In the US, gambling is legislated at both the federal and state levels, depending on the sub-industry in question. Online sports betting, for example, used to be banned at a federal level. But when the ban was lifted by the US Supreme Court in 2018, the matter became up to states to decide.
As a result, sports betting is now quickly becoming legal across states. A growing number of operators are launching mobile sports betting apps in compliance with state laws and regulations.
This page serves as an overview of legal online sports betting in the US as it develops.
US Online Sports Betting 2020
Ever since New Jersey challenged the legality of the PAPSA in federal court, sports betting is spreading throughout the country. Below is a list of US online sports betting states and we then breakdown what’s offered in each legal online sports betting state.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
In-Depth US Online Sportsbook States
Colorado officially launched regulated sports betting in May 2020. On opening day, DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and BetRivers introduced their sportsbooks to the market. Fortunately for the operators, their debut happened in the middle of the coronavirus lockdown, which meant that competing brick-and-mortar casinos were mostly closed.
As such, players were able to use sportsbook apps from the comfort and safety of their own homes. This resulted in a booming start for Colorado’s sports betting industry. Retail sports betting will likely launch as well when casinos re-open.
Illinois launched sports betting with BetRivers Sportsbook in 2020. Since then, five other sportsbooks have become available in the state. However, only three of them offer online sports betting: BetRivers, FanDuel, and DraftKings.
Illinois has a slightly different sign-up process for online sports betting account holders. To complete registration, aspiring sports bettors must visit their online sportsbook’s partner casino in person.
Events of 2020 made this part of the sign-up process difficult, since the coronavirus pandemic shut down most of the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos. As a result, the sports betting industry in Illinois has had a slow start.
Fortunately, as casinos are opening back up, registration will become possible for the majority of Illinois residents.
Indiana first saw land-based sports betting in 2019, alongside many other states that legalized the activity on the heels of New Jersey. The first sportsbooks to market were DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetRivers.
With their success, 2020 saw the launching of even more sportsbook apps including PointsBet, BetAmerica, Unibet, and The Score.
Overall, there are plenty of options for Indiana sports betting enthusiasts. In fact, there are more sportsbook options in Indiana than any other state except for New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Iowa started offering retail sports betting operations in 2019. Mobile sports betting launched quickly after legalization thanks to the efforts of William Hill, which operates four casinos in the region. Additional mobile sports betting operations are expected to launch in the latter half of 2020 in partnership with PointsBet, Kambi, and BetWorks.
DraftKings and FanDuel have also begun retail and online sports betting operations within Iowa’s borders. In total, Iowan sports betting enthusiasts have plenty of options. There will be even more to look forward to over the next few years, as more operators swarm the relatively sports betting-friendly state.
Nevada, home of Las Vegas and most types of legal gambling, has allowed legal online sports betting for quite some time. Many of the big players started off here, and most favorite operators maintain a presence in the state. Both online and in-person sports betting can be enjoyed by residents and visitors from out of state.
New Hampshire has a relatively unique sports betting situation. In 2019, the state’s executive council voted to allow DraftKings sole control over sports betting activities within its borders. As a result, DraftKings essentially has a monopoly in New Hampshire. Currently, they’re planning to provide both retail and online sports betting opportunities for its residents.
Right now, only online sports betting has any steam. But retail sportsbooks will launch sometime in 2021 or later depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic affects development.
For fans of other sportsbooks besides DraftKings, unfortunately, the situation in New Hampshire remains relatively limited.
In 2018, New Jersey became the first state to legalize online sports betting. It was at this point that both FanDuel and DraftKings opened up their online sportsbook apps. They were quick on the draw because they already had daily fantasy sports offerings within the state. New Jersey is now the home of nine retail sportsbooks, in total, alongside eight online and mobile apps.
Most of the sportsbooks in New Jersey operate in partnerships with a brick-and-mortar casinos, and only New Jersey residents can play at New Jersey-specific sportsbooks. New Jersey is also noteworthy since it’s the state with the most online sportsbook/casino app combinations.
Oregon, one of the most liberal states in the country, also allows legal sports wagers as of 2019. The process of legalization began with inroads from the Native American casino communities and with retail sports betting for both professional and college sports. Many staple international sports were not included, but progress is reportedly coming on those fronts.
It was actually the Oregon Lottery that started online sports betting for Oregon residents. The Scoreboard betting app is available for Android, iOS, and browser. Keep in mind that only wagering on professional sports is allowed. College sports betting is strictly prohibited.
Pennsylvania is another one of the earliest adopters of online sports betting apps. It first opened a land-based sportsbook in 2018, but sports betting really kicked off starting in 2019.
At the time of writing, five mobile sportsbooks currently operate in Pennsylvania, with at least another five on the way and do to launch sometime in 2020 or 2021.
Interestingly, most of Pennsylvania’s online sportsbooks are smaller operators, although DraftKings and FanDuel do maintain a presence. All of Pennsylvania’s online sportsbooks operate in partnership with brick-and-mortar casinos like Parx Casino and Kambi.
Rhode Island, the smallest state in the US, is also one of the handful that allows legal online sports betting. Like Illinois, aspiring sports bettors are required to register their accounts in person with the sportsbook’s casino partner before placing bets.
Twin River Casino currently runs online sports betting within the state. This means that, for now, sportsbook options in Rhode Island are limited compared to surrounding states. But they’re still better than nothing.
Washington, DC legalized sports betting shortly after Colorado on May 28, 2020. Sports betting options are relatively limited so far. Currently, Gambet DC is the only sports betting platform and is controlled by DC Lottery. For now, other mobile sportsbooks are not allowed to operate, although this may change in the future.
In 2012, West Virginia became the first state to open a retail sportsbook. As soon as online sports betting became legal, FanDuel found a casino partner and charged through the gates, becoming the first online sportsbook to operate on West Virginia soil.
2018 saw the advancement of more casinos launching online sports betting apps, often using their own brand instead of partnering with already-running online sports betting apps. DraftKings and BetMGM quickly followed FanDuel in offering online sports betting opportunities. Since then, two online sportsbooks have joined the ranks: William Hill and Betly.
While there are plenty of states that already have legalized sports betting, other states are hot on their heels and are set to either legalize the activity in the last month of 2020 or sometime in 2021. Let’s take a closer look at which states will soon welcome sports betting.
After a hot debate, Michigan legalized sports betting in 2020. While brick-and-mortar sports betting launched shortly thereafter, online sports betting has not.
This is partly because of disagreements with casinos and operators in regard to partnerships. FanDuel, for instance, is partnered with the brick-and-mortar MotorCity Casino. But issues with regulation have held back its launch date.
Regardless, the future is still bright for residents of this state. Big operators will undoubtedly open mobile sports betting platforms. It’s only a matter of time. Right now, Michigan regulators are developing rules to help ensure fair play for various operators. The target launch date is sometime in 2021.
Tennessee is lagging behind many of its fellow states. Although sports betting has been legal since April 2019, it has not yet launched due to regulation issues and partnership problems.
Specifically, state regulators will only issue three licenses for online sportsbook operators for the time being. Online sports betting will not launch earlier than November 1, 2020. It may be even longer due to setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The heavy hitters who did receive licensing are no surprise: DraftKings, BetMGM, and FanDuel. However, the committee in charge of licensing in Tennessee may meet again in October to approve other operators. This means Tennessee residents might, in the future, enjoy a wider variety of options.
Sports betting became legal in Virginia in April 2020 when amendments to the current anti-gambling legislation allowed for regulation of the activity. However, the laws regarding sports betting only went into effect as of July 2020. More recently, in September 2020, the Virginia Lottery approved final regulations for online sports bettors.
All of this delay likely means that the first legal sportsbooks in this state will go live sometime in 2021. October will see the lottery start to approve applications for operators, meaning Virginia residents will first get a hint of what platforms will be available to them sometime soon.
What Are The Top Sports Betting Apps?
Among the states that have legal online sports betting, you’ll notice a few apps that are more widespread than others. Typically, these are the top in the industry, and they are the ones you’ll want to check out once they’re available.
DraftKings is one of the two sports betting titans in the industry alongside FanDuel. It offers a smooth and intuitive user interface, plus tons of promotions and special betting opportunities based on the current sports season.
Furthermore, DraftKings gamblers will enjoy the fact that the mobile app contains a special “Pools” tab, offering unique wagers and markets that desktop players won’t be able to access.
DraftKings is also notable for its wide market variety and depth and wide range of wager types. Multiple deposit and withdrawal options round out a fantastic mobile sportsbook experience.
The sportsbook’s bonus offers – that’s right, plural – are quite nice and very enticing for new players. Sports betting fans can take advantage of five free $25 bets, a risk-free bet for up to $500, and a deposit match for another $500. There’s simply no reason not to try out this sports betting platform if you’re a fan of the activity.
FanDuel is the second of the two most popular mobile sportsbooks in the US. It offers a much cleaner user interface than most competitors, plus generally stable servers, good market variety (even if it’s not the best of the best), and tons of high-quality promotions.
FanDuel also provides pretty good odds for all of its markets, regular odds boosts, and in-play betting so players can participate in moment-to-moment action. Good customer support and a wide variety of withdrawal options relative to other sportsbooks in the industry make cashing out your winnings easier than in most other places.
The bonus for new players is a $1,000 risk-free bet. Basically, all new players will get up to $1,000 in site credit if their initial wagers fail, offering a significant cushion as newcomers learn the ropes of sports betting and make some high-value bets to start things off with a bang.
BetMGM is another popular online sportsbook that’s available for both iPhone and Android users. It’s popular not only for its fantastic interface but also for a rotating banner of promotions.
Frequent players of the sportsbook will be able to take advantage of these and place high return wagers on regular sports betting events. It’s a particularly good sportsbook for fans of parlay bets, as many parlays come with specific promotions and refund offers.
BetMGM’s mobile sportsbook provides a plethora of different wager types, plus pretty extensive betting market options ranging from professional US sports to more niche markets like golf, cricket, Australian rules football, and rugby leagues.
New players can take advantage of an opening bonus that is good for a 100% deposit match worth up to $500. Thus, players could potentially start with $1,000 in their accounts depending on the size of their initial deposit.
BetRiver is last but certainly not least on this list. It’s available for both Apple and Android device users and has a browser-based platform. It’s particularly popular in Pennsylvania and Indiana and is notable for features like daily odds boosts, promotions themed around current sports seasons, the integrated casino with the sportsbook app, and more.
More interesting is the “bonus bank” feature, which lets you track and utilize your bonus money in engaging ways. You can play with the bonus cash for extra prizes or bonus money or bank it for later withdrawal.
The sportsbook offers a 100% deposit match good for up to $250 so long as you use the PLAY250 promotional code. This essentially means you could start with up to $500 in your BetRivers account depending on the initial size of your deposit.
Legal Versus Offshore
Sports betting enthusiasts who, unfortunately, live in states where online or retail sports betting isn’t yet legal might be tempted to check out offshore or illegal sports betting sites. While the promise of winning big is undoubtedly tempting, you should never attempt to use those sites or give them your money.
Offshore Online Sports Betting
Offshore or illegal sports betting sites have several major problems that make them more of a risk than you might think:
- They aren’t regulated by any reliable body or agency. Therefore, there’s no guarantee that you will get your money back if things go south.
- Since there isn’t any legal recourse available, an illegal sports betting site could just take your money and run, and there would be nothing you can do about it.
- There’s no guarantee that the odds or wagers offered by a supposedly “legit” offshore betting site are real, or that you’ll actually get paid if you win a wager.
- Lastly, any personal information you give to any legal sports betting site is up for grabs for any hacker or cybercriminal, and an operator might even sell your info for a profit. Even if they aren’t that outwardly malicious, their security usually leaves something to be desired.
Legal Online Sports Betting
In contrast, legal sports betting sites and apps are very much worth the wait and are so much more secure than their illegal counterparts.
- Legal sports betting apps and operators usually have fantastic security for both their own databases and the personal information of their users.
- Legal sports betting apps are regulated by more than one government body at a time – for US sports betting operators, that means being regulated by both state gambling agencies and the US federal government.
- As a result, legal sports betting apps are less likely to try anything with your money or refuse a refund if there’s a legitimate discrepancy.
Basically, legal sports betting apps give you ways to contest charges or lost money and are generally safer all around.
History Of Online Sports Betting
Online sports betting was originally curtailed in 1992 with the passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA). This legislation outlawed sports betting activities in every state aside from Nevada, making it difficult for legitimate casinos or gambling institutions to implement sports betting parlors if they weren’t protected by Native American gambling legislation.
However, this all changed when New Jersey challenged the PAPSA in 2012. In a nutshell, the state’s legislator allowed racetracks and Atlantic City casinos within its borders to offer sports betting. Although this type of sports betting was quickly closed, another sports betting law was passed in 2014, only to be struck down again.
Finally, the case of sports betting moved to the US Supreme Court. 2018 finally saw the Supreme Court rule the ban on sports betting as unconstitutional, opening up sports betting opportunities across the country. This allowed the state legislators to create their own rules and regulations about sports betting and to decide whether they would allow it within their state’s borders.
This did not mean that sports betting would automatically become legal everywhere, as we’ve seen. However, states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania – front-runners in the legalization of sports betting – have become envied by other states due to all the taxable income sports betting brings in for their state governments.
Thus, sports betting is slowly but surely rolling out across the country and it’s only a matter of time before it’s legal in all 50 US states.
Online Sports Betting FAQ
How old do you have to be to participate in legal online sports betting in the US?
This is up to the states, but usually you have to be at least 21.
Are all operators allowed in all states with legal sports betting?
No. Operators must apply for licensing in each state. This is because each state has its own set of regulations.
How do you get money from legal online sports betting apps if you win?
Every app has different withdrawal methods. But most sports bettors can withdraw their winnings from some combination of PayPal, debit or credit card, or bank wire transactions.
Do you visit an in-person casino to register for online sports betting?
It depends on the state. Illinois and Rhode Island both require online sports betting enthusiasts to complete their registration in person.
Are all mobile sportsbooks regulated by the federal government?
No. Mobile sportsbooks are regulated by individual state gambling regulatory agencies. For instance, any sportsbooks operating in New Jersey must answer to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.