Across the US, states have been opening up to legal sports betting and the massive revenue it can generate – thereby also collecting the tax from the practice. Now, in 2023, 20-plus states have legalised online sports betting, with several more having retail-only sports wagering and others looking to launch after having voted in favour of sports betting.
However, despite the success of the 30-plus states that have thrown open their doors to the long-illegal practice, some are still not convinced of the benefits it has upon society. Gambling Insider has taken five examples from the current sports betting market in the US and highlighted the differences in their current legal state.
OHIO (STATUS: LEGAL)
On 1 January this year, Ohio officially launched sports betting to its citizens with a flurry of generous offers from the likes of BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel to entice customers to their platforms. For Ohioans, the day couldn’t have come quickly enough, as many that were nursing hangovers from the effects of New Year’s Eve found joy in finally being able to place bets on sporting events – which they did in droves, as wave after wave were places on day one alone.
In short, Ohio’s launch was the most successful in US history, with 234,000 geolocation transactions registered within the first hour of it going live. The success of Ohio’s launch seems to show a trend across the US that the more sports betting is becoming legalised, the more popular it is getting.
MASSACHUSETTS (STATUS: FULL LAUNCH IN MARCH 2023)
During the last session in the Massachusetts State Government, the parties agreed to legalise sports betting with a legislative package that suited all parties involved – and that’s how the sports-mad state finally secured sports betting for its citizens. As Massachusetts has the New England Patriots, the Celtics, the Bruins and the Red Sox, the fight to legalise the practice of sports wagering always seemed like it would end with approval – though it took a moment to get there.
The date set for the full launch of online sports betting was 10 March 2023, with retail sports already live as of the 31 January. The state is also home to DraftKings’ headquarters, which is located in Boston – a fact that pushed the sportsbook to heavily campaign for legal sports betting in the state. All that’s left for the Bay State now is to watch as the famously sporty region gets to grips with placing wagers.
CALIFORNIA (STATUS: ILLEGAL – FOR NOW)
Then, there’s California, the state that so many thought would have legalised sports betting by now, yet – due to its Native American population and the tribes’ grip over gambling laws in the state – it hasn’t. That isn’t to say there isn’t going to be legalised sports betting there in the near-future – but recently, the voting down of proposition 26 & 27, which would have paved the road for sports betting in California, left the practice facing a more challenging road to legalisation. Should another ballot be proposed, it could see success in the Golden State – though it is going to be a fight.
The sheer size and wealth of California means there will be a time when sports betting becomes available to its citizens, especially with so many other states opening up – while some compare it to US gambling’s White Whale. The ultimate prize for the industry. The juiciest and fattest (monetarily) steak for the industry to feast upon.
FLORIDA (STATUS: LIMBO)
In sports betting terms, Florida is purgatory, a place where the law is currently near-illegible to anybody attempting to decipher whether they can legalise sports betting or not. As of now, the legalisation of sports betting in the state is in complete limbo. However, should it become legal in the next few years – as is still expected despite the current imbroglio – its value in the US would be high, due to the presence of sporting teams such as, the Miami Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The problem right now is that a pending appeal by the Seminole Tribe, which had exclusive rights to the sports betting market –until that agreement was struck down by a federal judge – is jamming up the process. Other efforts have been made to get the legalisation of sports betting on the ballot for 2023, which failed after it didn’t get enough signatures. However, should the tribe’s agreement with Florida be renegotiated or thrown out of the appeals court, sports betting could become legal all over the Sunshine State very quickly. Otherwise, hopes will hinge on getting the motion put on another ballot for 2024 – which, as has already been proven, could be difficult in the republican-led state.
UTAH (STATUS: ILLEGAL – EXPECTED TO REMAIN SO)
Due to the conservative nature of Utah, gambling in the state is not even a subject under discussion. Some are campaigning for the state to legalise the practice, which could see results if the states around Utah decide to adopt it. However, without significant pressure from outside, the state is unlikely to legalise gambling in the near future. Utah is the only state in the continental US that has no legal gaming legalities at all. So, online sports betting is a million miles away for the state’s residents at the moment. This may never change.
Since 2018, every state has had the chance to decide for itself if it wants to open up to sports betting – with the vast majority taking the opportunity in some form or another. Some have taken time to consider if it is the kind of practice that is wanted by the state’s citizens, while others have taken time to see how it can be implemented with existing gambling laws. Due to the benefits of opening up a new source of tax revenue and the vast sums that follow, most states have legalised it as a way of drawing on a greater
amount of tax dollars. The issue for many states that haven’t yet legalised it are the deals in place with gambling entities such as tribes, which don’t want to see gambling taken from the reservations and brought online, where anybody can wager from a phone.
California falls into this pit, as does Florida – albeit in a more complex set of circumstances – two states that are being heavily leaned on to legalise sports betting due to the vast amount of money that sportsbooks could make from them. However, there are steadfast holdouts. Some states are completely unwilling to entertain the idea of sports betting because of the belief that wagering of any kind is wrong. Utah is one of these, a state that has zero interest in sports betting and doesn’t seem to show any inclination to change that stance.
It will take years for sports betting to become embedded in the US, for the excitement to wear off and for the markets in each state to stabilise. Then, the hold-out states might start to feel the pressure – as the fiscal strength of the states around them begins to look more and more attractive.
“It will take years for sports betting to become embedded in the US, for the excitement to wear off and for the markets in each state to stabilise”