Sports betting in America: where it’s legal, where it’s not and why it matters


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The NFL is already in its post-pandemic glory, with regular season viewership at its highest since 2015, conference championship games earning explosive ratings and some Super Bowl ads selling for a record high. $7 million per 30 second spot.

It’s not just the NFL and the TV networks either. Bookmakers also benefit, because football is a sport for gamblers – and America places its bets.

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According to the American Gaming Association, 31.4 million Americans will bet on the Super Bowl this year, a 35% increase over last year and almost a third of the game’s regular 100 million viewers. Together, they will pay out $7.6 billion in bets, a 78% increase over last year.

In terms of gambling holidays, the Super Bowl is Christmas and New Years at the same time, and sports betting in general is quickly becoming America’s favorite vice. Let’s explore the sports betting landscape in the United States.

It’s now legal in more states than not

In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which banned sports betting almost everywhere except Nevada. It’s been racing since then, with one state after another making it legal to put some action on the game – either in a physical sports betting venue or on a sports betting app or site – and opening up huge new tax revenue streams along the way.

Today, approximately 100 million Americans can bet on their favorite teams where they live, according to Forbes. In fact, more than half of the country has already legalized sports betting. The past year has seen a frenzy of expansion, with the number of legal states growing from 19 to 32, plus Washington, DC, in 12 months.

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Legalized betting wins America

Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin and Maryland are in the process of launching their own sports betting programs, according to Forbes, and Florida’s program has been stuck in court since its debut last year. ESPN reports that Louisiana, Oklahoma, Maine and more than a dozen others are in the process of legislating to allow sports betting in their own respective states in the near future, including the huge population centers of Texas and from California.

That leaves just two states where sports betting is not legal and no legislation is pending to change the status quo. Idaho has no pending public bills, but who knows what the future holds. Then there’s Utah, America’s finicky state, which has resisted all forms of legalized gambling for decades and has anti-gambling language written into its constitution. So while Utah is unlikely to be involved in the future of legalized sports betting anytime soon, it could be on its own.

In short, it is very likely that America will soon go from illegal sports gambling almost everywhere to illegal almost nowhere in less than five years.

Learn: How big is the sports gaming industry in America?

Some states prohibit certain formats

You can’t always place your bets the same way from place to place, even where sports betting is legal. According to NJ Advance Media, you can – or will soon be able to – place bets in person at outlets only in:

  • Arkansas
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin

In Oklahoma, online betting is illegal, but not retail or mobile. In Tennessee, online and mobile betting is legal, but retail betting is not. Other states where betting is legal allow all retail, mobile and online betting.

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Some states have tribal stipulations

A handful of states allow legalized sports betting, but only at certain tribal casinos. They are (or will be):

  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Additionally, many states prohibit gambling on college sports in the state.

The economic impact of legalized sports gambling

The most recent addition to the sports betting revolution is New York State, which launched a mobile betting service in early January. Empire State residents placed a record $603.1 million in bets in the first two weeks alone, and it is expected to exceed $1 billion in the first month, according to Front Office Sports.

Millions of dollars that would almost certainly have ended up in the pockets of criminal bookmakers will now be in New York’s public coffers as new tax revenue.

Most states tax sports betting at a rate between 5% and 20%, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), but some, like Pennsylvania, levy up to a third. States try to get as much tax revenue as possible without raising rates so high they drive players back to the black market. States also earn millions from license fees.

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The opposite of income is gambling addiction

Just like with drugs, prostitution and all other vices, the argument for legalizing sports betting hinges on tax revenue and reducing black market demand. The revenue figures speak for themselves, and there are certainly compelling arguments for reviewing the legal status of vices, in general – but none of that matters to someone who’s ever had a drug addict. game in his home.

Organizations that advocate for problem gamblers, like Ohio For Responsible Gambling, rightly fear that the nationwide rush to legalize sports betting is creating a new generation of drug addicts. Even before cell phones, players could still call their bookmakers. But modern mobile and online sportsbooks are addictively gamified, and they offer a one-click linked credit card facility, in the palm of your hand, that increases both temptation and access – and it’s never further than your pocket.

Whether America’s rebirth as a Sportsbook Nation will lead to an increase in gambling addiction remains to be seen, but many states are building the possibility into their budgets. Ohio law, for example, requires that 2% of casino tax revenue be distributed to organizations and programs that treat or prevent gambling addiction.

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was previously one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the nation’s largest newspaper syndicate, the Gannett News Service. He worked as a business editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as an editor for, a financial publication at the heart of New York’s Wall Street investment community. .


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