Legal Online Sports Betting in the US

As of February 2021, state-regulated and legal sportsbooks are becoming more and more common throughout the United States. Based on the jurisdiction or state that you’re currently in, you will usually have a substantial amount of retail and online sportsbooks to choose from before you place your wager. 

If you are in a legal jurisdiction, it is highly advised that you use the regulated options for obvious reasons. Regulated sportsbooks are licensed by each state and these licenses are not cheap. Not only are they backed by the state, but also are usually run by a large corporation that has strict guidelines to adhere to. 

Should you run into any issues with a deposit, withdrawal, bonus redemption or any type of financial grievances with a regulated sportsbook, you can rest assured that the regulations in place will protect you from any issues or errors that can and do occur from time to time.

If you plan on using an off-shore sportsbook, with little to no regulation in their jurisdiction, be very cautious. Most of these sportsbooks offer very few options for deposits and withdrawals other than cryptocurrency. Some off-shore websites claim to accept Visa or Mastercard transactions, but that should be seen as a major red flag.

Firstly, you have no idea who you’re giving your personal information and debit or credit card information to. Secondly, The Interstate Wire Act of 1961, or the “Federal Wire Act”, is a federal law that explicitly prohibits the operation of sportsbooks in the United States. So you’re giving all types of information to an organization committing a felony by just taking the information to begin with. What other felonies are they capable of committing?

Should you choose to remain anonymous and deposit with cryptocurrency, you may have a good experience and find a good off-shore sportsbook. Should you, however, run into any type of financial grievances with the operators, it’s highly unlikely that they will make things right or even communicate with you. It’s the wild, wild west. Enter the off-shore gambling world at your own risk.

Sports Betting Explained

Sports betting is the activity of predicting sporting event results and placing a wager, in an attempt to predict and monetize the outcome. The large majority of wagers in the United States are placed on both professional and collegiate athletics. Football, basketball, baseball, hockey, auto racing, MMA and boxing are some of the most popularly wagered sports.

Sports bettors place their wagers through a sportsbook, or through a privately run organization. Historically, these privately run organizations or individuals were referred to as “bookies” or “bookmakers”. The term "sportsbook" is also a historical reference to the books used to track each wager and presumed payout. Today, many legal and regulated sportsbooks are found online, however, the legality of the sportsbook is entirely dependent on the jurisdiction in which it operates.

Some famous examples of sports betting scandals in the United States include the Chicago White Sox or “Black Sox” throwing the 1919 World Series. The term throwing, in sports betting, basically means to bet against yourself and/or your team. The player(s) would then proceed to purposely lose for financial gain. Players in all sports throughout history have been rumored to take bribes from illegal sportsbooks to tilt the outcome in favor of the book.

The illegal gambling activities of MLB all-time hits leader Pete Rose was a very notable incident in the 1980’s. Rose allegedly placed bets on or against his team while managing the Cincinnati Reds. Because the gambling activity was illegal and underground, it was never clear if Rose was purposely “throwing” the games or just extra confident in his team’s abilities.

The most recent incident involved NBA referee Tim Donaghy. After an FBI investigation, it was concluded that Donaghy had been using an illegal underground sportsbook to place wagers on NBA games from 2005 to 2007. He also received compensation for providing tips to bookmakers before games to help adjust the lines in their favor. He was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison. Interestingly enough, it was an anonymous organized crime figure with knowledge of Donaghy’s activities that ultimately turned him into the FBI.

These scandals all rocked the sports world in their respective eras and sports betting received constant negative attention. Ultimately though, in 2018, a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. This effectively legalized sports betting on a federal level.

States With Legal Sports Betting

The following states currently offer legal sports betting within their jurisdiction in some capacity or another.

These states include:

Arkansas Sports Betting

Retail wagering is currently legal and regulated throughout the state. Not offered online at this time.

Date of Launch: July 2019

Number of physical sportsbooks: 3 locations - Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, Southland Casino, Saraceno Casino Resort

There are two new physical casinos slated to open in the near future. Arkansas authorized 5 separate casinos to operate sportsbooks after the referendum was passed in 2018.

Colorado Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering both offered at 20+ different sportsbooks

Date of Launch: May 2020

Online Operators:

FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, BetMGM Sportsbook, and BetRivers Sportsbook all went live at the same time. The Las Vegas-based SuperBook, Circa Sportsbook, PointsBet Sportsbook, William Hill Sportsbook, WynnBET Sportsbook, BetAmerica Sportsbook, Betfred Sportsbook, theScore Sportsbook, and Barstool Sportsbook are all available online as well.

Number of physical sportsbooks: 33 locations

Colorado has 33 commercial and tribal physical casinos that may apply for online and/or in-person licenses for a sportsbook on their properties. As of February 2021, most have been granted at least a temporary license.

Delaware Sports Betting

Retail wagering is currently legal and regulated throughout the state. Not offered online at this time.

Date of Launch: June 2018

Number of physical sportsbooks: 3 locations

  • Delaware Park Casino
  • Dover Downs
  • Harrington Raceway & Casino.

If you’re currently residing in Delaware, you can also do “parlay” wagers on NFL games. This type of betting requires you to pick 3 or more games and choose the correct winner of all contests. This has been legal for decades, pre-dating the PASPA regulations.

Illinois Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering both offered at 30+ different sportsbooks.

Date of Launch: March 2020.

Online Operators: Current online operators are PointsBet Sportsbook, BetRivers Sportsbook, William Hill Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.

The number of land-based sportsbooks: 7 locations.

Rivers Casino and Argosy Casino Alton are 2 well-known locations.

Illinois legalized sports betting in June 2019 when Capital Bill SB 690 was signed into law.

Indiana Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering both offered at 20+ different sportsbooks.

Date of Launch: September 2019

Online Operators: BetMGM Sportsbook, BetRivers Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, PointsBet Sportsbook, Unibet Sportsbook, William Hill Sportsbook and FOX Bet Sportsbook.

Number of physical sportsbooks: 14 locations

Gambling expansion bill HB 1015 was passed in May 2019.

Iowa Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering both offered at 20+ different sportsbooks.

Date of Launch: August 2019

Online Operators: William Hill Sportsbook, Elite Sportsbook, PointsBet Sportsbook, Barstool Sportsbook, Q Sportsbook, Hard Rock Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook

Number of physical sportsbooks: 19 locations

Iowa was one of the first states to launch retail and online sports betting, and Iowa residents have a wide range of sports betting options to choose from.

Iowa’s legislature began discussing legalization and regulation prior to the Supreme Court decision overturning PASPA in May 2018. SF 617 was passed and signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds in May 2019.

Michigan Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering both offered at 20+ different sportsbooks.

Date of Launch: January 2021

Online Brands: BetRivers Sportsbook, PointsBet Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, FOXBet Sportsbook, Parx Sportsbook, Golden Nugget Sportsbook, William Hill Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, BetMGM Sportsbook

Number of retail sportsbooks: 9 locations

Notes: Michigan approved sports betting, online casinos and online poker in 2019. The state also formally approved daily fantasy sports with the same bill.

Mississippi Sports Betting

Retail wagering is currently legal and regulated in Mississippi but it is not offered online at this time.

Date of Launch: August 2018

Number of physical sportsbooks: 29 locations (including Tribal owned)

There is no current legislation for online sportsbooks, however, this may change at any time.

Montana Sports Betting

Retail wagering is currently legal and regulated throughout the state. Not offered online at this time.

Date of Launch: April 2020.

Online Brands: SportsBet Montana

Number of retail sportsbooks: Unknown (Wagers can be placed in Kiosks scattered around the state, commonly found in Taverns)

The Lottery Bill was signed by Governor Steve Bullock and backed by the Montana Tavern Association. Ideally, kiosks can be placed in its members’ establishments, which in turn brings new patrons that are interested in placing wagers and watching the event unfold.

Nevada Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering both offered at 50+ different sportsbooks.

Date of Launch: Around 1949.

Online Brands: 50+ different sportsbooks

Number of retail sportsbooks: ~190 locations

Las Vegas, Nevada, the obvious epicenter for gambling activities, still remains the mecca for physical and online sportsbooks of all shapes and sizes.

New Hampshire Sports Betting

Retail wagering is currently legal and regulated throughout the state. Offered online, but only through Draftkings Sportsbook.

Date of Launch: December 2019

Online Brands: DraftKings (Exclusive contract)

Number of physical sportsbooks: 10+ locations

You need to be 18+ to bet on sports in New Hampshire.

New Jersey Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering offered at 30+ sportsbooks.

Date of Launch: June 2018

Online Brands: 888 Sportsbook, BetAmerica Sportsbook, Borgata Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, FOXBet Sportsbook, theScore Sportsbook, William Hill Sportsbook, Golden Nugget Sportsbook.

Number of physical sportsbooks: 11 locations

As of December 2020, over 90% of all sports wagers are placed online.

New Mexico Sports Betting

Retail wagering is currently legal and regulated throughout the state, including Native American reservations. Not offered online at this time.

Date of Launch: October 2018.

Number of physical sportsbooks: 5 locations (including Tribal owned)

Tribal-state compacts may suppress the launch of online sportsbooks as revenue-sharing agreements continue to stall.

New York Sports Betting

Retail wagering is currently legal and regulated throughout the state, including Native American reservations. Not offered online at this time.

Date of Launch: July 2019.

Number of physical sportsbooks: 7 locations (including tribal-owned)

Brands: FanDuel Sportsbook, Caesars Sportsbook, Yellow Brick Road Casino Sportsbook, Points Place Casino Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, Bet Rivers Sportsbook.

No sportsbooks offer online services as of February 2021, but the services are likely coming by 2022 as the state budget is released. New York should be prioritizing their online wagering system, as a huge influx of New Jersey wagers are actually being placed by New York State residents.

North Carolina Sports Betting

Retail wagering is currently legal and regulated on Native American land. Not offered online at this time.

Date of Launch: June 2020

Number of land-based sportsbooks: 2+ Harrah’s Cherokee and Valley River

North Carolina passed SB 154 in July 2019, legalizing sports betting exclusively at two tribal casinos. Not much is known about these sportsbooks as they are located on Native American land in the extremely rural Western area of the state.

Oregon Sports Betting

Retail wagering is currently legal and regulated throughout the state, including Native American reservations. Not offered online at this time.

Date of launch: August 2019.

Brands: ScoreBoard Sportsbook (Oregon Lottery)

The number of retail sportsbooks: 2 Locations. Chinook Winds Casino Resort. ROAR Digital will open the second retail sportsbook this year at Spirit Mountain Casino.

In January 2021, Oregon's Governor filed a new bill that would put the Oregon Racing Commission in charge of regulation while also opening up the market to non-lottery operators.

Pennsylvania Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering offered at 30+ sportsbooks.’

Date of Launch: November 2018.

Online Brands: FanDuel Sportsbook, BetRivers Sportsbook, FOXBet Sportsbook, Parx Sportsbook, Unibet Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, Caesars Sportsbook, BetAmerica Sportsbook, Barstool Sportsbook.

Number of physical sportsbooks: 13+

As of December 2020, nearly 90% of all sports wagers are placed via online sportsbooks.

Rhode Island Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering offered at 5+ sportsbooks. In 2018, Rhode Island passed its law legalizing sports wagering.

Date of Launch: November 2018

Online Brands: William Hill (Sportsbook Rhode Island/ Rhode Island Lottery)

The number of physical sportsbooks: 2+ Twin Rivers Casino and Tiverton Casino.

Tennessee Sports Betting

Retail wagering is currently legal and regulated throughout the state. ONLY AVAILABLE ONLINE.

Date of Launch: November 1, 2020.

Online Brands: DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, BetMGM Sportsbook, Tennessee Action 24/7 Sportsbook, WynnBET Sportsbook, and BetAmerica Sportsbook (TwinSpires).

The number of retail sportsbooks: Tennessee does not have any casinos currently, but sports betting is legal to wager on online sportsbooks only.

Tennessee legalized online sports betting in early 2019 with HB 1 (a substitute for SB 16). The law came into effect on July 1st, 2019. The Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation (TELC) is the regulatory agency along with oversight from the Sports Wagering Advisory Council.

Virginia Sports Betting

Online wagering offered at 1 sportsbook, retail locations coming soon.

Date of Launch: January 22, 2021.

Online Brands: FanDuel Sportsbook was the first to launch on Jan. 22, 2021. BetRivers Sportsbook and William Hill Sportsbook will have retail and online sportsbooks.

The number of physical sportsbooks: None at this moment.

Virginia approved sports betting for both online and retail sportsbooks in April 2020, and the bill becomes effective as of July 1, 2020. The Virginia Lottery will be in charge of regulating the market. Keep a close eye on upcoming news as 18 licenses will be allowed.

Washington D.C. Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering both offered at 2 different sportsbooks.

Date of Launch: May 2020

Online Brands: Intralot — GamBetDC is the only legal and regulated sports betting option available within city limits.

The number of land-based sportsbooks: William Hill sportsbook which is located at the Capital One Arena.

West Virginia Sports Betting

Retail and online wagering offered at 20+ sportsbooks.

Date of Launch: August 2018.

Online Brands: FanDuel Sportsbook (The Greenbrier), DraftKings Sportsbook (Hollywood Casino Charles Town), William Hill Sportsbook (Mountaineer Casino Racetrack), BetMGM Sportsbook(The Greenbrier skin), and Betly Sportsbook (Mardi Gras, Wheeling Island).

Number of land-based sportsbooks: 5+

Much like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, West Virginia also has legal and regulated online casinos available within state lines.

States Currently Pending Legislation

Below are US states that are currently pending legislation for sports betting.

Louisiana

Date of Launch: Not yet

Online operators: Unknown

The number of land-based sportsbooks: 24 casinos and racetracks will be eligible to eventually offer on-premises sports betting.

In November 2020, residents of Louisiana voted to allow retail sports betting at existing casinos and horse racing tracks.

Washington State

Market launch date: Coming soon

Online operators: Not yet known

The number of physical sportsbooks: There are currently more than 20 tribal casinos that will have the option to open a sportsbook. Regulations are unknown for now.

Governor Jay Insee signed a tribal-backed bill that will permit sports betting at Native American casino locations.

States With No Pending Legislation

Utah and Hawaii are both very unfriendly for gamblers of all sorts. It is very unlikely that residents or visitors will ever see legalized and regulated sports betting in either of these states for a very long time, if ever.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Sports Betting Legal?

While sports betting is federally legal in every state, only certain states have regulated retail and online sportsbooks. It is illegal to run a sports betting operation and accept wagers without a license. This is a felony and punishable by up to 24 months in federal prison, assuming that’s the only felony your operation is committing.  

The following states have legal and REGULATED sportsbooks: (some retail, some online, and some both retail and online)

Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia.

How Does Sports Betting Work?

In a legal and regulated sportsbook, the process is simple. You have $100 and you really love your hometown team. You’re confident that they are going to win their respective league championship. While high rollers known as “sharps” or “whales” may be extended a credit line by the sportsbook, you will probably need to pay up front to place a wager.

If placing your wager online, you can deposit the $100 via debit or credit card, however most retail sportsbooks are cash-only. If your team is +500 to win the championship, your ticket will look something like this:

  • Wager: $100
  • To Win: $500
  • To Collect: $600

What is the Spread (+) or the Line (-) in Sports Betting?

When a team is favored to win, they will receive a negative number next to their team name. For example, in Super Bowl 55, the Kansas City Chiefs were favored by 3 points over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

This means that oddsmakers believed the Chiefs were 3 points “superior” to the Buccaneers and therefore if you wagered on the Chiefs to win, they also had to win by 3 or more points. 

The Buccaneers were a 3 point underdog so they would be referred to as +3. The Buccaneers won the game by a huge margin of 22 points, shocking many across the world as the spread was not close to accurate when compared to the results of the game. The winning bet is referred to as “Buccaneers +3” and the losing bet would be “Chiefs -3”.

What Does the Over/Under Mean In Sports Betting?

The Over/Under is one of the more common and easier wagers that can be placed in nearly every sportsbook in the United States. The wager is being placed on the total points scored of an individual sporting contest.

In Super Bowl 55, the over/under was placed at 55 total points scored by most sportsbooks and oddsmakers. While you can bet on the over/under for points scored for each team, the most common over/under bet is on the total points.

The final score to the game was a 31-9 Buccaneers victory, so the total points scored “went under” the predicted amount of 55 by a wide margin.

What Is The Moneyline In Sports Betting

The moneyline has 2 components to consider when placing this type of wager. The underdog and the favorite. Obviously, the favorite will be who oddsmakers believe is the better team and the underdog will be the perceived “inferior” team.

In Super Bowl 55, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were the perceived “inferior” team, ended up winning outright as underdogs. 

The moneyline for Super Bowl 55 was as follows:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +140

Kansas City Chiefs -175 

A $100 moneyline wager on the underdog collected $240. Because the Chiefs were the perceived better team, one would have wagered $175 to collect $275.

What is a Unit in Sports Betting?

Units are commonly used in the sports betting world and represent an easy way to discuss a betting strategy.

Depending on your bankroll, 1 unit can be anywhere from $1 to $1 million. For most handicappers, 1 unit represents $100.

When a player likes a certain bet they will usually place “1 unit” on the outcome. If they are extremely confident in the outcome, they will usually say they placed “3 units” on the outcome, meaning they placed 3x their normal bet on their prediction.