One of the watershed moments of sports fandom in the 21st century took place on May 14, 2018 without any athletes stepping out onto the playing surface. This occurred when the United States Supreme Court voted 6-3 to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, a federal ban that had outlawed betting on sports since 1992.
Fast forward a little over five years later and 36 of the 50 states in the Union (as well as the District of Columbia) have passed laws condoning sports betting in some form or fashion, whether it’s in person only, limited to specific sports or has next to no restrictions.
24 of those states (as well as Washington DC) permit mobile betting, which is where most of the wagering craze takes place today: when compared to the grind of traveling long distances to one of a few casinos in your respective state outfitted to take wagers, it’s difficult to beat the opportunity to win money from the comfort of your own home, while you’re on the road, or anywhere else you choose to (provided you’re in a state where mobile betting is legal).
The push to legalize sports betting (which is determined on a state by state basis, with input from voters on a proposed bill before legislators work to pass it) goes in fits and starts on a cyclical basis. Most states that vote to legalize sports betting make sure the sportsbooks go online around the start of the year, just in time to capitalize on betting rushes from the Super Bowl, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and the late spring playoff runs of the NHL and NBA.
Take a look at Massachusetts, for instance, one of the most recent states to see their sportsbooks go live. In-person betting in the Bay State began at the end of January, two weeks ahead of the Super Bowl, with mobile betting going live a little over a month later, just before March Madness began.
Massachusetts experienced a surge of wagers during the early spring due to several compelling factors. The promising performances of the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics fueled an influx of bets on the local teams, with high hopes for a championship victory.
Additionally, the introduction of sports betting promos in Massachusetts, as sportsbooks went live, added to the flourishing betting scene by enticing new customers. This bustling supply and subsequent demand created an appealing environment that attracted a significant number of new users.
Where mobile betting is offered?
Here’s a look at where mobile betting is offered in the United States as of June 26, 2023, as well as what the next dominoes to fall could be as the push for legalization rages on.
Right now, mobile sportsbooks are legal and active in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming and Washington DC.
As you may have noticed, there are several notable exceptions to this list. The three largest states by population in the United States: California, Texas and Florida, have yet to legalize sports wagering, whether mobile or in person. In the case of Florida, it’s not for lack of trying. The Sunshine State passed a law legalizing betting in 2021, but a federal lawsuit held them up.
Florida made a pact with the Seminole Tribe to place the servers to support mobile betting on sovereign Seminole land, circumventing the need for voters to decide to legalize the pastime by allowing the Seminoles to regulate the industry as is their right under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This circumvention created a substantial legal issue, and the state will have to figure out the lawsuit before their sportsbooks can finally go live.
While that takes place, Kentucky and Maine are the next two states waiting in the wings. The Kentucky state legislature voted to legalize sports betting (both mobile and retail) in March 2023, with the bill passed stipulating that the books must go live by December 28, 2023: in the meantime, state officials will determine how to regulate the industry.
The Maine state legislature, on the other hand, signed off on sports betting in May of 2022, with the law officially taking effect in August of that year. Owing to the eccentricities of their state law, the Maine Gambling Control Unit must sift through a pile of public comments (and decide whether to approve or reject each one) which has caused the industry to sit in purgatory while they take the time to do so. Right now, it looks like the earliest that the books could go live is January 2024, but the MGCU has remained noncommittal on a due date.
In summary, the United States has witnessed a significant expansion of sports betting since the overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018. Currently, 36 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of sports betting, with 24 states permitting mobile betting. Massachusetts recently joined the trend, experiencing a surge in wagers during the spring.
However, states like California, Texas, and Florida have yet to legalize sports wagering. Kentucky and Maine are on the verge of launching sportsbooks, with different timelines and regulatory processes. The landscape of sports betting in the US continues to evolve, offering both challenges and opportunities for enthusiasts nationwide.