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, and they did so in spades, with no less than a half-dozen states having either debuted sports books or positioned themselves to do so by the end of 2018. A select few will even offer online sports betting.
For those looking to keep up with the latest sports betting developments, we’ve got you covered, with breaking news, legislative updates, and general information on this exciting and rapidly expanding industry.
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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 sports book 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’s the latest sports betting news?
- The Department of Justice finally released the new opinion interpreting the Wire Act as applying to all forms of interstate online betting and not just sports wagers (the stance since 2011). Fear-mongering ensued throughout the media, even though it is still likely to have little significant effect so far. Individual states have begun filing complaints challenging the new opinion.
- Pennsylvania began opening physical sports wagering facilities in November of 2018, with more launching in December and January bringing that states total to six. Rhode Island and West Virginia also launched two sportsbooks each in December (and in WV’s case an online app).
- Washington state has recently made progress in legislation to allow sports betting in its tribal casinos. Kentucky has also taken forward steps towards sports betting, however the proposal may face an uphill challenge because of the inclusion of related online poker provisions. Ohio is expected to take up a bill in March.
- Washington D.C. has passed a bill to legalize sports betting within the district, but is struggling to circumvent regulatory hurdles slowing current progress.
- There has been no notable movement on the 101-page federal bill on sports betting introduced last Senate session by Senators Chuck Schumer and Orrin Hatch (the latter the author of the original PASPA). The bill was an elaborate attempt to force data provisions under the guise of protecting “integrity”.
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 sports books 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. Although this process may feel slightly over-the-top and intrusive, it’s 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
What is the current legal status of sports betting in the U.S.?
Thanks to a 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.
From where can players bet on sports?
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.
Presumably, any state that legalizes sports betting will enable punters to make bets at licensed land-based facilities. Eligible properties may include: commercial casinos, tribal casinos, racinos, horse racing tracks, and even select OTB parlors and retail facilities. It all depends on the state.
Typically, bets will be made at a cashiering window or via a kiosk located on site.
Online wagering affords bettors with varying degrees of convenience, depending on how restrictive a state’s sports betting regulations are.
Some states may only allow mobile wagers to be transmitted from casino premises. The only two states so far that restrict mobile betting to those physically present in a licensed casino are Mississippi and Rhode Island, although others will inevitably follow.
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.
In-house sign-up can be a bit confusing to new bettors, mainly because the rules pertaining to mobile sports betting can vary from book to book. For instance, an app affiliated with one casino may have different depositing methods, odds, and eligible bets than another.
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 sports book. So for instance, a player who desires to place wagers using the playMGM app must register at an MGM casino in Las Vegas. 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.
The initial round of funding will also take place at an associated book. Accepted payment methods may be cash, chips, or other vehicles, depending on the venue. Some facilities will allow reloads to be done remotely, while others always require that a player load funds at the live book. In short, it depends.
Once setup, 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 sports book 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.
So far only New Jersey offers bettors a full-slate of online sports betting options, although West Virginia and Pennsylvania are poised to follow it its footsteps.
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.
Admittedly, in order to ensure their accounts will remain secure, online bettors will have to endure an exhaustive signup process, which may require them to provide sensitive info such as their social security number. They may also be required to verify their identity and cashiering methods via scanned and uploaded documentation. Still, 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.
Which states have online sports betting?
New Jersey is the only state where players can sign up for an online or mobile sports betting site without having to register and fund their account at an affiliated casino. However, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have both included language in their sports betting legislation that will enable online bets in the near future.
Other states like Nevada, Mississippi, and Rhode Island permit limited mobile sports betting, to varying degrees.
Can online sports betting wagers be placed from out-of-state?
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 relax in the future, but with current the political environment strengthening the Wire Act it is unlikely to change any time soon.
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 sports books in the U.S. are positioned to accept a variety of cashiering vehicles, including Paypal, VIP Preferred (eCheck), MasterCard/Visa, PayNearMe, NETELLER, 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.
- Betting exchanges: This peer-to-peer betting system, which allows users to create their own odds, and back or lay an outcome, is only accessible via online sports betting sites.
- 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 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.
What are some major sports/events that players can wager on?
There is no clean-cut answer to this question, as different states will impose different restrictions. For instance, in New Jersey, punters cannot bet on college sports involving New Jersey teams. Some states may allow bets on Olympic events, while others will not.
Generally though, it is safe to assume that any state that legalizes sports betting will allow wagers on all professional 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 NBA games because it’s owner, Tilman Fertitta, owns the Houston Rockets, and that’s perceived by regulators as a conflict.
Do daily fantasy sites offer sports betting?
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. This was followed by it opening a land-based book at The Greenbrier Resort and Casino in West Virginia, and an online sports betting site and mobile app in New Jersey.
DraftKings has partnered up with Resorts in New Jersey, and offers a branded online sportsbook in New Jersey via the Resorts license. So far, DraftKings Sportsbook NJ is the market share leader, and not by a small margin.
Both DraftKings and FanDuel have eyes on other states, with DraftKings already partnering with Del Lago for sports betting in New York and FanDuel poised to offer online wagering in West Virginia. Both sites appear to have plans for Pennsylvania. Presumably this is only the tip of the iceberg for the two daily fantasy sports giants, which could very well go on to be the go-to brands for sports bettors throughout the U.S.