Is sports betting legal in the USA?

In short, yes, sports betting is legal in the USA. Given that the USA is separated by 5 states and all running different laws for sports betting however, this legal status is not yet the case for the majority. Sports betting laws are being relaxed at an alarming rate right now, but it’s still important to be aware of where you can actually place sports wagers from.

After all, it’s always a good idea to stay on the right side of the law, which is why we have put this post together so that you can gamble legally and safely.

A brief history of legal changes concerning sports betting in the USA

We are sure that most of you are aware of Las Vegas – the gambling capital of the world. Vegas has long been a glamorous and somewhat idealized location for sports bettors and casino gamblers alike. However, while sports betting has been permitted within the physical Las Vegas casinos for a long time, it’s still a battle to get legal sports betting online in the state of Nevada.

On the subject of online sports betting, which is primarily what we will be referring to throughout, this battle is raging across America right now. Sports betting was first approved as an online activity in 2018, in New Jersey. Brands like FanDuel and DraftKings fought hard to bring sports betting to the masses in an online space, and well, they were successful.

This was a truly pivotal moment for sports betting in the USA. It’s also been a topic of discussion for years, especially considering that betting on sports has been perfectly legal in other countries around the world – literally for centuries in places like the UK. In 2020, it would seem like the USA is catching up however, as sports betting is now becoming accepted in many different states around the nation.

The thing is, it’s not a straightforward process for states to legalize sports betting. It has to be brought to the attention of higher governing officials, then a bill must be passed, and then, of course, the sports betting providers must also establish an online platform in the state. This takes time, and it’s just a process that we all must sit through, unfortunately.

States where sports betting is approved

Okay, now we’re getting to the key information that you are no doubt searching for. Where can you bet legally on sports in the USA, and how do you actually do it? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in the information below.

At the time of writing, sports betting has been fully legalized in 17 different states. Here’s a snapshot of some of these states below:

  • West Virginia
  • Iowa
  • New Jersey
  • Colorado
  • Pennsylvania
  • Michigan
  • Illinois
  • New Mexico

Note that this list isn’t comprehensive, and a complete list can easily be obtained through a quick online search. When we say legalized too, we mean that sports betting can be done both in physical casinos and online. There are some states that are stuck somewhere in the middle, and other states where a bill has been passed but not approved (which we will get to).

Interestingly, there are just 3 states across the USA right now where a bill to legalize sports betting has not even been put forward. These states include Idaho, Utah, and Wisconsin.

If you do live in one of the states where sports betting has been fully legalized, you can easily set up an online betting account. There will be numerous online sports betting providers in your state that are offering access to markets right now, and to sign up takes just a few minutes.

Another incentive is that most sites will offer a pretty juicy welcome bonus too, meaning that you can extract quite a bit of value just by opening an account.

States where sports betting could soon be approved

As we’ve shown above, sports betting has been legalized in 17 different states right now, yet there are some exciting moves being made in several other states. In fact, a bill has already been passed in 5 states where sports betting is not yet fully legalized. You can see these 5 below:

  • Washington
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • District of Columbia
  • Virginia

Since a bill has been passed in these states, it really could be just a matter of months before full access to online sportsbooks become available. Of course, nobody can predict exactly when this will be, we can simply make informed predictions based on the activity of the governing officials of each individual state.

Here’s the good news, getting a bill passed through the senate is by far the longest step in the process. As we stated previously, a bill has been forward in every single state bar 3 as things stand in 2020, which means that there’s a whole lot of states that have put forward a bill, yet it hasn’t yet come through. It’s obviously quite an agonizing wait for people in those states who absolutely love sports betting, yet the senate then drags their heels with passing the bill.

We would like to also stress that it’s never certain how many sportsbooks will enter the market once legislation has been fully approved. There are numerous factors for a sportsbook to consider such as the setup costs, taxes, and in some cases, whether there is a bit of a monopoly for gambling in a state already.

These are all factors that can affect how each individual state responds to changes in sports betting laws, yet it’s truly an exciting time if you do live in one of the 5 states mentioned above!

Sports that you can bet on right now

With the legalization of sports betting in numerous states across the USA, the gloves are well and truly off for online sports betting. You can largely bet on sports completely unrestricted in states where it has become fully legalized, although you are limited to the sports that your chosen provider actually covers. Here’s what you can expect to be able to bet on:

  • NHL
  • NBA
  • NFL
  • MLS
  • NCAA
  • MLB
  • Tennis
  • Soccer (European)
  • MMA
  • Boxing
  • Horse racing

We’d like to stress again that this list is by no means conclusive either. This list merely shows the more popular and more common sporting leagues that can be found with online sportsbooks. There are many other factors to assess when betting on these sports too, such as how competitive the odds are, the range of markets, whether mobile betting is supported, and so much more.

The good news is that since sports betting is obtaining approval in so many states right now, it means more brands entering the market, and more options for you as the end customer. We’ve even seen major European betting brands such as Bet365, William Hill, and Unibet has entered the market in recent years, which shows that the sports betting market in the USA really is primed for takeoff.

As exciting as this all might be, we do need to cover the legal side of sports betting from the customer's perspective too.

Fundamental sports betting laws in the USA

Sports betting providers are only concerned with where sports betting is legal, and where they can set up for business. You, as the end customer, on the other hand, must understand the sports betting laws that apply and stick to them at all times. We’ve identified some of the fundamental laws for you below:

Legal gambling age

In the overwhelming majority of states, the legal gambling age is 21, which includes gambling on sports, not just casinos. This means that when you are opening an account with an online betting provider, you must provide your date of birth to confirm your age. This is always cross-referenced by betting sites too, and you may be required to scan through a photo ID just to verify your account details.

Geolocation

This is a big one, and it’s often one of the laws that people forget about. You are now aware that sports betting is only legalized in certain states across the country, which can get tricky if you tend to travel around. All online sportsbook sites use something known as geolocation technology, which essentially confirms your location before you can make a sports bet.

For example, if you sign up with a sports betting site in New Jersey, yet you then try to make a bet from your online account while you are based in Florida, your bet won’t be accepted. This law often stumps a lot of people, so just keep it in mind when you are betting.

Betting on college events

This can be quite a dicey one, and it varies greatly from state to state. There are many states that permit betting on college events, but likewise, there are many states that have absolutely prohibited it. Rather than scroll through the small print and legislations associated with this law for all states, just check whether college betting markets are available with an online provider before signing up.

If you see that they are available, you can be sure that they are legal in your state. However, there is a key thing to keep in mind. Even if betting on college sports is supported in your state, don’t expect to be able to bet on your local college sports teams. This is often strictly prohibited due to the potential of external people influencing the outcome of a game for their own financial gain. The logic is that if you are based in the same state of a college competing in a major event, you may have personal access to these players to influence the outcome. You can still bet on colleges based in other states however, which is particularly useful for events such as March Madness.

Betting on high-school sport – prohibited

This might be obvious, but we should stress it nonetheless. High school betting markets are absolutely prohibited at any online sportsbooks, for many different reasons. High school sport is largely unregulated for a start, making it impossible to ensure the authenticity of the outcomes of a game. Of course, we all know that high school sport is largely innocent and the outcomes are genuine, but when money gets involved, things could get ugly in an unregulated market.

On top of this, high school sporting events involve players who are under 18, and would be classed as minors in the eyes of the law. As sad as this is to say, this would make it somewhat easier for someone who wanted to abuse online betting by manipulating a player into altering the outcome of a game.

The bottom line is that high school betting is banned, and if any site is trying to offer markets for it, stay well away!

So, where does sports betting in the USA go from here?

Well, we cannot predict the exact course of action that will take place concerning sports betting in the USA. What we will say however, is that things are looking very promising indeed for sports betting across the nation. There is an overwhelming sense that sports betting is now accepted among the general community, and this is reflected in the drastic changes we’ve seen in states all over the country.

Ever since New Jersey proved to the country back in May 2018 that the legalization of sports betting was a real and possible opportunity, things have just gone from strength to strength. We can see many major betting brands in the market today like DraftKings and FanDuel, and more brands are joining the party all the time. This will ultimately result in plenty of bonuses on offer for sports bettors, and of course, a greater variety of choices when it comes to searching for a suitable betting provider.

We really could be just a few years away from seeing the full legalization of sports betting nationwide, and that is something that just didn’t seem to be on the radar just a few short years ago.

Summary: State by State betting & gaming legislation

StateHorse RacingSports BettingFantasyCasino
AlabamaYNYN
AlaskaNNYN
ArizonaNNNN
ArkansasYNYN
CaliforniaYNYN
ColoradoYYYN
ConnecticutYNYN
DelawareYYYY
FloridaYNYN
GeorgiaNNYN
HawaiiNNYN
IdahoYNYN
IllinoisNNYN
IndianaYYYN
IowaYYNN
KansasYNYN
KentuckyYNYN
LouisianaYNNN
MaineYNYN
MarylandNNYN
MassachusettsNNYN
MichiganYYYN
MinnesotaYNYN
MississippiNNYN
MissouriNNYN
MontanaYYNN
NebraskaYNYN
NevadaNYNN
New HampshireYNYN
New JerseyNYYY
New MexicoYNYN
New YorkYNYN
North CarolinaNNYN
North DakotaYNYN
OhioYNYN
OklahomaYNYN
OregonYNYN
PennsylvaniaYYYY
Rhode IslandYYYN
South CarolinaNNYN
South DakotaYNYN
TennesseeYYYN
TexasYNYN
UtahNNYN
VermontYNNN
VirginiaNNYN
WashingtonNNYN
West VirginiaYYYN
WisconsinYNYN
WyomingYNYN
D.CYNYN
Puerto RicoYNNN
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