What States Is Sports Betting Legal?

The debate over whether or not to legalize sports betting has been going on for years, with proponents and opponents both making valid points. So what’s the latest on the issue? Here’s a rundown of where things stand in the U.S. as of 2019.

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Introduction

With the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to strike down the federal ban on sports betting, states are now able to legalize and regulate sports betting within their own borders. As of right now, only a handful of states have actually legalized and regulated sports betting, but many more are in the process of doing so.

This page will provide an overview of the current legal landscape for sports betting in the United States, as well as a list of which states have legalized sports betting and which ones are currently considering doing so.

Federal Laws

In the United States, sports betting is illegal in all but four states: Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware. All other states have some form of ban on sports betting, either through state law or through a federal ban that preempts state law.

The federal ban on sports betting is codified in the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). PASPA makes it unlawful for “a governmental entity to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact” any wagering on the outcome of a single game or on multiple games.

PASPA does not criminalize sports betting itself; it only prohibits states from authorizing or licensing sports betting. However, because most forms of gambling are illegal in most states, sports betting is effectively prohibited in all but four states.

The four states that are exempt from PASPA are Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware. These four states were grandfathered in when PASPA was enacted and they were already offering some form of sports betting at that time.

PASPA has been the subject of legal challenges over the years, but it has generally been upheld by the courts. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case challenging PASPA’s constitutionality, but it ultimately declined to strike down the law.

State Laws

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) does not specifically prohibit online gambling; instead, it prohibits financial institutions from processing transactions related to online gambling. In 2011, the DOJ released a statement clarifying that the UIGEA does not prohibit individual citizens from placing bets or wagers on sporting events or other contests through lawfully operated online sites.

However, individual states are free to pass their own laws regulating online gambling within their borders, and several states have done so. Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey have all passed laws authorizing some form of online gambling, and more states are expected to follow suit in the coming years. Each state has its own specific laws governing online gambling, so it’s important to consult your state’s gaming commission or attorney general’s office to find out if online gambling is legal in your state.

In addition, even if online gambling is legal in your state, you may still be violating federal law if you are participating in online sports betting through a site that is based overseas. The UIGEA only applies to financial transactions, but the Federal Wire Act prohibits the use of interstate wire communications (including the internet) for sports betting. So even if you are not violating any state laws by placing bets through an offshore site, you could still be violating federal law.

Conclusion

In conclusion, as of May 2019, sports betting is currently legal in eight states – Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Arkansas. Several other states are considering legalizing sports betting in the near future.

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