Which States Are Next in Line to Pass Sports Betting Legislation?

Oct 23, 2020 06:10Tim Ronaldson
Which States Are Next in Line to Pass Sports Betting Legislation?

After years of fighting through the court system, New Jersey finally won its battle in May 2018. That's when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the PASPA law (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992) that effectively banned sports betting for 26 years in all but four states.

Before the Supreme Court's 2018 ruling, only Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware were legally allowed to offer sports betting in their states. Even still, Delaware offered only parlay tickets, while Oregon and Montana didn't offer any sports wagers at all.

That left Nevada as the only state that previously offered full-fledged single-game sports gambling in the United States.

Following the decision, all states in America had the freedom to make their own laws regarding sports wagering. What has happened in the two-plus years since that time has varied a lot, with some states being more aggressive and others taking a more cautious approach.

Here's an update on where things were, how things progressed and where things stand now.

The States to Move Quickly

Not surprisingly, New Jersey was one of the first states to pass a sports betting bill following PASPA being overturned. It was June 11 of 2018 that a sports betting for the state was signed into law. A sportsbook run by William Hill at Monmouth Park took the first sports bet in the state on June 14.

In addition to being of the first states to legalize sports betting, New Jersey also was one of the most aggressive. In addition to offering a large number of operator licenses for in-person sportsbooks at casinos and racetracks, New Jersey also legalized mobile sports betting.

Delaware was actually the first state to take action, mainly because it already had some form of sports wagering in place before PASPA was overturned. On June 5 of 2018, Delaware expanded sports wagering from just parlays to single-game wagering at the three casinos located in the state. As of now, only in-person wagering is allowed in Delaware.

By the end of 2018, five more states had legalized sports gambling in some form. In order, they were Mississippi (in-person only), West Virginia (mobile and in-person), New Mexico (in-person only), Pennsylvania (mobile and in-person) and Rhode Island (mobile and in-person).

The States That Were Next in Line

The following year, 2019, saw a lot of progress in terms of sports betting discussions, but only six more states officially legalized the practice by the end of the year. In fact, none of those six states even signed into law a bill to legalize sports gambling in their state until July.

The first half of the year was spent debating, with branches of local legislators discussing whether legalizing sports wagering would be good for their state or potentially detrimental.

Ultimately, the six states that approved sports betting in 2019 were Arkansas (in-person only), New York (in-person only), Iowa (mobile and in-person), Oregon (mobile and in-person), Indiana (mobile and in-person) and New Hampshire (in-person and mobile).

Four more states and Washington, D.C., followed suit in 2020 -- Illinois (mobile and in-person), Michigan (mobile and in-person), Montana (in-person only), Colorado (mobile and in-person) and Washington, D.C. (in-person and mobile).

Who's Left and What's the Hold-Up?

As of October 2020, there are still 32 states in America that have not yet passed sports betting legislation -- or have passed it but haven't begun accepting bets yet.

By the end of this year, it's possible that roughly half of the states will have legislation passed that would allow some form of sports wagering in their state. But, what's the hold-up in the other half of states?

Many states that haven't passed sports betting legislation are also states that would be completely new to gambling in a form other than a state-run lottery. Those states that already had some form of casino gambling in place -- such as New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and Mississippi -- were quick to pass sports betting legislation because they had the framework and gambling "backbone" already in place.

For some of the remaining states, passing legislation that legalizes extensive forms of gambling is a completely new arena. They don't have gambling commissions or other regulatory authorities in place to oversee the industry. In fact, they don't even have outlines for what restrictions would be put in place and how they would be enforced. They don't have prior relationships with wagering companies, either.

It's not all a logistical question, though. Some of the remaining states have a strong contingent of residents -- and lawmakers -- that are morally opposed to extensive gambling. For example, Utah is unlikely to ever legalize sports gambling because there are anti-gambling laws actually written into its state constitution.

Even still, all but three states (Utah as well as Idaho and Washington) have at least discussed potential sports gambling bills. The question now is, which of these states will step up to the plate and move forward next?

Money talks, as we all know, and when times are tough, states sometimes open up their books to find new ways to make revenue. With the coronavirus pandemic dealing a huge blow to tax revenue for local governments around the country, more states could be influenced to pass sports betting legislation to help fuel their economic rebound.

Tim Ronaldson
Lady Liberty
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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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