On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in Murphy v. NCAA that would effectively change the sports wagering landscape forever. By a 6-3 vote, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which since 1992 has prohibited full-scale sports betting in every state but Nevada, was struck clean from the ledger.
The floodgates were suddenly open for states to pass their own sports betting legislation. New Jersey, which led the fight to overturn PASPA, was first to go live, with most Atlantic City casinos opening up temporary sportsbooks. In August 2018, DraftKings took the first online wager.
What U.S. states have legal sports betting?
The U.S. sports betting industry is in a continual state of flux. Hardly a week goes by without new legislation being proposed, an active bill being passed, or an operator launching a live sportsbook or online sports betting site.
To find out more about the current legal status of sports betting in your state, as well as where you can bet on sports today, check out our map below:
What types of sports bets can players make?
This will vary from state-to-state, and will partially depend on if a state offers online wagering, but generally speaking here are some of the more common sports betting formats that will be found:
- Point spread: This most basic bets allows players to wager on one side or the other, and usually pays $10 for every $11 wagered. To balance the odds, the favorite “gives” a stipulated number of points, whereas underdogs “take” the same number of points./li>
- Money line: A wager where bettors choose one side of the other, without the use of a point spread. The favorite will have a minus (-) sign next to their name, and all money lines are based on $100. So if a team is -180, players will have to wager $180 to win $100. Likewise, underdogs will have a plus (+) sign next to their name. A +140 team will pay out $240 ($140 plus the original $100) should it win.
- Totals: Over/under bet where players wager on the combined score of a contest. Total wagers on quarters, periods, or halves are also available.
- Parlays: Players can combine two or bets in a single wager. In order to win, all bets must come in, with no exceptions. Parlays can range from the simple (two wagers) to the expansive (up to fifteen wagers), and payout in accordance with how many wagers are made.
- Teasers: Like parlays, only that the point spreads and/or totals are shifted to the player’s advantage. To offset this, the payouts are smaller.
- Props: Zany bets that allow players to bet on anything from an individual player’s performance to the outcome of a coin flip.
- Futures: Bet on the probability of a long-term outcome occurring, like the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl, or Lebron James to win the NBA MVP.
- In-play: Not so much a betting type as it is a format, in-play wagers are those made throughout a contest, with odds changing constantly. In-play wagers encompass point spreads, money lines, totals, and more.
How can you bet on sports? Retail vs online
Pending what forms of sports betting are legalized in a state, there are two primary methods in which bettors can place wagers: at land-based venues or online.
Any state that legalizes sports betting will enable punters to make bets at licensed land-based facilities. Eligible properties include: commercial casinos, tribal casinos, racinos, horse racing tracks, and even select OTB parlors and retail facilities. It all depends on the state.
Bets are placed at designated windows for sports bets or via an onsite kiosk.
Online wagering affords bettors with varying degrees of convenience, depending on how restrictive a state’s sports betting regulations are.
Although this is more the exception than the rule, some states only allow mobile wagers to be transmitted from casino premises. In-house sports betting is by far the most restrictive form of online wagering, with only marginal benefits beyond placing bets with a teller or at an electronic kiosk, the main one being that players won’t have to wait on long lines (except possibly to register and fund their accounts).
Walking the middle line between in-house only and full online wagering is in-house sign-up, or the Nevada model. Nevada has no plans to move to remote registration, but Iowa has mandated in-house registration until early 2021, and at that time, will be moved to the much preferred remote online registration.
To get started, players are encouraged to download their desired Android or iOS powered app ahead of registration. Then, the next step is to head down to an affiliated app’s live sportsbook. So for instance, a player who desires to place wagers using the PointsBet in Iowa must then head to Catfish Bend Casino to complete the registration. In order to complete the registration process, bettors will have to (usually) be in possession of a rewards card and government-issued ID. Other paperwork will also often be required, but all told, the entire process only takes about 10 minutes. This is all well and good for bettors that live near the associated casino, but could be a full day of driving for others.
Once set up, it’s just a matter of navigating the app and placing bets. Mobile (not PC/Mac) wagers can be placed from anywhere in the state where the affiliated sportsbook is located, but not beyond. Savvy bettors may want to signup for multiple apps, as that will allow them to “shop around” for the best odds.
Several states have gone online and allow remote registration, meaning you can sign up from your couch and instantly start betting with several of the top online sportsbook options in the country thanks to these states opening up partnerships between the states casinos and experienced operators to join up to create a top-notch sports betting product. These states are:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
Oregon and Montana have online sports betting that is run by the state lottery commission. This cuts down on competition which leads to below-average pricing.
Unlike the case for in-house sign-up, states that offer true online sports betting won’t force players to visit a live book to sign up and load their accounts. Instead, they can usually do so from just about anywhere (real-money wagers are still restricted to within state lines). They also won’t be restricted to placing wagers exclusively on mobile devices, as most operators in these states either already offer their platforms for desktops or plan on it.
In order to ensure player security and keep accounts secure, online bettors will go through a brief identity verification process, where they enter personal information such as their name, address, phone number and the last four of their social security number The whole process only takes a few minutes and approval is instant. This is a small price to pay in exchange for the ability to wager from anywhere in the state from which the online book operates.
What are the key differences between live and unrestricted online sports betting?
Besides the rather obvious convenience factor of not having to travel to a land-based sportsbook and potentially wait on long lines, unrestricted online sports betting affords players a host of benefits unavailable, or only available in a limited capacity, to live bettors:
- Payment options: Online sportsbooks in the U.S. are positioned to accept a variety of cashiering vehicles, including Paypal, VIP Preferred (eCheck), MasterCard/Visa, PayNearMe, Play+ cards and Skrill. This level of flexibility is simply unmatched at live venues, where bettors will generally have to pay with chips, cash, or a prepaid card (mobile wagering only).
- On-the-fly wagers: Players looking to bet on games already in progress from a live sportsbook have limited options. Yes, in-game wagering — where players can bet on a game in progress — is gaining in popularity, but the odds generally only change during periods of downtime, such as commercials or injury timeouts. Mobile wagering apps and online sites take matters a step further, by offering in-play wagering. In-play odds change in real-time, often from possession to possession, affording players a level of flexibility that they simply won’t find elsewhere.
- Promotions: Aside from the very generous online sportsbooks welcome packages, online sportsbooks have packed promotional schedules, including boosted odds, parlay insurance, free bets and more.
- More, more, and more: Simply stated, online sites generally have a far greater expanse of wagering options than live books. If you can think it, an online site probably has it.
What is the current legal status of sports betting in the U.S.?
Thanks to the favorable ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court case Murphy v. NCAA, there is nothing preventing individual states from passing legislation that would legalize sports betting. In other words, it’s up to the states whether they want to have sports betting at their land-based gaming facilities, online, or not at all.
That said, there is currently one universal restriction that applies to all states: Mobile and online bettors are not allowed to place interstate wagers. As an example, bettors who sign up for a New Jersey online sports betting site or mobile app, can only wager real-money if they’re physically located in the state of New Jersey.
This restriction is due to the Federal Wire Act of 1961, which explicitly prohibits the processing of wagers across state lines. But even this restriction is on shaky ground, as following the Supreme Court decision, several legal commentators believe that wagers over interstate networks are fine pending state law doesn’t prohibit them. If true, then wagers could technically be transmitted between states where sports betting legal, opening up a whole slew of possibilities. Time will tell.
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Benefits of legal sports betting
Until now, bettors looking to place a wager on their favorite sports team had two unattractive options: either open an account on a black market site, or seek out a corner bookie. In both cases, the party taking wagers was doing so illegally, and because illegal bookies are working in an unregulated space, there is nothing preventing them from offering poor lines, refusing to pay out winnings, or banning players without a reputable cause.
By contrast, legal sportsbooks are generally either regulated by a state’s gambling or lottery commission. This ensures the following:
Safety of funds
Due to the laws and regulations governing the industry, bettors that deposit on an online sportsbook or mobile sports wagering app can rest easy knowing that their funds are being held securely. Players on black market sites or those who wager through independent bookies have no such assurances.
In order to play for big bucks at a land-based venue, or at all on internet sites, sports bettors will have to prove that they are who they say they are. Legal online sportsbooks, in particular, require that patrons verify their identities and banking information. This process of verifying bettors identity is the only real way to truly safeguard a player’s sensitive info. Black market sites have little incentive to protect a player’s identity, as they don’t have to answer to a governing body.
Don’t expect illegal online sportsbooks to act ethically. Bonus structures are often set up so that players have little chance of ever withdrawing their winnings. Even worse, black market sites may decide to only honor withdrawals in dribs and drabs, or not at all. And there’s really nothing stopping them from saying the lines are actually different from what’s displayed on the site.
Players on legal sites won’t be subject to ambiguous policies and on-the-fly changes, as the law requires that all terms be listed on the site and that any changes be first approved by the state’s regulatory agency — which is, again, usually the same agency that oversees all legal lottery or casino operations in the state.
Sports betting FAQs
The list of states that allow mobile sports betting with remote registration keeps growing and growing. These states are:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
Michigan and Tennessee should be opening their online sportsbook market by the end of 2020.
Nevada and Iowa have in-person registration requirements, but once signed up, you can bet from anywhere within state lines.
The most exciting part of legalized online sports betting is that your money is kept safe and secure. Banking options will vary by site, but the most common methods are:
- Cash at Casino Cage
- Wire transfers
- Online bill pay
Legal US online sports betting sites are all regulated and tested by the same government entities that oversee retail casinos. Every site goes through rigorous testing on all banking options, game options and site stability. In addition to the online sportsbook being tested, every payment method goes through its own testing to verify all transactions are accurate and secure to keep your money and personal information safe. Most of the banking options are companies that you use everyday including PayPal, Visa, Mastercard and online banking.
In addition to the initial testing, sites are constantly monitored and any concerns or problems are back by the gaming entity in the state. For example, if you run into any problems in Pennsylvania, you can file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board who oversees all gaming in the state. Offshore sites have no guarantee of financial safety.
No. At this time all online wagers must be done from within the state where the book originates, thus protecting the online books from any new interpretations of the Wire Act. So if Betfair goes live with a site in Pennsylvania, then players can only place wagers on that site from within the Keystone State. They may however be permitted to perform other functions, such as cashiering and account management from beyond state lines.
This limitation may potentially relax someday in the future, but with current the political environment strengthening the Wire Act it is unlikely to change any time soon.
There is no clear-cut answer to this question, as the regulations are set by the individual states. Generally though, it is safe to assume that any state that legalizes sports betting will allow wagers on all professional and collegiate sports contests.
However, situations could arise where individual venues will be prohibited from offering NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL. One example of this is the Golden Nugget in New Jersey, which cannot offer wagers on Houston Rockets games because it’s owner, Tilman Fertitta, owns the Houston Rockets, and that’s perceived by regulators as a conflict.
In July 2018, FanDuel closed a deal with Paddy Power Betfair, merging with Betfair US, TVG, and DRAFT, to become part of the FanDuel group. FanDuel’s first stop was at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, where it became the horse racing venues forward-facing sports betting brand. FanDuel has since launched online sports betting apps in several states including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Colorado, West Virginia and Indiana.
DraftKings has also set up shop in several states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado, Indiana and Iowa. Both DraftKings and FanDuel have deals in place to expand to most states that are considering legalizing online sports betting.