For folks like me who might be getting a little long in the tooth, the world of sports betting has always been neatly divided into two distinct realms.
On one hand, you had the regulated sportsbooks operating in Las Vegas and across Nevada ) since the 1950s. These venues varied in their décor and ambiance, but for the most part, bettors could expect a wall lined with television screens, helpful attendants taking cash at the window, standardized spreads and lines, and even free drink coupons when you upped the ante.
But for the millions upon millions of sports betting enthusiasts who didn’t happen to reside in the Silver State, the situation was much murkier to say the least. These bettors were forced to conduct business with underground “bookies,” or independent operators – usually affiliated with organized crime gangs – who plied their trade in bars and back alleys from coast to coast.
As you might imagine, this dichotomy spawned a rigid set of opposing public perceptions when it came to sports betting.
If you were lucky enough to have easy access to Nevada’s regulated market, sports wagering was simply another safe and legal way to spend your gambling dollar. Payouts were guaranteed by corporate casino operators, all transactions were recorded with paper receipts, and competition ensured fair lines across the betting board.
Conversely, for everyone else, sports betting took on a decidedly negative connotation. Dealing with bookies – or their modern equivalent, the offshore online sportsbook – always involved an inherent sense of risk. Payouts might be delayed until the bookie could come up with funds, or refused altogether over petty reasons. And in the worst cases, broken thumbs and bullet wounds were the price bettors paid for trying to enjoy their criminalized hobby.
That criminalized status stemmed from a federal law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. Again, if you’re an older cat like myself, you probably remember when the PASPA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush.
I sure do anyway…
At the time, the PASPA was more popularly known as the “Bradley Act,” named after chief sponsor former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey. As a former professional basketball player in the NBA, Bradley was keen on protecting sports from unscrupulous activity linked to illicit gambling rings.
And back then, he had good reason. Collegiate sports were plagued by point-shaving scandals in the 1980s and 1990s, as young and impressionable athletes succumbed to the temptation to fix games in exchange for under the table payments from bookies and bettors.
Motivated by an impulse to shield athletics from the perceived dangers of gambling, Bradley and his Congressional colleagues easily passed the PASPA – which remained the law of the land for nearly 26 years afterward.
But in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last six months, you might have heard how all of that changed in an instant earlier this year.
On May 14 of 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued its final ruling in the case of Christie v. NCAA, a court case originating out of New Jersey. Voters and lawmakers there had previously moved to legalize sports betting in the Garden State on several occasions, both through ballot referendums and the legislative process.
But after Governor Chris Christie signed the Sports Wagering Act of 2014 into law, New Jersey was immediately sued by the NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. The major collegiate and professional sports leagues of North America banded together and claimed that New Jersey’s efforts amounted to a violation of the PASPA.
Subsequent court rulings went in favor of the leagues, but the highest court in the land sided with New Jersey – issuing a 6-3 decision to strike the PASPA down as an unconstitutional violation of states’ rights.
Just like that, the fundamental nature of American sports betting law changed on a dime. From that date forward, all states were free to set their own sports betting laws and regulations as they see fit.
Predictably, the floodgates have opened since May, and as 2018 comes to a close, no less than seven states have joined Nevada in offering legal sportsbooks.
To help bettors learn the new lay of the land, I’ve put together the following guide to America’s legal sports betting states. You’ll briefly learn about the legalization process, which bookmakers are licensed to accept wagers, and where to go when you catch the sports betting itch.
1 – Delaware
It might stand to reason that New Jersey would win the race to become the first post-PASPA sports betting state, but politics and regulatory red tape are funny things.
While lawmakers in New Jersey dithered over tax rates and licensing fees, their counterparts in Delaware pounced on the PASPA ruling. In fact, they had a tremendous head start, as the now obsolete PASPA actually allowed Delaware – along with Montana and Oregon – to offer a hybrid from of sports wagering via their state lottery programs.
As such, Delaware already had laws on the books allowing for parlay bets, so those laws were simply amended to allow single-game wagers as well.
On June 5th, just weeks after the Court ruling, Governor John Carney placed the state’s first legal bet – a $10 flier on the Phillies to beat the Cubs that night.
At the time, Carney was cautiously optimistic about Delaware’s “first mover” status while speaking at a press conference:
We’re happy to be first today… I don’t expect we’ll be the only one for very long.
But today it feels pretty good to be first.”
Delaware is home to three casino venues, each of which is supervised by the state lottery, and the William Hill branded sportsbooks there are the only places where sports betting is permitted:
Delaware Sportsbook Directory (Brick and Mortar)
- Delaware Park Race Track – 777 Delaware Park Blvd, Wilmington, DE 19804
- Dover Downs Hotel & Casino – 1131 North Dupont Highway; Dover, DE 19901
- Harrington Raceway & Casino – 18500 S Dupont Hwy, Harrington, DE 19952
Delaware Sportsbook Directory (Online)
- Online and/or mobile sports betting hasn’t been legalized in Delaware (as of 2018), but local lawmakers have expressed their intent to do so
2 – New Jersey
The state that got the whole party started launched its first legal sportsbook – operated by William Hill out of the Monmouth Park Racetrack – on June 14.
As a gambling hotbed second only to Nevada – New Jersey has had legal online poker rooms and casinos since 2013, and a sprawling live casino scene in Atlantic City for decades – the Garden State was well-positioned to build a thriving industry.
And that it did…
Within months, daily fantasy sports (DFS) titans DraftKings and FanDuel had launched their first sportsbooks. Gaming industry players like Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts used their existing properties and experience to get in on the ground floor. And thanks to the online gaming law, bettors can fire up their favorite sportsbooks from the comfort of home.
Between the casinos and racetracks all over the state, New Jersey is home to more than a dozen operational bet shops today:
New Jersey Sportsbook Directory (Brick and Mortar)
- FanDuel Sportsbook at The Meadowlands – 1 Racetrack Drive, East Rutherford, NJ 07073
- Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa – 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
- Bally’s AC – 1900 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
- Caesars AC – 2100 Pacific Ave, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
- Freehold Raceway – 130 Park Ave., Freehold, NJ 07728
- Golden Nugget AC – 600 Huron Ave, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino AC – 1000 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
- Harrah’s AC – 777 Harrah’s Blvd, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
- William Hill Sportsbook at Monmouth Park – 175 Oceanport Ave, Oceanport, NJ 07757
- Ocean Resort Casino – 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
- Resorts Casino Hotel AC – 1133 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
- Tropicana – 2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
New Jersey Sportsbook Directory (Online)
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- BetStars NJ Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- 888 Sport
- SugarHouse Sportsbook
- William Hill Sportsbook
3 – Mississippi
Lawmakers in Mississippi were ahead of the curve, passing a law in 2017 which allowed for sports betting should the PASPA be struck down.
When that happened, the groundwork had already been laid, so legal betting began in earnest on August 1st at the Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi and the Gold Strike casino in Tunica.
Those venues were quickly joined by others in the gambling-happy state, including the first land-based sportsbook launched by DraftKings, situated within the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort:
In a public statement, Matt Kalish – co-founder and chief revenue officer of DraftKings –praised Scarlet Pearl as the perfect partner for the company’s latest pivot:
We’re excited to bring and offer an innovative sports betting experience to sports fans in one of the largest and most competitive gaming markets in the U.S.”
As of today, five casinos in Mississippi currently offer in-person sports betting:
Mississippi Sportsbook Directory (Brick and Mortar)
- Beau Rivage Resort & Casino – 75 Beach Blvd, Biloxi, MS 39530
- Gold Strike Casino Resort – 1010 Casino Center Dr, Robinsonville, MS 38664
- Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall – 1477 Casino Strip Resort Blvd, Robinsonville, MS 38664
- Horseshoe Tunica Hotel & Casino – 1021 Casino Center Dr, Robinsonville, MS 38664
- IP Casino Resort & Spa – 850 Bayview Ave, Biloxi, MS 39530
Mississippi Sportsbook Directory (Online)
- State law allows for online and/or mobile wagering, but only when you’re physically located on the grounds of one of the five casinos listed above
4 – West Virginia
With nationwide interest sparking a sports betting “gold rush,” West Virginia threw its hat into the ring on September 1st with the launch of a bet shop at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
For local stakeholders like Eric Zimny – vice president of racing operations for Hollywood Casino Charles Town – opening for business in time for football season was of prime importance, as he told local newspaper The Inter-Mountain:
Scott Saunders – general manager at Hollywood Casino Charles Town – expressed shock that West Virginia was suddenly on the same playing field as Nevada:
I never thought I’d see sports betting outside of the state of Nevada.”
Before long, a second sportsbook opened to the public at Mountaineer Casino and Racetrack, while DraftKings entered another market with its online offerings:
West Virginia Sportsbook Directory (Brick and Mortar)
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races – 580 E 5th Ave, Ranson, WV 25438
- Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack, and Resort – 1420 Mountaineer Circle, New Cumberland, WV 26047
West Virginia Sportsbook Directory (Online)
5 – New Mexico
The only state on this list which didn’t pass legislation to regulate sports betting, New Mexico still has one venue doing God’s work – the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel.
Operated on tribal reservation land by the Tamaya Nation, this small casino located 10 miles from Albuquerque relies on its gaming compact with the state instead. In a bold move by tribal leaders, the casino parsed the legal language of its gaming compact before determining that sports betting was covered by law.
John Cirrincione – who serves as chief executive officer for the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel – told the Albuquerque Journal how the tribe came to that conclusion:
The Pueblo of Santa Ana is a sovereign nation with its own laws allowing all forms of Class III gaming in its casino.
We are extremely proud of the fact that Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel is the first tribal casino in the state of New Mexico, and one of the first in the nation, to launch a sportsbook.”
Depending on the success of Santa Ana’s sportsbook, state lawmakers may consider taking their own look at sports betting in 2019. But for now, the Santa Ana is your one-stop shop for all things gambling in the Land of Opportunity:
New Mexico Sportsbook Directory (Brick and Mortar)
- Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel – 54 Jemez Canyon Dam Road, Bernalillo, NM 87004
New Mexico Sportsbook Directory (Online)
- Executives at the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel have no plans to offer online and/or mobile wagering services
6 – Pennsylvania
The Keystone State passed a massive gambling expansion bill in October of 2017, which included a carveout for sports betting, well before the PASPA was repealed.
When that major decision came down, however, regulators in Pennsylvania turtled up, retreating to finalize the details of taxation, licensing fees, and approved operators.
After six full months of dithering, the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course took the first legal sports wagers in stage history on November 15th.
Timothy Wilmott – who serves as chief executive officer for parent company Penn National Gaming – told Philly.com that his venue was prepared to shoulder the load until other operators caught up:
The enthusiasm around sports betting has been growing since the federal ban was repealed in May, and we look forward to providing our patrons with another great amenity to enjoy at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.”
And catch up those competitors did…
By December, two more sportsbooks were up and running, at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, respectively.
Rivers Casino general manager Bill Keena told the local CBS News outlet what the long-awaited launch meant to local customers:
Many, many people have collaborated to make Rivers Sportsbook a reality, and we thank each and every one of them.”
SugarHouse Casino general manager Cheryl Duhon general manager echoed those sentiments in comments made to Philly.com:
If our soft launch was any indication, there’s a big demand among Philly sports fans and gamers to get in on the action.”
And with three more casinos waiting for their license applications to be approved, the list below is expected to double over the next year:
Pennsylvania Sportsbook Directory (Brick and Mortar)
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course – 777 Hollywood Blvd, Grantville, PA 17028
- Rivers Casino – 777 Casino Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
- Sugarhouse – 1001 N Delaware Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Pennsylvania Sportsbook Directory (Online)
- Online and/or mobile sports betting is legal under Pennsylvania law, so look for any licensed operators to launch their iGaming wing sometime in 2019
7 – Rhode Island
As the nation’s smallest state by land mass, Rhode Island fittingly offers the slimmest selection of legal sportsbooks of the bunch.
In June of 2018, a budget bill which included sportsbook revenue was signed by Governor Gina Raimondo, thereby legalizing the fledgling industry. But as is the case with the Ocean State’s two state-operated casinos, sportsbooks in Rhode Island are run by the state lottery program.
The local government operates two casino properties – Twin River Lincoln and Twin River Tiverton – and both venues have since opened onsite sportsbooks. As of now, betting is limited to these brick and mortar establishments, as the current law lacks language addressing online and/or mobile betting.
After the Governor signed sports betting into law, state senate president Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-4) spoke with the Providence Journal to discuss the importance of offering Rhode Islanders a safe and secure regulated marketplace:
So, I think this is a great way to capture the money that’s going out illegally and also help us with what we have to do with state government.”
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D-15) offered his own take, telling the newspaper that legal avenues for sports wagering will always beat offshore entities operating online:
They’re going to get the opportunity to do it legally for the first time.”
Rhode Island’s tax scheme for sports betting is quite unique, with the state taking a massive 51 percent of all wagering revenue – by far the highest in the country significantly stiffer than Pennsylvania’s 36 percent rate.
Another 32 percent of revenue will be diverted to William Hill U.S. and International Game Technology (IGT), the state’s exclusive providers of bookmaking management and backend technology, respectively.
Finally, the Twin River casino company will retain just 17 percent of sportsbook win when its all said and done.
As a result, the Rhode Island Department of Revenue predicts the state will collect $11.5 million in taxes and other fees during the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Check the listings below to find your way to one of the two Twin River sportsbook facilities:
Rhode Island Sportsbook Directory (Brick and Mortar)
- Twin River Casino (Lincoln) – 100 Twin River Rd, Lincoln, RI 02865
- Twin River Casino (Tiverton) – 777 Tiverton Casino Blvd, Tiverton, RI 02878
Rhode Island Sportsbook Directory (Online)
- Online and/or mobile sports betting hasn’t been legalized in Rhode Island (as of 2018)
Less than a year ago, Sin City was the only place where Americans were permitted to legally bet on sports. Fast forward to today, however, and the entire U.S. sports wagering landscape has changed for the better. Along with Nevada, the seven states listed above each offer their own unique sportsbook industries.
New Jersey is flying high with brick and mortar venues housed in its famous Atlantic City casinos, along with an array of online/mobile options. New Mexico is relying on its tribal casino compact to get sports betting up and running without legislative approval. And in Pennsylvania, regulators are taking their time to court major gaming industry players like PokerStars, Caesars Entertainment, and MGM Resorts.
All things considered, with this list sure to expand over the next year, American sports bettors are in the black for 2019 and beyond.