monstrous 36 percent tax rate on revenue (Mississippi’s, for example, is 8 percent). However, those concerns appear to be unfounded, as the books were pleased with the $16 million in wagers taken in December 2018. Right now there are no online gaming options, but they are in development.
- Read more about Pennsylvania Sports Betting
Sports gambling in Rhode Island began on November 26 at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln. The Twin River Tiverton Casino came on board in December. Online wagering is still illegal, but there is a bill that Senate President Dominick Ruggerio submitted that would pave the way for mobile gaming if enacted into law.
- Read more about Rhode Island Sports Betting
SPORTS GAMING LEGALIZED, BUT NOT YET IN PLACE:
New York was among the states that legalized sports gaming, but it has yet to rollout a plan to make it reality. It is expected to be addressed during the legislative session this spring. In 2013, sportsbooks were approved for the state’s four commercial casinos: Del Lago Resort & Casino, Tioga Downs Casino, Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady, and Resorts World Catskills.
It’s expected that lawmakers will try to expand this provision to include the state’s many tribal casinos, race tracks, and off-track betting (OTB) facilities. There’s also a debate on whether the state will allow online gaming. It’s safe to assume, at the very least, that the four locations mentioned above will be operating sportsbooks sometime in the first half of 2019.
- Read more about New York Sports Betting
A statewide referendum on adding sports betting as part of an expanding gambling provision in four counties was passed by voters in November 2018. The amendment calls for the Arkansas Racing Commission to draft rules to regulate the industry, and it must begin accepting applications for legal sports betting on or before June 1, 2019. Wagers here are expected to be taken sometime before Fall in the football-crazed state.
STATES THAT ARE ON THE WAY TO LEGALIZING SPORTS GAMING:
Connecticut is in a tricky spot. It was one of the many states to enact a law to allow sports betting, with it passing the legislature in 2017. So, why can’t you place sports wagers in the Nutmeg State? It has to do with the state’s tribal gaming compacts that cover the Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, both of which are among the nation’s largest Indian casinos.
The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes believe they should have the exclusivity on sports wagering, much like to do for casino gaming. Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen wrote that the compact with the tribes does not account for sports wagering, so the state doesn’t want Indian casinos to hold a monopoly on sports gaming here. Progress on this issue was made in the 2018 legislative session, so there is cautious optimism that these issues will be worked out in 2019.
While not a state, three of the four major sports teams in the region call the District home. In December, D.C. lawmakers passed a bill to legalize sports gaming and now sits on the mayor’s desk for approval. The unique thing here is the proposed law would allow for sportsbooks inside major sporting venues like Capital One Arena (home of the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals) and Nationals Park (home of MLB’s Washington Nationals).
There is also an online component to the bill, but it’s unclear whether it will only operate inside venues that contain a sportsbook. Insiders predict legal sports bets will be taken in time for the start of the MLB season in early April 2019.
STATES TOYING WITH THE IDEA OF SPORTS GAMING:
Arizona filed a bill through their Senate in January 2019 that would call for sports betting in the state’s 24 tribal gaming facilities, along with kiosks in bars and other “licensed liquor establishments,” according to the language in the bill.
There has been some talk of legalizing sports wagering in California, but not as much as you might expect given the size and population of the state. Bills were introduced in prior years, but they went nowhere because PASPA prohibited sports betting on the federal level. No bill has been introduced so far in 2019, but there is an advocacy group that’s pushing to get a proposed constitutional amendment to put before voters on the ballot for 2020.
Hawaii has no legalized gambling (not even a lottery), but a bill introduced in the state House in late January 2019 calls for the creation of the Hawaii Sports Wagering Corporation. It would operate and regulate a sports wagering industry in the state if passed.
Illinois had talks revolving on sports gaming in their legislature in 2018, but no formal votes were taken on any measure. A potential difference-maker for 2019 is new Governor J.B. Pritzker. He’s talked about the state needing to consider legalizing sports betting as a possible way to pay for needed infrastructure projects. A bill called the Sports Wagering Act was filed in the state Senate in late January 2019.
There’s interest among lawmakers for sports gaming in Indiana, but a point of contention is the so-called integrity fee. The NBA and MLB are both in favor of the fee, which would force gaming operators to fork over 1 percent of the handle to certain leagues. The NBA is in favor of the fee – Commissioner Adam Silver referred to it as a “royalty”), while the NCAA is not. Indiana is the proving ground for the fee, so it’s not a surprise that a bill hasn’t passed there. Both the state House and Senate have introduced gaming bills thus far in the 2019 legislative session.
There are promising signs for sports gaming fans in the Hawkeye State. State Rep. Jake Highfill said lawmakers were all-in on a bill in 2018 that would’ve allowed for sportsbooks at the state’s casinos and racetracks, but a vote wasn’t taken since PASPA hadn’t yet been struck down by the Supreme Court. Bills have been filed in January 2019 to allow both sports gaming and daily fantasy sports, but the governor has been lukewarm at best on the issue.
Kansas discussed sports wagering bills in the 2018 session before the Supreme Court decision but took no action. Bills have been introduced in the state House and Senate early in the 2019 session that calls for sports gaming to take place in casinos and bars that offer Keno through the Kansas Lottery.
Kentucky, home to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, has no legal gambling outside of horse racing. A Senate bill calls for the creation of the Kentucky Gaming Commission and would levy a 25 percent tax on net sports betting revenue. There is no online component to the bill.
Louisiana explored the possibility of sports gambling during the 2018 legislative session, but a bill didn’t get passed. While one hasn’t been put forth in 2019, state Senator Danny Martiny told FOX 8 in New Orleans that he’s been working on a bill for the past month. Martiny added that with Mississippi taking bets, Louisiana should be feeling pressure to legalize so they are not losing business to their neighbor to the east.
Maine is taking up the sports gaming issue for the first time in the 2019 legislative session. Several bills are on the table – some would give sports wagering capabilities to casinos in Bangor and Oxford, others would allow tribal casinos to operate sportsbooks, and some try to establish regulations on online wagering. A spokesperson for Senate President Troy Jackson told the Portland Press Herald, “The general idea is to establish a regulatory structure for sports betting in Maine.”
Legalizing sports gambling in Maryland would require a constitutional amendment approved by voters. There is no such initiative yet on the ballot, but lawmakers are hopeful it will be addressed during the ongoing 2019 legislative session. MGM, which owns a casino in the state, is also pushing for legalization since neighboring West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Washington, DC are all either taking wagers or soon will be.
Governor Charlie Baker says he wants legal sports wagering in Massachusetts, so it’s up to lawmakers to come up with a plan in the 2019 legislative session. Five bills have already been filed, accounting for both in-person and online sports betting. The brick-and-mortar sportsbook sites would be limited to existing casinos and slot parlors, and it looks like bets on college sports events would be prohibited. Insiders in Massachusetts are also keeping an eye on neighboring Rhode Island to see how their newly created sports wagering laws fare.
Michigan has seen sports gaming and online gambling bills pass through the legislature, only to be vetoed by then-Governor Rick Snyder (including one in late 2018 that would have allowed internet gaming operators to accept online sports wagers). Snyder was ousted by Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, and she recently took office. While Gov. Whitmer hasn’t taken a public stance for or against sports or online gaming, proponents in Michigan are hopeful for a fresh start with the new governor in 2019.
Minnesota is facing a similar plight as Connecticut, as tribal casinos want the exclusive right to take in sports wagers, while legislators want to open it up to the entire state. There are currently no bills filed that would break this impasse, so the future of gaming in Minnesota is murky.
The Missouri Senate has filed a comprehensive sports betting bill that would allow wagers to take place on riverboat casinos, in-person at licensed facilities, and online. Senator Denny Hoskins told Fox 4 in Kansas City that revenues would go primarily towards education programs, while veteran programs and sports facilities (for capital improvements) would also benefit.
Like Delaware, Montana has had the authority to run certain sports wagering contests even while PASPA was in effect. Now, there are preliminary talks about expanding it to all types of sports betting. Senators warned if legislation is passed during the 2019 session, the law wouldn’t likely go into effect until July 1, 2020. If a law doesn’t get passed in this session, there won’t be sports wagering in Montana until at least 2021, as the legislature there only meets in odd-numbered years.
New Hampshire’s state House filed a bill in late January that would legalize sports wagering at horse tracks and statewide via an online system. Betting on college sports won’t be allowed, even if the bill passes. The fate of the bill will be decided in a hearing in early February.
Casino gaming of any kind is barred in North Dakota, but there is legislation in the state House that would allow charitable organizations to obtain sportsbook licenses. The bill would only allow sports betting during the hours when alcohol can be served, and there is no online gaming component to the bill.
The Ohio legislative session doesn’t begin until February, but there are placeholder bills in the House and Senate that take up the issue of legalizing sports betting. New Governor Mike DeWine told News 5 in Cleveland, “It’s coming to Ohio whether people want it or not. We need to…make sure that we can control it, make sure that we can regulate it.”
Oregon is the fourth state that has some sports gambling provisions through its lottery that was exempt by PASPA because it predated the legislation. A bill that would allow full sports wagering is currently in the House that would allow for the lottery system to offer in-person and online wagering in time for the 2019 NFL season. Betting on NCAA events would be prohibited because the state’s universities receive funding from the Lottery.
Joint resolutions in the House and Senate that would allow sports wagering are making their way through the legislature, but it doesn’t seem to have much support among the state’s power brokers in Columbia.
At the end of January 2019, several South Dakota lawmakers filed a bill that would, like Arkansas, put the decision to legalize sports wagering to the voters. If it goes through, a referendum could be on the ballot in 2020.
A House bill in Tennessee would allow sports gaming, but each local area would have to approve it for it to go into operation in that community. The bill would also create the Tennessee Gaming Commission to regulate the industry, so details on what would and would not be allowed haven’t been determined yet.
Vermont is in the very early stages of considering sports wagering. In mid-January 2019, a House bill was introduced that would create a sports betting study committee. It is awaiting a hearing date in the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs.
Bills that would approve sports gaming in Virginia are making their way through the state’s legislature. One bill would create a new gaming commission and prohibit wagering on college sports. Another would change the name of the Virginia Lottery Board to accommodate sports betting and only prohibit bets for collegiate events taking place inside the state. The latter bill also includes an online component that would be run by the Lottery.
NOTHING ON THE HORIZON:
- Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.