Sports betting in the United States is a somewhat complicated situation, but there are viable sports betting options for residents to get in on. A federal ban is known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) blocks any brick-and-mortar sports betting in 46 states. The Federal Wire Act, another federal law, prohibits US-based online sportsbooks from accepting any wagers. These laws make it seem like legal sports betting in the US is impossible, but it is not. Aside from the 4 states with legal sports betting, there are legally sanctioned offshore sportsbooks that provide a safe and legal means for American sports bettors.
The sports gambling situation looks poised to change with pending legislation that would effectively repeal PASPA. All in all, things are looking up for the industry and Americans may soon have widespread access to US-based regulated sports betting. This website contains relevant information to the American sports betting landscape, including where sports betting is legal/illegal, an explanation of the federal laws in place, an examination of pending legislation and how it could affect sports betting for better or worse, an analysis of the potential future of sports betting and more. Feel free to browse through this content to gain a better understanding of US sports betting so you can become an informed bettor.
Where Is Sports Betting Considered Legal In The United States?
There are only 4 states exempted from PASPA—Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. These 4 states were exempted because they already had some form of operational sports betting at the time of PASPA’s enactment in 1992. They are also the only 4 states where US-based sports betting is technically legal. Offshore sports betting is a different animal and is considered legal in most states because licensed offshore sportsbooks are outside the jurisdiction of US federal laws. Connecticut and Washington have strict laws against betting with offshore sites, so residents of those states must bet at their own risk.
List Of States That Allow Legal Online Sports Betting
Which U.S. States Have Legal Sports Betting?
Currently, only Nevada offers single-game betting. Oregon’s Sports Action parlay system has been ceased. Montana runs friendly sports betting pools at local establishments with licenses to sell alcohol—there is no house to bet against. Delaware runs a parlay system through their Lottery that is restricted to NFL betting, however, you can also place bets at several physical casino locations. Both Montana and Oregon do not have state-regulated physical sports betting locations.
Sports Gambling - By The Numbers
Be the legal situation as it may, sports betting still happens. American bettors are flocking to licensed offshore brands or illegal online sportsbooks to place their wagers. Sports gambling is a billion-dollar industry. If the federal government would repeal PASPA, states could benefit off of regulatory requirements and put that money towards infrastructure improvements.
To put things in perspective, check out this infographic from the American Gaming Association of sports betting statistics from last year’s Super Bowl LI.
- $4.7 billion—Total Super Bowl bets
- $132 million—Legal bets placed in Nevada
- $4.5 billion—Illegal bets placed everywhere else
- 97%--% of all bets placed illegally
- +11%--Increase in total Super Bowl bets from the previous year
The AGA is also estimating that a total of $36.5 billion will be wagered on MLB games during the 2017-2018 season. Imagine if this type of revenue was being regulated. Since the market already exists, why not put regulations on it to make it work towards our mutual benefit?
A recent poll conducted by the Morning Consult asked NFL fans their opinions on sports betting legislation. Nearly three times as many NFL fans believe the federal government should lift the ban on sports betting. The majority also believes individual states should have the power to decide if they want sports betting, not the federal government.
States Where Sports Betting Is Considered Illegal
Under PASPA, 46 states are not allowed to host any brick-and-mortar regulated forms of sports betting. However, US federal gambling laws do not mention anything about it being illegal to gamble with legally licensed and regulated offshore sportsbooks. Some states have taken an extra measure to strengthen their enforcement of anti-gambling laws to keep their residents from even betting with offshore brands. Washington is an example of this. They have a specific state law that outlaws all forms of gambling on the Internet, including with licensed offshore brands. Connecticut is another example of a state with specific laws mentioning gambling sites legalized in another jurisdiction as being illegal. There are still licensed offshore brands that will accept residents from these states, but we should warn you that gambling with these sites is done at your own risk. We are not responsible for any actions individual bettors take with sports betting websites. While it is unlikely your state will enforce their online gambling laws, it is technically still a possibility.
Understanding States’ Rights
PASPA is a federal ban that supersedes states’ rights. There is an argument against the ban stating that it violates states’ constitutional rights. The acting Solicitor General issued a report disputing these claims on the grounds that PASPA does not force states to adopt federal regulatory standards nor does it force state officials to issue federal law. PASPA prohibits states from authorizing or licensing sports betting enterprises themselves. New Jersey is in the middle of an ongoing case where they are arguing that PASPA violates their rights, as they tried to authorize sports betting in 2014.
The Federal Wire Act of 1961 blocks states from hosting state-regulated online sportsbooks unless you are one of the 4 states exempted from PASPA. The United States Department of Justice issued a Formal Opinion in 2011 clarifying the law to only pertain to US-based online sports betting. This freed up states to issue legislation that would legalize online casinos and poker. While it may seem like states have the right to choose their own destiny regarding online gambling under this Opinion, PASPA supersedes any possibility of sports betting (for now). In order for US sports betting to become legal, PASPA and the Federal Wire Act must be repealed or at least amended.
A Chance At Sports Betting?—Pending Legislation That Could Reshape Industry
The NJ sports betting case is the most realistic shot at legalizing sports betting. The case has moved up to the Supreme Court and if SCOTUS rules in favor of NJ, it is likely that PASPA will be repealed and other states can launch a regulated sports betting market.
Banking on the New Jersey case isn’t the smartest move, so members of Congress have drafted a bill that could potentially serve as a failsafe, even though the route through Congress is much more difficult. Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) came up with the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act, or GAME Act, and introduced it through his Congressional committee. If passed, the bill would effectively repeal PASPA and give states the right to integrate sports betting should they choose to do so (much like the DOJ did for online casinos and poker). The bill must make its way through the legislative ringer, which can be a laborious process that takes a long time. However, should the NJ case fail to pan out for sports betting advocates, the GAME Act is the next best thing.
On The Other Side—RAWA Seeks To Ban All Forms Of Gambling
As with any major issue, there are two sides. Some conservatives have drafted a bill known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act. The name alludes to the Federal Wire Act and how some believe it should ban all forms of online gambling. This perception comes from the loose wording of gambling being banned through “wire transmissions”. The law’s original intent was for sports betting, but the perception of its reach became clouded prior to the DOJ stepping in.
This prompted lawmakers to draft RAWA in hopes of rewriting the Federal Wire Act to effectively ban all forms of online gambling. If passed, RAWA would shut down the legal online casino/poker markets in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware and restrict any more states from adopting such legislation. RAWA would kill any chance of regulated and legal US sports betting states. Luckily for sports betting advocates, the bill has had trouble gaining support since its inception in 2014. After a few unsuccessful years, the team behind the bill seems to be lying in wait, plotting their next attempt. Newly appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions presents a troublesome situation because he has stated that he is opposed to the DOJ’s opinion on the Federal Wire Act and would re-examine the matter. Sessions’ office could potentially alter the Wire Act, but again, any such move would require a political battle that would likely be drawn out.
Make Your Voice Heard
You can help with the ongoing US sports betting legal disputes by contacting your state representatives and encouraging them to vote on matters you support. This strategy will help if the NJ case fails to make any significant impact on the industry. Contact your state representatives and tell them to support the GAME Act and block RAWA to assist with giving sports gambling a fair chance at existence.
Understanding The Legal Gambling Age Of Each State
One of the most stringent protocols for any gambling sector is age verification. States have gambling age requirements to prevent minors from gaining access to both brick-and-mortar and online gambling platforms. Most states have an 18+ rule, but others have bumped up their age requirement to 21. Be sure to check with your state’s gambling laws before participating in gambling to ensure you are within your legal limits.
What The Future Holds For Legal Online Sports Betting In America
The future of US sports betting ultimately rests with the New Jersey sports betting case. SCOTUS has the power to drastically change the landscape by ruling in favor of the Garden State. NJ is battling against the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA—which all have blocked any sports betting state legalization efforts in the past—and a victory in court would push the leagues towards acceptance. The fact that SCOTUS even took this case is a positive sign for the industry. If NJ wins, expect PASPA to be repealed and other states to begin pushing legislation that would authorize legal sports betting states. It is possible that there will one day be an interstate online sports betting network in the US that has consistent regulatory requirements and betting protocols. The GAME Act also poses an alternative route to sports betting legalization, but it will be a tougher path. If RAWA passes, US online gambling will be in dire straits, but the likelihood of such restrictive legislation passing in this day and age is slim to none.