States Rush to Legalize Sports Betting Before Start of NFL Season

General News States rush to legalize sports betting before NFL season
Jun 23, 2021 01:06Tim Ronaldson

In the United States, football is the king of the sports world, and the NFL is king of the world of football.

Kickoff for the first NFL game is less than 80 days away, and states are rushing to do everything they can to get their sports betting operations up and running in time for the start of the season.

Right now, nine states have approved sports betting legislation but haven't started accepting bets yet. While a launch before the NFL season may be unlikely for these states, they're hoping to not miss out completely on the large amount of money that's wagered on the NFL every year.

Why the NFL is Important for Betting

Football is the most popular sport to bet on in the United States, and the real numbers back it up.

In 2020, New Jersey set a new record for total amount of money wagered on sports in any one year. That year, there was more than $6 billion wagered on sports in New Jersey alone. The previous record was $5.4 billion, set by Nevada in 2019.

Football accounted for nearly 24% of that total handle, with $1.4 billion wagered on the sport in New Jersey for 2020. Basketball came in second at $1.1 billion, or roughly 18% of the total wagered.

This is why states are rushing to try to get their legal sportsbook operations up and running before the start of the NFL season. With each passing month comes a huge amount of lost revenue possibilities for sportsbook operators and, in turn, state tax coffers.

With basketball commonly being the second most bet on sport in the U.S., the fall represents a very important time for sportsbooks across the country. Add in the start of the NHL season and the MLB playoffs and World Series, and you can see why the early months of the fall are so important.

What States are on the Brink?

To date, the District of Columbia plus 21 states have legalized sports gambling and are already accepting bets. There are nine others that are closing in finalizing sports betting laws and opening operations.

  • Arizona: The state passed a bill this April for mobile wagering and retail sportsbooks. Regulators need to approve some aspects of their bills, but they expect to launch sometime in the fall.
  • Connecticut: The state reached an agreement with the Native American tribes for a sports betting deal, allowing for retail and mobile sportsbooks. While the bill passed in May, it must receive federal approval still. The state is hoping for a fall launch.
  • Florida: The state came to a similar agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for retail and online sports betting. The state must overcome a constitutional amendment and federal regulations to start operations.
  • Louisiana: Voters in most of the parishes in the state approved legalized sports betting in 2020. Since it wasn't on a statewide basis, though, there's still lots of regulatory and tax work to be done. They might not be ready by the end of the year.
  • Maryland: Voters also approved sports betting in 2020, and lawmakers approved legislation allowing for a massive 30 retail sportsbooks and 60 online sportsbooks. Regulatory work still needs to be done, but officials expect a launch before or during the football season.
  • Nebraska: Voters approved amendments to allow for sports betting at horse tracks in the state. In-person betting could begin at these licensed facilities by the fall.
  • South Dakota: A 2020 ballot initiative allowed for lawmakers to pass in-person-only sports betting at casinos and tribal gaming sites. It still needs regulatory approval, and the state is exploring mobile betting, too.
  • Washington: The state is negotiating with tribal representatives to allow sports betting on their lands. Other than that, sports betting is ready to go in Washington, and should be ready by the fall. It will only include retail sports betting though.
  • Wyoming: The state has approved mobile-only sports betting, making it only the second state to take this approach. Sometime by fall, these operations could accept bets, with further retail expansion coming later.

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Tim Ronaldson
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Tim Ronaldson is a writer, blogger and marketer. He loves all things sports, especially covering the sports betting industry. He joined the AmericaGambles Team 2020 and is mainly responsible for columns and extensive reportage articles.
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