Is Online Sports Betting Legal in the USA?
If you’re wondering whether betting on sports online is legal in your state, you’ve come to the right place. On this page you’ll find accurate and up to date information about the latest developments in US sports betting laws and regulations, state by state.
When it comes to legal online sports betting in the USA, things are changing fast. That’s because the US Supreme Court made a landmark decision that gave each state the authority to regulate its own sports gambling markets and laws.
Within months of the decision a number of states including New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi, West Virginia and New Mexico had already started allowing people to make safe and secure sports wagers. More and more states are joining all the time.
It’s an exciting time for US sports betting and with tons of new betting opportunities opening up every day there’s never been a better chance to take a shot. Use our guides to find the best places to play in your state as well as comprehensive information on legalized sports betting in America.
State By State Sports Betting Guides
Click on any of the links below to read a detailed guide to sports betting in a specific US state or territory:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- Washington, DC
- West Virginia
WSN is committed to helping US sports bettors find the best sites, the best bonuses and the best odds and it all starts with finding you a safe and secure place to play.
In our state by state sports betting guides we dig into where you can make legal online sports wagers including the states’ current and historical laws around sports gambling and what to expect in the future.
Our guides include:
- Current legal status of online sports betting.
- History of sports betting in the state.
- The best sites and land-based casinos that accept sports bets.
- Predictions about the state’s future sports betting options.
If your state already allows sports betting, check out our guide before you sign up for an account to get tons of valuable information. If your state doesn’t allow it yet, keep an eye on your state’s guide for important developments that will pave the way to regulation in the near future.
We highly recommend waiting for your state to introduce legal and regulated online sports betting before you place real money wagers. While it’s technically not illegal for US citizens to make bets with unregulated off-shore casinos, there are lots of risks associated with doing so.
Safe and regulated sports gambling is either coming to your state soon or it’s already there and by sticking to licensed sites you’ll make sure your money and personal information are 100% secure. Good luck.
Current Online Sports Betting Situation in the USA
Right now full on sports betting is available legally in Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, Mississippi and New Mexico. More states are introducing it all the time and in this section we’ll explain why.
Chances are if you’re a sports fan, a gambler, or both you’ve heard people talking about the Supreme Court decision we mentioned earlier. In this section we’ll explain it in detail and tell you exactly how it affects the current legal situation of online sports betting in the United States.
Prior to May of 2018 sports betting was largely regulated by the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This legislation effectively made sports betting illegal across the country with a few major exceptions:
- All forms of gambling remained legal in Nevada.
- State sports lotteries remained legal in Delaware, Montana and Oregon.
- Jai alai and parimutuel betting on horse and dog racing remained legal.
In 2011 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie filed a lawsuit saying that the PASPA violated US States’s rights to govern themselves. That same year, New Jersey held a non-binding referendum to find out whether its citizens were in favor or legalized sportsbetting. The state voted overwhelmingly in favor of legalized gambling on sports.
It took until 2018 for the case to be settled but the Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of New Jersey, now led by new Governor Phil Murphy, giving each state the authority to legislate its own rules governing sports betting.
The situation is developing quickly as more and more states scramble to pass laws and get in on the wealth of tax revenue associated with regulated sports betting.
Where in the US Is Sports Betting Legal?
The states that have already passed legislation and are currently accepting fully legal sports wagers include Nevada, Mississippi, New Mexico, Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia.
Montana and Oregon also offer limited sportsbetting via the state’s lottery.
Betting on fantasy sports falls into a different category than traditional sports betting and is allowed in all states except Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana and Alabama.
Which States Are Likely to Legalize Online Sports Betting?
New York, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania are the next most likely states to legalize online sports betting and it’s looking almost guaranteed it will happen soon.
All three have already passed laws including pro-sportsbetting language and it looks likely they will begin accepting wagers in 2019.
There’s also a long list of states that have expressed interest in legalizing sports betting either through proposed legislation or politicians backing the sportsbetting cause.
These include Ohio, California, Montana, South Carolina, California, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Massachusetts, Maryland, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Connecticut.
Which States Are Unlikely to Legalize Online Sports Betting?
The only state we believe to be TRULY unlikely to ever legalize sports betting is Utah. The state’s strict Mormon population has always taken an extremely tough stance on gambling and we don’t predict that will change any time soon.
Other states that have serious barriers to legalization include North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Wyoming.
All of these states have anti-gambling laws already on the books and therefore must do more work to pave the way for regulated sports betting in the future.
What Sports Can You Bet on Online in the USA?
It depends which state you’re in but generally if a state has allowed legal sportsbetting, you can bet on all professional sports and most college sports.
Popular sports to bet on include:
- LOL (League of Legends eSports)
- EL (Euro League Fantasy Basketball)
Some states also have provisions for betting on e-sports but it’s not common for sportsbooks to offer those bets.
Is Betting on Fantasy Sports Legal in the USA?
Wagering real money on Fantasy Sports is legal in the majority of US states. The fact that playing fantasy sports is legal and traditional sportsbetting is illegal boils down to a distinction made in the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006.
The UIGEA makes a specific exception for fantasy games where the outcome relies on the player’s understanding of stats and other information instead of on chance.
The distinction between skill in fantasy sports and in traditional sportsbetting is confusing at best and it was put to the test in the 2007 New Jersey District Court case Humphrey vs. Viacom Inc. The court found in favor of fantasy sports being a game of skill and therefore exempt from anti-gambling laws.
Real money fantasy sports betting is now available in every US state except Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana and Alabama.
History of Online Sports Betting in the USA
While the history of online sports betting in the US technically doesn’t begin until the advent of the internet and online sportsbooks, the factors that set the stage for it began more than 150 years ago.
Let’s take a closer look at the major developments in US sportsbetting and gambling law and how it layed the groundwork for the revolutionary changes we’re seeing right now.
1860: All Forms of Gambling Banned in US
Following the revolutionary war, gambling had developed a bad reputation and was beginning to be associated with vice and corruption. In 1860 the US federal government banned almost all forms of gambling that involved a bettor making a cash wager with a bookmaker or casino, including betting on sports.
Interestingly, betting on horse-racing was not included in the ban. This ban further encouraged the negative public opinion of gambling and it also inspired organized crime and other shady elements to offer gambling services illegally.
1867-1890: Horse Race Betting Legalized
In 1867 horse racing was officially licensed and regulated at the state level. It was also the first year horses raced at the Belmont Stakes. The Preakness Stakes started not long after in 1873 and the Kentucky Derby kicked off in 1875.
By 1890 there were over 300 racetracks spread throughout the country, clearly showing Americans’ love of betting on sporting contests.
1910: All Gambling Banned Again
As the 20th century began basically all forms of gambling had been deemed illegal once again, including lotteries. By 1911 less than 30 racetracks remained and organized crime had solidified its position as the main option for gambling and sports betting.
1931: New Deal Legalizes Gambling in Nevada
Following the Great Depression, the United States was in desperate need of revenue. To help accomplish key elements of his New Deal, namely the Hoover Dam, FDR legalized gambling in Nevada.
1949: First Legal Sportsbook Opens in Las Vegas
The first legal bookmakers opened their doors in Las Vegas in 1949 and were given permission to accept bets on all pro sports including horse racing. The sportsbooks were called Turf Clubs and operated independently of Vegas casinos.
This was a big moment in sports betting history because it was the first time people could legally bet on events like horse racing without physically being at the racetrack.
1951: 10% Tax Levied on Sportsbooks
The sportsbetting industry took a bit hit in 1951 when the US government introduced a 10% tax on all sportsbooks' gross revenue. It ultimately proved unmanageable for bookmakers and drove many of them out of business completely. This was another factor that led to more illegal sportsbooks run by organized crime groups.
1961: The Wire Act
Because organized crime had developed sportsbetting into such a profitable business, JFK tried to come up with new tools for law enforcement to use to combat the problem.
The Wire Act made it illegal for anyone to use wire communication like phones and telegrams to pass on information pertaining to sports betting.
1974: Government Cancels 10% Tax
In 1974 the 10% tax that was choking out legal sportsbooks in Nevada was rescinded. Nevada Senator Howard Cannon was responsible for the move, arguing that by reducing the tax to 2%, so many sportsbooks would open up that the government would make more money than they did with 10% tax. It worked and sportsbetting began to flourish in Las Vegas.
1975: First Sportsbook in a Vegas Casino
Three quarters of the way into the 20th century the first sportsbook was opened inside a casino at the Stardust which was run by Frank Rosenthal. Rosenthal is said to be the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s iconic film Casino.
1979: First Casino on Native American Reservation
The Seminole Tribe in Florida was the first indigenous group in America to open a casino and even though they didn’t feature sports betting right away, it would prove to be a pivotal step towards widespread sportsbetting to come.
1992: Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)
By far the biggest blow to US sportsbetting, PASPA made it illegal to bet on any professional or amateur sports whatsoever.
There were exceptions: All gambling in Nevada was still permitted, as was betting on jai alai, dog racing and some special sports lotteries operating in Delaware, Oregon and Montana.
1996: First Online Sports Bet
Probably the single biggest event in modern sportsbetting occurred when Jukka Honkavaara placed a $50 wager at Austrian-based internet sportsbook Intertops.
It was the first ever online sportsbetting wager. It gave US gamblers a way to sidestep the entire brick and mortar sportsbook system by betting online and it paved the way for what would become a multi-billion dollar global industry.
2006: Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA)
Sportsbooks and online casinos servicing Americans hit a big bump in the road in 2006 when the US government passed the UIGEA. While it didn’t make betting illegal for US citizens, it did make it illegal to accept any payments on behalf of an illegal online casino or sportsbook operating in America.
The UIGEA didn’t completely stop off-shore sportsbetting sites from accepting US players but it did cause many of the reputable sites to pull out of America.
2018: Murphy vs. NCAA
Perhaps the biggest thing to happen to sportsbetting in the US in the last century, this landmark case between New Jersey and the NCAA has completely changed the outlook for sports gambling in America.
In May, 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey, saying that each state should have the authority to regulate sports betting within its own jurisdiction.
In a few short months many states including New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia and New Mexico began accepting legal sports bets in land-based casinos and online.
How to Make Sure You’re Betting on Sports Online Legally
The best way to guarantee that your sports wagers are 100% legal is to visit our comprehensive guide for your particular state. We update our guides regularly as more and more states legalize sportsbetting so you’ll always get the most up to date information.
In addition to getting a clear picture of your state’s legal situation around sportsbetting, if it is legal we’ll recommend the best sites to sign up and bet with.
WSN.com does not recommend betting with unlicensed off-shore sportsbooks so if a sportsbetting site is listed here you can rest assured it’s licensed and legal in the United States.
Is There No Deposit Sports Betting in the USA?
No deposit bonuses are special promotions where online sportsbooks will give you free funds or free bets with no deposit necessary.
While they are rare, they do exist and when you find one it’s an awesome opportunity since there’s literally no risk.
Most of the time no deposit bonuses come with restrictions that only allow you to withdraw the profit you make from the bet, and not the actual free betting stake that’s given to you.
Terms and conditions for bonuses vary from site to site so make sure to read the fine print to understand exactly what restrictions are in place.
Use Our State by State Guides and Get Ready for Legal US Sports Betting
The Supreme Court decision in Murphy vs. NCAA was an absolute game changer for sports gambling in the United States.
With a handful of states already offering legal sports betting and tons more poised to get on board there’s never been a better time to be a sports fan in the US.
Use this page and our state by state sports betting guides to stay up to date on the latest developments where you live. If your state doesn’t offer legal sports betting yet, get a headstart on your homework by studying our sportsbetting strategy guides.
It won’t be long before you can put that knowledge to work making legal bets.