Where Is Online and Sports Betting Legal in the United States?

December 15, 2020by Christopher Gerlacher1
Betting KnowledgeFeaturedGambling GuidesSports Betting KnowledgeState Laws & Legislation

Where Is Online and Sports Betting Legal in the United States?

Gambling and Gaming Attitudes in the United States

Attitudes towards gambling are as diverse as the cultures across the United States. Some states are receptive to expanding gaming while others remain opposed to allowing even state-run lotteries. Others still have carved their own paths to gambling legalization.

Although all fifty states have their own approaches to retail and online gaming, there are a few blocs of states with similar legalization schemes. Many states have retail casinos but haven’t legalized sports betting yet. However, a fast-growing number of states have legalized retail and online sports betting. Only a fraction of the United States outlaws casinos. Fewer still have legalized everything from online casinos to online sportsbooks.

But there are also states that don’t fit cleanly into one box. They have their own quirks that led them to legalize some rare forms of gambling but reject common ones. There are even states with draconian bans on all forms of gambling – even state lotteries and charity gaming.

States With Legalized Sports Betting

There are two types of sports betting: retail and online. Retail sportsbooks are in-person sportsbooks. They’re often partnered with casinos and have their own branded counters inside. Online sports betting includes mobile apps that bettors can usually access from anywhere in their state. Here’s where the states stand on legalized sports betting.

States With Online Sports Betting, But No Online Casinos

All but one state with online casinos has online sports betting. Most states with online sports betting don’t have online casinos. Here are the states with online sports betting, but not online casinos:

Colorado Illinois Indiana Iowa Montana Maryland
Nevada New Hampshire Oregon Rhode Island Virginia  

Most of these states legalized sports betting soon after PASPA’s repeal. However, Nevada and Oregon were exempt from PASPA and had legal sports betting for decades. The other seven have their own quirks, too. Nevada makes its bettors register in person before they can open mobile sports betting accounts. The New Hampshire Lottery also partnered with DraftKings, giving DraftKings a monopoly on the state.


Maryland is still in the process of coming online. It legalized sports betting less than a week before this article was written. Although it’s not up and running yet, Marylanders will be able to bet at stadiums and casinos. However, betting may not come online until as late as early 2022. So, Marylanders will have to be more patient than the other states on this list.


But if bettors are looking for a model state from this list, Colorado is a standout star. It legalized online, mobile, and retail sports betting all at once when the bill passed in December 2019. When sports betting launched in May 2020, it was ready to attract bettors through every available avenue. It’s made it one of the premier sports betting industries in the country. It could also become a stepping-stone to allowing online casinos.

States With Retail Sports Betting, But No Online Casinos

Although some states were open to sports betting, they may have felt squeamish about allowing it online. Here are the states that took that route:

Arizona Arkansas Louisiana
Mississippi New Mexico New York
North Carolina South Dakota Washington

These nine states have retail casinos that sportsbooks can partner with to offer sports betting. These partnerships allow sportsbooks to open counters inside casinos. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship between casinos and sportsbooks.

It’s not a coincidence these states don’t have online casinos. They haven’t warmed up to online gambling at all. Online sports betting seems to like dipping a toe in the pool compared to legalizing online casinos. Legalizing sports betting doesn’t mean legalizing online casinos are in the pipeline.

New Mexico and New York have introduced a bill to expand gaming, but there’s no clear date on a first online bet. If those bills pass, bettors may not be able to wager until 2022. South Dakota legalized sports betting, but bettors cannot place bets online yet. The legislature will spend 2021 debating rules governing sports betting. Bettors may not be able to wager there until 2022, either. Washington is still negotiating with tribes about how to implement sports betting. There’s no clear timeline on when Washington residents can begin betting on sports – much less online gaming.

States With Casinos, But No Sports Betting

The last few years have seen important advances in American gaming law. The United States Supreme Court’s PASPA repeal created a new avenue for states to legalize a new type of gambling. In turn, that’s acted as a way for usually-conservative states to expand gambling. However, about a third of the country sticks to these types of gaming:

  • Retail casinos
  • State lotteries
  • Charity gaming

Here are the sixteen states that have these three gambling activities legalized:

California Connecticut Florida Idaho
Kansas Kentucky Maine Massachusetts
Minnesota Missouri Nebraska North Dakota
Ohio Oklahoma Wisconsin Wyoming


Several of these states have recently attempted to legalize sports betting. However, each has failed. Maine’s sports betting bill made it to the governor’s desk, but Governor Janet Mills vetoed it. She believed that most Maine residents didn’t want sports betting. She also expressed reservations about allowing a new industry to Maine without seeing the long-term impacts on other states. Ultimately, the House upheld the governor’s veto, too.


California’s attempt at legalizing sports betting was even more contentious. The state senator who wrote the bill, Bill Dodd, couldn’t submit the bill soon enough during the summer. Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus was more important than sports betting legalization. But the bill’s greatest obstacle is its exclusion of tribal interests. California’s tribal casinos have the only casinos in the state. But legally-questionable cardrooms off the tribal reservations undermine tribal gaming authority. Tribal exclusion from the sports betting bill deepened existing tensions over cardrooms. So, staunch tribal opposition and missed deadlines killed California’s sports betting bill.


However, Connecticut is considering sports betting legalization when the legislature returns on February 5, 2021. It may take much longer to get a bill signed by the governor and approved by voters. Bettors may wait until 2022 until they can place their first bets.

These sports betting bills are important because they’re a stepping-stone toward online casinos. Every state with online casinos has legalized sports betting. It’s likely because:

  • Sports betting legalization bills often include online casinos.
  • Sports betting can be a state’s first type of online gaming.

If readers are curious about which states will legalize sports betting next, it’ll likely be one of these sixteen. However, most of these states don’t have sports betting in the pipeline. Bettors in these states remain in limbo regarding their first sports and online wagers.

States With Online And Retail Casinos And Sportsbooks

Some states are exceptionally open to different types of betting. These are the states who have online and retail casinos, online and retail sportsbooks, lotteries, and charity gaming:

Michigan New Jersey
Pennsylvania West Virginia

These are some of the most flexible states in the brave new world of gaming. Whether bettors want to play casino games on their phones or wager on the Super Bowl, these four states have them covered.


Michiganders should be especially excited. After almost a year of waiting, online gaming is about to launch. When Michigan legalized sports betting and internet gaming, the rules internet gaming operators would follow hadn’t been written yet. For most of 2020, internet gaming was legal but not allowed in Michigan. But any day after this is published, Michigan’s gaming industry is set to go online. It’ll join the other three states as an exceptionally flexible market.

States Against Casinos And Sports Betting

The only types of gaming bettors will find in these four states are state lotteries and charitable gaming. Here are the states that keep gambling to a bare minimum:

Georgia South Carolina Texas Vermont

South Carolina

These states don’t want to allow gambling, let alone expand it. Three of these states have long histories of conservatism keeping gambling out of their states. South Carolina tentatively legalized video poker machines in the late 1990s. However, South Carolina’s Supreme Court and public disgust with video poker led to its shutdown in 1999.


Vermont is the odd northern state on this list. Despite Vermont’s revulsion to professional gambling, it’s open to charitable gaming. Its AG opinion begrudgingly allows charitable gaming, but it’s the same small window to gaming that the other three states in this section hold. These states don’t condone professional gambling. But treating it like charity with strict conditions can pass as acceptable.

The States With No Gambling Whatsoever

The last four states were conservative in their gaming offerings. However, there are two states that abhor even state lotteries and charitable gaming:

Hawaii Utah


First, Utah has a strong moral and religious opposition to gambling in all its forms. Bettors can see this heightened sensitivity in Utah’s attempt at banning “fringe gambling machines.” They’re basically slot games that pop up in Utah’s convenience stores. Utah has targeted sweepstakes machines that offer remote chances at winning real-world prizes, too. Even these benign forms of gambling are off-limits in Utah.


Hawaii has more practical reasons for avoiding gambling. Most of Hawaii’s private revenue comes from tourism, and the island state isn’t worried about running short on tourists. It’s why repeated attempts to legalize gambling have failed. Residents fear any gambling expansion could damage the laid-back island environment that makes it such a popular tourist destination. Bettors shouldn’t expect Hawaii to legalize even the mildest forms of betting any time soon.

The Oddballs

It’s been easy to group 46 of the states into groups that take similar paths to expanding and legalizing gambling in the United States. However, there are four odd states that stand resist easy grouping:

Alabama Alaska
Delaware Tennessee


Alabama allows retail casinos and charitable gaming but does not allow state lotteries. It’s been without one since 1901. Anxieties about gambling legalization remain pervasive and keep state lottery proposals from becoming law.


Alaska is marginally more accepting of gaming than Alabama. Sports betting is legal in Alaska, but it has no state lottery. Alaskan opponents are concerned about the impact of a state lottery on the poor. However, they’re also worried about nonprofits who’ve been the sole recipients of gambling revenues. A state lottery would take money away from those nonprofits. Minor changes in the immature gambling landscape would have important ripple effects that may keep some states – like Alaska – from expanding gambling.


Delaware is happier to embrace gambling than Alabama and Alaska. On the one hand, Delaware has online casinos and legalized sports betting. But it doesn’t allow online sports betting. Existing legislation made retail sports betting legalization possible, but not online sports betting. So, Delaware stands out as one of the most flexible markets with one odd blind spot. There’s no bill in Delaware to expand gaming online yet. There’s no timeline to online gaming until a bill is introduced.


But Tennessee may be the strangest of all. It allows state lotteries and charitable gaming. However, the only other major gambling activity it allows is online sports betting. Tennessee doesn’t have any casinos, so it’s the only sports betting market that’s entirely online. In a state that doesn’t allow casinos at all, it’s a quirky market among its peers.

The United States of Gambling

Although there are clear outliers, there are patterns to gambling legalization in the United States. States tend to legalize new types of gambling in steps. There’s a progression from state lotteries and charitable gaming to sports betting to online casinos. We probably won’t have fifty states where online casinos are legal. However, sports betting is expanding rapidly, both on and offline. In states that have been hesitant to expand gaming, sports betting could be a gateway toward more progressive gambling industries.

Overall, the United States is increasingly amenable to online gambling. Sports betting is the Trojan Horse that may lead some states to legalize online casinos in the years to come. Until then, we may watch for smaller developments – like Alaska or Alabama getting state lotteries.

So now that you have the full picture of how sports gambling legalization has been progressing across the United States, those of you in states with legal online and mobile sports betting should take a look at how to create a sportsbook account and win some money!

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