• Travel and Fanfare

25 States Have Legalized Sports Betting

By Dave Beaudoin

The American Gaming Association released a study on Feb. 2 that projected that 23.2 million Americans will wager an estimated $4.3 billion on the Super Bowl this year. This includes people who will bet with friends, through an online or in-person sportsbook, or in a pool or similar contest.

Nevada enacted laws permitting gambling on sporting events in 1949, and it was the only state where legal sports wagering was allowed until 2018.

New Jersey voters approved a 2011 constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to legalize sports betting, and the state enacted such a law in 2012. However, four professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) filed suit to block the New Jersey law, arguing that it violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a 1992 federal law that prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling.

A federal district court and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld PASPA, preventing New Jersey from offering legal sports betting. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed those decisions in May 2018, ruling in Murphy v. NCAA (originally Christie v. NCAA) that PASPA was unconstitutional.

Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C., have legalized sports betting either through statute or ballot measure, as shown in the map below. Based on 2019 census estimates, 146.4 million people—or 44.5% of the country—live in states where sports betting is legal. These 25 states currently are 11 Democratic state government trifectas, nine Republican trifectas, and six states with divided government. In some states, sports betting is only permitted in certain jurisdictions or venues.

Proponents of a California measure that would legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks reported submitting about 1.4 million signatures in December. If enough signatures are deemed valid, voters will decide that measure in November 2022.

Last year, South Dakota voters approved a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on Nov. 3 legalizing sports betting within the city limits of Deadwood, South Dakota. Maryland voters also approved a legislatively-referred statute authorizing sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities.

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