Where States Stand on Sports Betting One Year After PASPA

Where States Stand on Sports Betting One Year After PASPA

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act on May 14, 2018, has changed the American sports betting landscape.

As we hit the one-year anniversary, Gambling.com looks at the impact of PASPA’s repeal, where sports betting stands in America and what the future holds.


It may have been a slow start to legal sports wagering expansion in 2019, but recent developments have reaffirmed the industry’s potential in the U.S. this year – and in the not-too-distant future.

Sports betting legislation is coming off its most significant month yet in the days immediately preceding the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to strike down the federal ban on sports betting. Three states signed sports betting bills into law this month and a fourth will do so before the end of May.

Exactly one year since the court allowed states to pass their own sports betting laws, eight are taking bets and seven more (plus Washington D.C.) are expected to do so in before the end of 2019.

Significant work remains ahead of legislatures in the 35 states without legal betting bills. A handful will likely not pass gaming legislation in the coming years, or maybe coming decades. But the majority of the nearly three-dozen jurisdictions without legal wagering seem more inclined than ever to do so.

With a federal solution increasingly unlikely, sports betting will continue to be legislated on the state level. Here’s what happened in the year since the Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) violated the anti-commandeering clause of the constitution, which permitted the current sports wagering revolution.

Early Adopter Recap

It wasn’t always easy, or even expected, for the eight states to take legal wagers last year. Nevertheless, this vanguard paved the way for wary states to follow, and benefit.

  • Nevada was the only state allowed to permit single-game wagering grandfathered under PASPA. The foundation point for most other states considering betting, Nevada has not been slowed by growth in other states – its recent monthly revenue totals have been some of the largest in state history.
  • New Jersey led the multi-year legal struggle to repeal PASPA, but wouldn’t be the first state to take a bet after the repeal. Delaware, which had a limited sports betting exemption under PASPA, took that honor in June 2018, and for a while was the most lucrative sports betting market outside Nevada.
  • That would not last long. New Jersey, on the backs of a mobile market, took its first wager a few weeks after Delaware and has since taken more than $2 billion in wagers, becoming the largest market outside Nevada.
  • Mississippi, West Virginia and Pennsylvania all passed laws to permit sports betting should the federal law be removed. It wasn’t always a smooth process, but Mississippi and West Virginia would take bets by Sept. 1 and Pennsylvania would do so in November.
  • Rhode Island was the first state to legalize sports betting post-PASPA without a pre-existing bill or exemption, doing so as part of its budgeting process. Taking its first bet in November, the state has failed to meet revenue expectations and lawmakers permitted online wagering earlier this year. The state will take its first mobile bet sometime in 2019.
  • New Mexico proved the most shocking sports betting jurisdiction post-PASPA, taking bets even without an act from its legislature. Representatives from state casinos interpreted the existing gaming compact permitted New Mexico facilities to take bets once PASPA was repealed and have done so without interference from the state government since October.

The Next Wave of Sports Betting States

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be a key figure in a major sports betting market

The eight jurisdictions taking bets did so after lawmakers passed laws before the federal ban was struck down or through some sort of exemption. 2019 brought the first statehouses to take up a bill and pass it into law from scratch.

  • Before any state legislature met in 2019, Arkansas voters approved sports betting in November 2018 through a ballot measure. The Natural State is finalizing regulations now and will take it first legal wager sometime this year.
  • New York will also take a bet sometime this year, but will do so thanks to a law passed way back in 2013. Voters approved four commercial casinos that year and the right for them to take sports bets should the federal ban be repealed. State officials didn’t take up necessary regulations until this year, but New York should take a bet sometime this year. Lawmakers are also considering mobile provisions, but these will be far less simple.
  • Washington D.C. was the first jurisdiction to approve sports betting in 2019, enabling a controversial plan that permits online betting under a de facto monopoly run by the city lottery. The District will take its first bet sometime this year.
  • Oregon, another state with a limited PASPA exemption, is finalizing sports betting regulations and also expects to take bets sometime this year.

Four state legislatures have approved sports betting this year in a more traditional manner, all introducing bills as part of their respective legislative sessions with three signed into law by the governor. The fourth will pass without a signature and a fifth is poised to go before voters this fall.

  • Montana was the first state to break the sports betting ice in 2019 after Gov. Steve Bullock signed a legalization bill earlier this month. Without true mobile provisions, and with the state’s small population, Montana sports betting will likely have a negligible impact on the overall legal market.
  • That won’t be the case in Indiana. The Hoosier state approved a robust bill that permits mobile betting from any eligible player within state lines. A centrally-located state with high-profile professional and collegiate sports teams, Indiana could quickly become one of the more consequential and lucrative markets once it takes its first bet sometime this year.
  • Iowa largely replicates the Indiana model with mobile access for eligible bettors (though they’ll need to first register in-person at one of the state’s licensed gaming facilities until 2021). The Hawkeye State could push its regional neighbors to follow suit.
  • Maybe the most unlikely sports betting state, Tennessee unexpectedly pushed forward an online-only sports betting bill. It’s the only state without casinos or other traditional gaming facilities to approve sports wagering, and could pave a way for other conservative, traditionally gambling-skeptic states to do the same.
  • Voters in Colorado will likely decide if they want sports betting in their state. The legislature passed a ballot measure for this upcoming fall’s elections and indications seem unlikely Gov. Jared Polis will use a veto to prevent it from doing so.

Candidates for the End of 2019

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards will likely approve a gaming bill if passed later this year

The May flurry of sports betting bills may be tough to top, but they should not finish the year alone. A handful of additional states are still considering action and, as we’ve seen with the first 12 months of legal sports betting, the unexpected can still happen.

  • Louisiana, which was one of the few states still in its legislative sessions when PASPA was struck down last May, tried to pass a sports betting bill but couldn’t cross the finish line. With a major election coming up this fall, Bayou State lawmakers don’t want this to happen again. A bill to place a ballot measure before voters in October has already passed the state Senate and awaits a key vote in the House.
  • North Carolina is another surprise entrant on this list, but its chances now are better than most other states. A limited bill that would only permit sports bets within the confines of the state’s two casinos overwhelmingly passed the Senate and seems to have a good prospect in the House. Even this comparatively minuscule measure would be a big deal in a state traditionally opposed to most forms of gaming.
  • New England neighbors Maine and New Hampshire are both weighing sports betting bills, each of which seem to have strong bipartisan support from lawmakers in the respective statehouses. Either or both states could have a final bill as soon as the end of the month.

Additional honorable mentions go to Michigan, Ohio,Massachusetts and Illinois. All four states are negotiating complex bills trying to balance multiple gaming factions. Though none are a sure bet to pass this year, all represent heavily populated states with high-profile sports teams and each individually would represent a dramatic new opportunity for the industry.

Looking Ahead to 2020

Assuming the 20 or so of the states mentioned above start taking bets next year, expect up to another two dozen states to at least introduce bills to follow suit as early as 2020. Many of the states not included above have complex negotiations with gaming groups to weigh, little political appetite to pass a bill or state constitutional limitations that can derail legislation, meaning states such as California and Florida (which have to wade through all these aforementioned concerns) may take several more years to place a bet.

But while the nation’s three most populated states (California, Florida as well as Texas, which remains staunchly anti-gambling) may not gain much momentum in 2020, the continuing groundswell of momentum means they should be in an increasingly smaller pool of jurisdictions.

Of the dozen or so states most likely to pass a bill in 2020, Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky are probably the most likely to do so. All three were considered early favorites in 2019, but all three ran out of time to finish a bill before their respective sessions ran out. When lawmakers reconvene in their respective state capitals next January, they will do so with nearly every state surrounding them already taking bets.

That list is far from exclusive. Almost every state has already introduced a sports betting bill already. With each state taking bets, the pressure only increases on the others to do so.

2019 will almost assuredly see at least 16 jurisdictions taking bets in some capacity, and it won’t be surprising to see that figure top 20.

By 2020, more than half of all U.S. states will likely be taking legal sports bets, meaning there will be more momentum than ever for the remaining hold outs to do so as well.


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