Legalized sports betting in the US was a slow process, first battled in courtrooms, then in state legislatures. But now sports betting has all the momentum, having launched live or online in 14 states entering 2020 with several more states expected to come online soon. When given a choice, sports bettors clearly prefer to place their wagers online than at land-based sites. That means players must choose between an ever-growing selection of online sports betting websites, but deciphering the best ones can be a difficult task. That’s where Gambling.com can become a valuable resource.
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Sports betting in the United States was a long time coming, but it has been wildly successful. At this point, more than half of the states have made sports betting legal. Billions of dollars are being wagered annually, and that number will rise as more states take advantage of the opportunity.
The first form of legal online sports betting in the United States was horse race wagering, and it started at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey in the 1830s. These were standardbred races, and the first thoroughbred track was Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. This venerable venue opened its doors for the first time in 1838.
Illegal bookmakers started taking wagers on professional baseball games in the middle of the 19th century, and there wasn’t much of a stigma attached to it at first. As time went on, moralists started to impose their will in many areas, and the activity became more clandestine.
This was the status quo for more than 50 years, but the ice was broken in 1949 when sports betting was legalized in Nevada. In 1992, a federal law that prohibited sports betting in all states except Nevada was enacted by Congress and signed into law by the president.
There were a series of betting scandals that rocked the sports world during the late 1970s and 1980s. A point-shaving scheme by some Boston College basketball players was uncovered, and the Pete Rose baseball betting debacle was the last straw for a lawmaker from New Jersey.
Bill Bradley was considered to be the best college basketball player in the country during his senior year at Princeton, and he went on to play for the New York Knicks. He went into politics after he retired from college sports, and he was a United States Senator that represented New Jersey from 1979 to 1997.
Since he was a former pro and college athlete, he had a vested interest in what he perceived to be the integrity of the games. As a response to the spate of sports gambling incidents, he introduced the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), and it was enacted in 1992.
It placed a prohibition on sports betting, but a grandfather clause allowed sports gaming to continue in states that already legalized online sportsbook operators. Nevada was the only state with full-scale sportsbooks, and Montana, Delaware, and Oregon had sports lotteries that were grandfathered in.
Bill Bradley was from New Jersey as we have stated, and ironically, lawmakers in his home state began the push for an elimination of the federal prohibition on sports gaming. In November of 2011, voters in New Jersey approved of a referendum to legalize the activity.
It was approved by a two-to-one margin, so the level of support was significant, and why not? People were betting on sports through underground bookmaking syndicates, so the prohibition was not stopping people from making wagers.
Legalization and regulation would create jobs and generate tax revenue, and sports bettors would not be subject to intimidation and draconian collection tactics.
Despite the will of the people, the four major sports leagues in the United States and the NCAA filed a lawsuit to block sports betting in New Jersey. Lawyers for the state contended that the PASPA law was unconstitutional because it violated the 10th Amendment.
The court found in favor of the leagues and the NCAA, and an appeals court concurred. New Jersey lawmakers took a different approach in light of the court’s comments, and they passed a new legalization law in 2014.
Once again, the court ruled against the state, but the door was open to an appeal to the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land agreed to hear the case in 2017, and on May 14, 2018, they struck down the PASPA. Six of the nine Justices found that the law did in fact violate the 10th Amendment. This provision gives states the right to make their own laws without federal interference under most circumstances.
Delaware was the first state to legalize sports betting after this ruling. The state was in a position to act quickly because of the existing law that allowed sports lotteries, so the initial wagers were taken on June 5, 2018. New Jersey followed suit about a week later.
At the time of writing in October of 2021, sports betting is legal in 27 states and the District of Columbia, and a number of others are on the cusp of legalization.
Online casinos first appeared on the internet during the early 1990s, and online sports betting emerged in 1996. Like everything else on the net, the gaming industry evolved, and more and more online sportsbook operators entered the marketplace.
Since it was unregulated and the companies were physically located outside of the United States, there were risks involved, and some online sportsbooks developed bad reputations.
In addition to the online sportsbook sites and online casinos, there were some very popular, completely reputable poker sites. ESPN started providing in-depth coverage of the World Series of Poker in 2003, and this helped to supercharge the enthusiasm for online poker in the US and worldwide.
Since the internet was a relatively new phenomenon, online gambling existed in a gray legal area. However, all that changed when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 was enacted.
It did not expressly prohibit online gambling per se, but it made the facilitation of monetary transactions related to internet gaming illegal. It took five years, but this led to the infamous “Black Friday” for online poker sites in 2011.
People that logged into their accounts at popular poker rooms were greeted with ominous FBI messages instead of friendly lists of games and tournaments.
American players could continue to access offshore sports betting sites after this law was put in place, but funding presented a challenge. Bitcoin provided somewhat of a solution, and there were wire transfer options and conventional methods that had spotty success.
Of course, the playing field changed when a Supreme Court ruling erased the Sports Protection Act from the books. The first legal online sports bet post-PASPA was placed in New Jersey in August of 2018.
At the time of this writing, 16 of the 27 states that have legalized sports betting allow online sportsbooks, and mobile wagering is permitted in Washington, D.C.
The states that have legalized sports betting at the time of this writing are listed below in the legalization date order. According to the latest sports betting news, it will continue to grow, and we will always provide updated information whenever it becomes available.
As we have stated, the first legal sportsbook outside Nevada was opened in Delaware shortly after the fall of the PASPA law. There are only three live betting sportsbooks in Delaware, and they are located in the horse racing tracks in the state.
People in Delaware cannot bet on sporting events online at the present time, but the law allows for the future implementation of sports betting apps and mobile play.
The revenue generated from sports betting in New Jersey exceeded all other states in 2020, including Nevada. You can place wagers at physical sportsbooks in Atlantic City casinos and horse tracks, and there 20 different sports betting sites.
The Magnolia state has taken advantage of this window of opportunity, allowing retail sports betting in Mississippi throughout the licensed casinos. Mobile wagering is not available outside of the gaming venues.
There are brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in the West Virginia horse tracks and The Greenbrier, which is a private resort. Online sportsbook betting is permitted statewide.
New Mexico has Native American casinos that operate under compacts with the state in accordance with the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Under the terms of the compacts, they have been allowed to open sportsbooks at their gaming facilities.
Online sports betting is not permitted, and sports bettors cannot wager on college football or similar games that involve schools located in New Mexico.
In November of 2018, the sportsbook at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course opened its doors. There are sportsbooks in the casinos, and mobile sports betting apps in Pennsylvania are legal and very popular.
There are two casinos with sportsbooks in Rhode Island, and the Lottery Commission is the regulatory body. The brick-and-mortar sportsbooks opened in November of 2018, and the initial state legalization law was altered to allow mobile sports betting the following year.
There are land-based sportsbooks in Arkansas at the Saracen Casino Resort, Southland Casino, and the Oaklawn horse racing track and casino. There is no online sports betting in AR, and you cannot bet on college games that feature in-state teams.
The Empire State joined the group on July 16, 2019, when retail betting sites went live in casinos upstate. New York sports betting online has been legalized, and it is expected to be launched in 2022.
There are 18 brick-and-mortar casinos with sportsbooks in Iowa. Statewide mobile sports betting is live, and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is the licensing body.
The Chinook Winds Casino Resort was the scene of the first legal Oregon sports bet after the Supreme Court struck down the PASPA statute. This was in August of 2019, and online sports betting is legal and live as well.
Since the Oregon sports betting lottery games were grandfathered in when PASPA was originally enacted, the legislature did not have to pass any additional legalization laws.
The state has fully embraced both land-based and mobile sports betting in Indiana . There are sportsbooks in the casinos and racinos, and there are more than a dozen different online betting sites.
There are currently two land-based sportsbooks up and running in New Hampshire, but the law in the state allows for a total of 10 retail outlets. Mobile wagering is available throughout the state, and this is another state with a prohibition on games that involve in-state college teams.
The great state of Illinois joined the club in March of 2020. Retail wagering is available at IL sportsbooks in seven casinos, and there is a sportsbook at the Hawthorne Race Course facility.
Now that Arlington Park has been closed for good, Hawthorne is the only remaining horse track in Illinois.
Legal sports betting in Michigan went live on March 11, 2020. There are sportsbooks at most of the Native American and commercial casinos, and online sports wagering is readily available.
Montana has legalized in-person sports betting through its lottery system. There are well over 100 different sites with sports wagering kiosks, but there is no mobile sports gaming in the state.
Mobile and land-based sports betting became legal in Colorado during the spring of 2020. Retail betting is limited to the sportsbooks that are in the casinos in Black Hall, Central City and Cripple Creek.
The Office of Lottery and Gaming regulates sports betting in the District of Columbia. There are retail locations at the major sports arenas, and hotels, bars, and restaurants can apply for retail sports betting licenses.
Online sports gaming is also permitted, but there is no betting on college teams that are based in D.C.
As you can see, retail sports gaming is typically offered in casinos that existed before legalization. Since there are no casinos in Tennessee, this is not a possibility, but mobile sports betting in Tennessee became available in the state in November of 2020.
At the beginning of 2021, online sports betting in Virginia went live. Voters in five cities in the state have approved retail casinos, so land-based sports betting may begin in 2022.
The Tar Heel State has taken a baby step into offering a legal sports betting in North Carolina site. A law was passed that allows sportsbooks in the two Native American casinos, but there is no mobile sports betting.
People in Wyoming can legally place sports bets through mobile apps and WY online sports betting sites. There are no retail options, but the tribal casinos may launch sportsbooks under the terms of their compacts using the New Mexico model.
Tribal casinos in Washington started taking bets in September of 2021. You can place mobile bets when you are in one of these casinos, but statewide mobile wagering has not been approved.
Sports betting in Arizona went live on September 9, 2021, which is the same day that the Washington state casinos opened their sportsbooks. Retail licenses have been issued to professional sports teams and Native American tribes.
Each one of the 20 licensees can offer retail betting, and each of them can partner with two different online betting site brands.
South Dakota is another September entrant into the legal gaming realm. The casinos in Deadwood have opened sportsbooks, and there can be retail sports betting sites on tribal properties.
There is no provision for online sports gaming, but there are lawmakers that are in favor of mobile sports betting, so it is a possibility.
Land-based sports betting has gone live in the tribal casinos in the state. Now, online sportsbooks in Connecticut have been approved as well, and were expected to launch on October 7 of 2021, but there was a delay. We expect Connecticut to launch sports betting on October 19, 2021, after a 7-day soft launch period for only a handful of players.
The tribal casinos in North Dakota have opened retail sportsbooks under the existing gambling compacts. North Dakota’s state legislature has not legalized online betting sites, but there is some support among lawmakers.
We expect all 55 parishes that legalize sports betting in Louisiana to be able to bet online following the latest online gambling and sports betting bill. This could be as early as November 2021.
You can bet on all the major American professional sports at the retail sports betting sites and online sportsbooks:
You can also wager on international pro sporting events, like the Olympics, cycling races, FIFA World Cup soccer, Australian rules football, cricket, rugby, and snooker. College football and basketball betting is offered as well with restrictions on games involving in-state teams in some states.
The betting menu is broad, and you can make many different types of bets - even using risk free bets and free bets, if available. In addition to straight bets on sides, you can play over/under totals, parlays, teasers, and pleasers. You can even place bets while a game is underway live betting or in-play betting, and there are halftime and quarter wagers.
Proposition bets are offered, and you can place futures bets on teams to win division, league, and conference titles and overall championships.
The vast majority of the states that have legal online betting have approved retail locations. When you are at a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, you can go to the counter and place wagers with a live betting writer. They will give you a bet ticket, and you can cash it in if you win. There are also self-service kiosks at the physical sportsbooks.
Most of the in-person betting is confined to casinos and horse racing tracks that have casino gaming (racinos). If you are betting horses at the track or in a casino playing slots or a table game, the sportsbook can be a convenience.
Since you are there, you can get in on some sports gambling action as well. You may want to take a break, sit at the bar, and watch a game that you bet on. The instant gratification of getting paid in cash, in person, after a win is a satisfying feeling.
On the other side of the coin, mobile betting is much more convenient. When you carry a virtual sportsbook in your pocket at all times, there is really no reason to bet in the flesh unless you enjoy the experience.
In 2015, daily fantasy sports operators like FanDuel DFS and DraftKings DFS got a rude awakening. Up until that time, they were raking in huge profits in a completely unregulated industry. However, a scandal that came to light in October of that year changed the playing field.
A DraftKings employee admitted that he was privy to insider information that was not available to the general public, and it helped him win $350,000 on FanDuel Sportsbook.
As a response, many state legislatures started working on regulatory measures, and at this point, the world of daily fantasy sports is on rock-solid footing. DraftKings and FanDuel are accepting players in every state except Nevada, Hawaii, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
These two companies have expanded into the legal sports betting arena, and they have an inherent advantage because so many sports fans are existing customers on the fantasy side.
There are many sportsbooks to choose from in states where sports betting is legal. Since you have options, you should look for the US sports betting site that is best for you.
When you are getting started, you may not know how to compare the legal online sports betting sites because you have no frame of reference. You can use the components listed below to create a checklist of sorts.
All the sites offer welcome or sign-up bonuses, and the risk free bet is the most popular bonus offering. It is essentially self-explanatory, and there is no trickery involved. An online sportsbook will allow new players to make a risk free bet up to a certain amount.
For example, let’s say that the offer is a $500 risk-free bet. The first bet that you make up to $500 is risk-free. If you win, the winnings from your risk-free bet and your original deposit are yours to keep.
On the other hand, if you do not win the risk-free bet, the $500 will still be in your account in the form of site credit. You will not be able to withdraw your risk-free bet win amount until you have wagered all of the money, but you do not have to bet it all at once.
Similar to risk free bets are free bets, which are another common welcome bonus. The betting site will give you credit that you can use to make a wager without reaching into your own pocket. Read your terms and conditions, though, because free bets may only be available on certain sports or odds.
There are also deposit match sign-up bonuses, where you get your deposit amount credited as a bonus. You should definitely compare the welcome bonuses that are being offered when you are establishing your first account. And if you open up more than one account, you can take advantage of other casino bonuses, and free money is always a good thing.
As we have previously stated, account funding was a challenge before regulated sports bets came to the United States. Now that the sports betting legislation has been enacted, these obstacles no longer exist.
The sports betting industry is very well developed from a technological standpoint. Every operator has its own sports betting app, so you can make your wagers from anywhere as long as you can get online.
Their legal sports betting apps are compatible with Android and iOS operating systems, so they have everyone covered. The mobile versions of the sportsbooks place an emphasis on intuitive navigation, so you will find that there is not much of a learning curve.
You should take the odds that are being offered into consideration when you are comparing the respective legal sportsbook operators. As a newcomer, you may assume that all of the sportsbook operators post the same betting odds, but this is not the case at all.
When you open up multiple accounts, you can take advantage of several different sign-up bonuses, but that is not the only reason to maintain more than one presence. Before you make your wagers, you should shop around for the best odds because you need every edge you can get.
You will see that the differences can be quite significant when you take the time to make comparisons. This does not always apply to point spreads, but there can be meaningful disparities between moneylines, futures and the odds on proposition bets.
Now that laws have been passed to authorize sports betting online, state-of-the-art safety and security methods are required by law. The regulators want to protect the public, and the online betting sites share their concerns because they prioritize compliance and customer satisfaction.
Every precaution is taken by the online sportsbooks that hold licenses in the United States. Many of these companies are firmly established household names in the gambling industry, and they have a great deal of expertise when it comes to safety and security issues. Regulated sportsbooks will also offer a choice of responsible gambling options to those who need them.
The sign-up process is self-explanatory and seamless. You provide your email address and you choose a username and password. In some cases, your email address will automatically be your username for login purposes.
They will ask for your full name, your birthday, and your gender along with your physical home address and phone number. The ubiquitous security questions come next, and this step gives them the ability to authenticate your account if you sign in from a new device or forget your password.
Depending on the site in question, you may be required to enter a sign-up bonus code. There will be some legal disclaimer boxes to check, and you have to share the last four digits of your Social Security number.
After they have the numbers, the system will generate additional security questions that are specific to you, and this will typically be the final step in the account creation process.
Legalizing sports betting has completely changed the playing field when it comes to the player experience. The offshore sportsbooks operated without oversight, and as we have stated, monetary transfers were problematic.
Now that American sportsbooks are licensed and subject to regulatory parameters, everything is above board. You can bet on sporting events with total peace of mind, and this will enhance your enjoyment of the sports that you love.
You will find that the mobile versions of the sites are highly efficient, with interactive features and intuitive navigation. Many even with in-play betting and streams. The respective aesthetic environments are carefully crafted to please the user, but each individual will have their own personal preferences.
These operators want to take as much action as possible, so the sites load quickly and there is little-to-no downtime. All of them provide readily available customer service and support, so you can communicate with a real human being whenever you need to do so.
We use the criteria that we explained in the previous section when we evaluate an online betting site. Our experts spend a lot of time examining every nuance when they produce sportsbook reviews, and they stay abreast of changes that are made as time goes on.
You can rest assured that our reviews are completely objective because we exist to provide sports bettors with solid information they can trust and act on with total confidence.
Yes, the sports betting laws changed when the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018.
It is up to each individual state to determine whether or not they will legalize and regulate sports betting online or in person. Mobile bets are permitted in most of the states that have legal online betting.
You can visit this US sports betting page to see the list of states that have taken advantage of the new sports betting legislation along with the best online betting sites that are in operation in each state.
No, sports bettors need to be 21 or over and physically present in a state that has legal, regulated sports betting.
On the federal level, it became legal when the PASPA law was overturned by the Supreme Court on May 14, 2018.
"An experienced bettor with a decade writing about sports and gambling, Dan's expertise includes college football, college basketball, golf, the NFL and more."