Supreme Court Ruling Changes the Sports Betting Game

On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing sports betting to become legal at the national level, although each individual state will still have the right to enact its own laws on the issue. Whether sports betting is handled legislatively or goes to the ballot remains the question in each of the 50 states, making it difficult for gamblers to know exactly what the rules are in any given jurisdiction. The information below describes what is happening in regard to sports betting in each state; broken down by region and then state, these details make it simple to compare any state’s laws to those in neighboring areas.

The New England Region

  • Connecticut: Governor Dannel Malloy has demonstrated a willingness to call a special session of the General Assembly to discuss the idea of legalizing sports betting in the state, suggesting that he would like to an approach that is “responsible, smart, and fully realizes the economic potential that this opportunity provide.”
  • Maine: Director Milt Champion of the state’s Gambling Control Unit suggested that Maine is in the “infancy stages” of considering the concept of sports betting. At present, the state does not have any legislation on the table that would lead to legalization.
  • Massachusetts: Having already had an active bill that allows the state to conduct an in-depth study of the effects of legalizing online sports betting, the state’s legislature is at least considering the practice. While the study could create optimism among lawmakers, the issue would still need to debate the idea and then enact it into law; this could be a long process.
  • New Hampshire: Few details are known about the likelihood of legalizing online sports betting in the state. Governor Chris Sununu said, “Gov. Chris Sununu said "Legalized sports betting in New Hampshire? I’ll give it 3-1," demonstrating both cautious optimism and a great sense of humor.
  • Rhode Island: Among the most enthusiastic states for online sports wagering, Rhode Island has an active bill that could potentially allow the State Lottery to provide sports betting options at casinos. In fact, Governor Gina Raimondo has taken a proactive approach to preparing the way for sports betting by including revenues from it in the state’s budget for the next fiscal year. Potential bettors in the state should know that any law allowing for online sports betting will prohibit wagering on college and university teams inside and outside of Rhode Island.
  • Vermont: T.J. Donovan, Attorney General, suggested that it is unlikely that Vermont citizens will see a change in laws regarding sports betting anytime in the near future. Governor Phil Scott's office did not respond to a request for information.

The Mideast Region

  • Delaware: The state has long permitted residents to legally place multi-game wagers on the NFL, and on June 5, 2018, it launched “a full-scale sports gaming operation,” according to Governor John Carney’s office. In doing so, Delaware became the first state to fully allow sports betting as a direct result of the Supreme Court’s decision.
  • District of Columbia: Because of the unique legal needs of Washington, D.C., no immediate, clear answer is available on the likelihood of online sports betting. However, it has been suggested that while there is no current legislation on the table over the issue, anything is possible.
  • Maryland: The bills that would have put sports betting on the ballot for November midterm election did not make it through legislature. However, Shareese DeLeaver Churchill, spokesperson for Governor Larry Hogan's office said that the governor expects that the legislature will take up the issue during next year’s session.
  • New Jersey: In 2014, then-Governor Chris Christie signed into law a piece of legislation that allowed sports betting throughout the state. However, that law was overturned in 2016, creating dissention among both lawmakers and citizens of the State of New Jersey. The law that was overturned was the catalyst for the case the led to the Supreme Court determining that a national law prohibiting sports betting was unconstitutional. Current Governor Phil Murphy looks sign a new law that will again make sports betting in the state legal “in the very new future.”
  • New York: The state has long-considering legalizing sports betting in the event that the federal prohibition was struck down, going so far as to approve language to make it possible five years ago. While Governor Andrew Cuomo has suggested that while nothing is likely to happen this year because the time left in the legislative session is too short, the possibility of conducting a legal and financial analysis regarding the feasibility of sports betting is a possibility for the future.
  • Pennsylvania: A 2017 law made sports betting legal in the state, assuming that it was legal at the federal level, which it now is. However, operators of sports betting establishments face a rigid $10 million fee for licensing as well as an extraordinarily high tax rate of 34 percent.

The Great Lakes Region

  • Illinois: Chicago consistently earns an incredibly high rank as one of the country’s top tourist destinations, making it plausible to enhance that reputation by adding sports betting as one of the state’s entertainment options. There are several bills on the table that could legalize sports wagering; one of the active bills would create a new division in the existing gaming board to handle licensing, and sports betting operators would be required to pay a 12.5 percent tax on any revenue from sports betting.
  • Indiana: State Representative Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute, has introduced several bills in recent years, although none of them have yet advanced far enough for a legislative votes. Representative Morrison said that he is "very pleased and excited about the decision,” while the Casino Association of Indiana President, Matt Bell, does not believe that bettors would be able to begin placing sports wagers before September of 2019 at least.
  • Michigan: The state currently has eight bills that could lead to additional forms of legalized gambling, including one that would permit wagering on fantasy sports; four out of the eight have failed to gain enough votes in the House and the Senate to become law while the other four have not yet garnered committee hearings.
  • Ohio: While the state does have a few land-based casinos, Governor John Kasich’s communication director, Jim Lynch stated that, “"Expanding gambling has not been a priority for this administration, and that remains unchanged.”
  • Wisconsin: The state does not have any immediate plans regarding the Supreme Court decision to legalize sports betting. However, the ruling will make it possible for tribal committees to seek an opportunity to expand their gaming compacts to include the activity of sports wagering. At present sports wagering on both state and tribal lands is illegal.

The Plains Region

  • Iowa: State Representative, Jake Highfill, R-Johnston, is planning to introduce a proposal to make betting on college and professional sports betting legal within the state; however, the proposal will not be introduced until the legislature convenes in January of 2019. Additionally, Brenna Smith, Press Secretary to Governor Kim Reynolds, said “Given the Supreme Court's opinion, the governor will explore options with the legislature next year."
  • Kansas: While there are currently several active bills that would legalize sports betting, the bills and the lawmakers behind them disagree as to where sports wagering could legally occur. Possible locations for sports betting include both racetracks and other locations.
  • Minnesota: Representative Pat Garofalo long-suggested that the state operate under the assumption that the Supreme Court’s decision would come down in favor of sports betting; however, the lawmaker has plans meet with several stakeholders over the next several month to begin gauging interest in sports betting in Minnesota.
  • Missouri: Three bills on sports betting were introduced in the house of representatives and two were introduced in the senate, but just one advanced from committee. However, the legislative session has ended and the issue has not been added to the itinerary for an upcoming special session. Additionally, the resignation of Governor Eric Greitens has also created problems with getting sports betting to a vote before lawmakers or the public.
  • Nebraska: Governor Pete Ricketts is a long-time opponent of sports gambling in any form, making it unlikely that the state will see any progression toward sports betting under the current administration. Ricketts stated that supported the Supreme Court decision because it reinforced the idea that individual states have rights that are independent of federal regulation, and went on to say that, "Sports betting is still illegal here in Nebraska and we have no plans to change that.”
  • North Dakota: Governor Doug Burgum was among the officials who signed the amicus brief that ultimately landed the New Jersey sports betting case before the Supreme Court. Burgum stated that without a federal law that overrides state law, states cannot be prohibited from dictating their own policy on sports betting and other matters. Finally, in regard to sports gambling, Burgum told the press that, “Should such legislation be forwarded to me, I will carefully evaluate it as with any other bill that comes across my desk."
  • South Dakota: There is presently no legislation regarding sports betting on the table in the state. However, with a new governor to be elected in November of 2018, the issue could be raised under the new administration.

The Southeast Region

  • Alabama: The State Constitution prohibits all forms of gambling, and there is no legislation to consider sports wagering or other forms of betting at this time.
  • Arkansas: The Scholarship Lottery is the only form of gambling that has not been widely opposed in the state, although Governor Asa Hutchinson said that he had reviewed the decision handed down by the Supreme Court and that, “we will be monitoring this closely.”
  • Florida: Complicating the matter of sports betting in the State of Florida is the fact that the November election will see an amendment on the ballot that would require the expansion of casino gambling to be approved by voters and not the legislature.
  • Georgia: Like many states, Georgia will be electing a new governor in November, which could return the issue of sports betting to the table at any time. Additionally, the next session to discuss a matter such as sports wagering will not occur until January of 2019.
  • Kentucky: The state has had several bills regarding bets at horse racing tracks that would have fallen under the authority of the Kentucky Lottery Corporation. Governor Matt Bevin stated that sports betting had “happened since the dawn of time" adding that "it’s way too early to tell" how the state will ultimately respond to the Supreme Court decision.
  • Louisiana: Senator Danny Martiny responded to his colleagues’ efforts to derail his plan for legal sports betting angrily, stating that “we're the laughingstock of the country.” In a final effort to move legislation for sports wagering ahead, Martiny requested that Governor John Bel Edwards allow the bill to be considered during a special session, but Edwards declined.
  • Mississippi: The state has made several steps in the direction of sports betting already, going so far as to delete part of a previous law that prohibited a any sort of betting to occur outside of a casino environment. This deletion technically legalized sports betting in the state, and lawmakers have proposed rules to govern the activity.
  • North Carolina: While Governor Roy Cooper’s office has not officially responded to sports betting and the Supreme Court’s decision, State Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger believes that any progress toward legal sports betting will be slow in the North Carolina.
  • South Carolina: An amendment to the State Constitution that would allow gambling, sports betting and horse racing in South Carolina. However, the bill cannot be acted on until next year, and some lawmakers believe that sports betting may be a “tough sell” in the state.
  • Tennessee: State Senator, Brian Kelsey, has introduced legislation that would legalize sports betting in the state; all proceeds would go to K-12 schools throughout Tennessee. Governor Bill Haslam is still reviewing the decision of the Supreme Court.
  • Virginia: A spokesperson for Governor Ralph Northam reported that there is no active legislation regarding sports betting, although the governor’s office would be willing to review it if such legislation landed before them.
  • West Virginia: Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, legislation was passed in the state to allow sports betting in the event that the High Court ruled favorably on the issue. Sports wagering in West Virginia casinos will legally occur as soon as regulations governing the activity are set.

The Southwest Region

  • Arizona: The legislature did not consider sports gambling bills in any recent sessions, making the practice illegal until it does. However, Governor Doug Ducey referred to the Supreme Court decision as “positive news,” alluding to the possibility of using existing tribal laws as a potential route to legalizing sports wagering.
  • New Mexico: No recent legislation for sports gambling is being considered, keeping the practice illegal in the state. The spokesperson for Governor Susana Martinez did not reply to a request for comment from USA Today.
  • Oklahoma: While lawmakers recently considered the legalization of sports betting, the final version of House Bill 3375 called for an expansion of casino entertainment without explicitly addressing sports wagering. The issue may be revisited in 2019.
  • Texas: There is no recent legislation that suggests that the practice of sports betting could become legal in the states. A spokesperson from the office of Governor Greg Abbott stated that Texas “historically hasn't been favorable toward gambling expansion," going on to say that "It's not really a gambling state."

The Rocky Mountain Region

  • Colorado: Ahead of the game on many highly debated laws, the state would only proceed to legalize sports betting if it were approved by voter referendum. Presently illegal, Governor John Hickenlooper has stated that a risk benefit analysis would need to be completed before the practice became legal, demonstrating a desire to keep gambling addiction under control.
  • Idaho: The process of bringing sports betting to the state would require a change to the State Constitution, making it potentially very difficult to bring the practice to the people. Radio station 670 KBOI reported to listeners that Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter supports the state’s horse industry but is unfond of the idea of sports wagering.
  • Montana: The state has already legalized some sports betting activities, including those that involve fantasy sports and those in which bettors wager against one another rather than the house. The Supreme Court decision may or may not lead to the expansion of these laws.
  • Utah: Governor Gary Herbert's deputy chief of staff and spokesperson stated that, “Governor Herbert appreciates the Supreme Court’s reaffirmation of states rights to regulate gambling within their borders, a right Utah will exercise by continuing to prohibit gambling within our state,” indicating that sports betting will not be legal in Utah in the near future.
  • Wyoming: The state is not currently considering any legislation for sports wagering, and a spokesperson in the Office of Governor Matt Mead did not comment on the Supreme Court decision.

The Far West Region

  • Alaska: In regard to sports wagering, spokesperson Austin Baird of Governor Bill Walker’s office said, “there has been no legislative activity on this issue in Alaska."
  • California: Legislation has been proposed that would legalize sports betting alongside of other forms of gambling in the state, although the timing of the vote and actual implementation of such a law is still up in the air.
  • Hawaii: The state is in the early stages of conducting their own study of the costs and benefits of legalizing sports betting and has been since before the Supreme Court decision. Other types of betting and gaming are also being considered in the state.
  • Nevada: As the home of Las Vegas, one of the top gambling cities in the world, sports betting is already legal in the state.
  • Oregon: The “Sports Action” parley game that had been previously offered in the state ceased to operate in 2007 as a way to get around the NCAA’s prohibition of holding championship games in states where any type of sports betting was legal, putting Oregon in an interesting position following the Supreme Court decision. How the state will proceed is currently unknown.
  • Washington: The legalization of sports betting in the state is reputed to require a 60 percent majority vote of the state legislature, although talk of practices to keep sports wagering “legal and honest” seem to hold optimism for proponents of such a law.

Summing it Up

At the end of the day, most of the U.S. is still unsure of how to proceed with such a vast policy change available to lawmakers and voters at the state level. With plenty of legislation in the works to enact or prohibit sports betting throughout the 50 states, the next few years should be interesting in terms of elections and the creation of new policy.