Where is Sports Betting Legal in the USA?

The USA has a complex relationship with legal gambling, and while some forms have been embraced in certain states for decades, others have existed in the wilderness without legitimate support.

This is starting to change, with sports betting now effectively made legal at a federal level, meaning that it is up to individual states to put this into practice and offer licenses to bookmakers that want to operate within their borders.

Since there is still so much variation in terms of where sports betting is allowed and where it is outlawed, this quick look at the places where you can legally place wagers on the outcomes of sporting events should help you avoid any confusion.

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Pro-betting states explored

You can find out about the USA states with legal sports betting at legalsportsbettingstates.com, and it is interesting to see that there has been a relatively rapid rollout of adoption since the 2018 ruling by the Supreme Court which made widespread adoption a possibility.

Of course the first state to bring sports betting to the masses was Nevada, which legalized this and several other forms of gambling all the way back in the early 1930s. The fact that it took almost 90 years for the rest of the country to catch up is the biggest surprise of all.

New Jersey and Delaware spearheaded the embracement of legal sports betting in mid-2018, followed closely by a number of other states over the coming months including West Virginia, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York.

In 2019 more states put legislation into place to promote sports betting as an above board activity for all residents, with Arkansas, Tennessee and Oregon joining the fray. 2020 has already seen a handful of other states falling into line, and wagers can now legally be placed in Illinois, Michigan and Montana.

The upshot of this significant sea change is that almost half of all the states in the union have now implemented some form of legal sports betting, although there are still quite a few major dominos that have yet to topple. California, for example, has seen efforts to implement sports betting legislation stall several times, leaving residents with little choice but to head to nearby Nevada if they want to wager on their favorite team.

Caveats to keep in mind

In spite of the fact that the number of states in which sports betting is legal is now in double figures, there are still quite a few hoops to jump through if you actually want to put money on the big game and you happen to live in or near a state where this is a possibility.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the fact that a lot of the states that have approved sports betting are only giving the green light to this activity in land-based venues. This means that online sports betting is still not permitted, or at least not explicitly allowable from an operator’s perspective, in places like Delaware, Georgia and Illinois, to name but a few.

Meanwhile New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been quick to allow online sports betting to operate alongside bricks and mortar equivalents, which really makes sense given how widespread the use of digital services has become.

There are even some confusing fringe cases, where it is legal to bet on sports using a licensed operator’s website, yet it is currently illegal for online casinos to be run in-state. This state of affairs applies in Indiana and Iowa at the moment, and hints at the complexities involved in organizing changes to long-standing laws surrounding gambling in the US.

Finally, most states require licensed online sports betting operators to be tied to a land-based company with a physical presence in the state. This is why even if you encounter seemingly uniquely online brands like bet365 and UniBet, if you dig a little deeper you will find that they are owned and operated by established casino resorts.

Player considerations

Whether you are interested in placing wagers according to NBA odds or interested in spicing things up when the soccer season gets underway, it is always best to only use websites and bookmakers that are both based in and licensed by the USA.

The primary reason for this is security and reliability. Sending money to operators based overseas, even if they claim to accept players from America, is a problem because if issues arise, the companies in question will not be answerable to US law.

In short it pays to do your research, find legal and legitimate ways to bet on sports games and always wager only what you can afford to lose.