U.S. Sports Betting Timeline – Key Milestones
The U.S. sports betting market is exploding, with new states introducing sports betting bills every month following the lift of a federal sports betting ban in 2018. It’s hard to keep track of the changes so we put together this timeline to keep you up-to-date with the development in regulated sports betting.
For status on sports betting in each state visit our state tracker.
Colorado Launches Its First-Ever Online SportsbooksMay 1, 2020
Sports betting in Colorado was legalized in November of 2019, but sportsbooks could only officially open on May 1, 2020. Given how COVID-19 caused the state to shut down land-based sportsbooks, online sports betting apps in Colorado became the first to market.
Virginia Legalizes Sports BettingApril 29, 2020
Legal sports betting in Virginia came through a large wave of gambling expansion bills. The state will build its first land-based casinos and those casinos have the ability to open with a sportsbook. The state’s NASCAR tracks were also awarded this privilege along with any professional sports stadiums that come to the state.Read more
Online sports betting in Virginia will also be available statewide to possibly 7-12 online sportsbooks.
NHL and MLB Suspend SeasonsMarch 12, 2020
With 189 regular-season games still to go, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs still to be played, the NHL has suspended its season. Commissioner Gary Bettman is still hopeful that play can resume in a few weeks.
Major League Baseball has also followed suit, suspending Spring Training games and delaying the start of its regular season indefinitely.
NCAA Cancels Men’s and Women’s Basketball TournamentsMarch 12, 2020
A day after the NCAA announced that its basketball tournaments would still be played, but in empty arenas, the governing body reversed course and instead decided to cancel both championship tournaments.
This is the first time since the tournament became an annual event in 1939 that an NCAA basketball champion will NOT be crowned. The three-week event, one of the crown jewels of the sports betting calendar, generates almost $1 billion for the NCAA. It’s also one of the biggest moneymakers for the casinos in Las Vegas.
Michigan Opens First Retail SportsbooksMarch 11, 2020
The very first legal in-person wagers were placed at the MGM Grand Detroit Casino and Greektown Casino, ushering in a new era in sports for the Wolverine State. Among the celebrities on hand to make the first bets were Detroit native Jerome Bettis, former boxing champion Thomas Hearns, and former Red Wings star Dino Ciccarelli.
The first bet placed was on Michigan State to win the NCAA Tournament.
Sports Betting Becomes a Reality in MontanaMarch 11, 2020
Montana lottery officials began installing sports betting terminals around the state at the more than 180 licensed locations, which are predominantly bars and gas station casinos. Bets can be placed at the terminal or on a mobile app, but the user of the app can only place bets inside a licensed location.
Applications for licenses continue to be accepted, and more locations in the state could be added.
NBA Suspends SeasonMarch 11, 2020
Following the positive test for COVID-19 by Jazz player Rudy Gobert, the NBA took the unprecedented step of suspending the remainder of the 2019-20 season with 259 games still on the schedule.
The five teams that played the Jazz in the previous 10 days were told to self-quarantine by league medical officials. The NBA were still hopeful that play could resume, and the postseason would be played, but a decision on that would be some time.
Illinois Launches First SportsbookMarch 9, 2020
Rivers Casino in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines was the first Chicago sportsbook to open its doors and take the first legal bet in the state. On hand to do the honors was Blackhawks legend Eddie Olczyk, who put $100 on the White Sox to win the American League pennant.
Two other sportsbooks, which are also operated by Penn National, are close to launching in the state.
Michigan Passes Sports Betting BillDecember 20, 2019
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed HB 4916 to officially make both retail and online sports gambling legal in the state. All tribal casinos, commercial casinos, and race tracks in Michigan – 28 venues in all – can now apply for a license to host a sportsbook at an initial fee of $100,000 and then $50,000 annually after that.
The online portion of the bill also legalizes poker, blackjack, and online roulette.
Colorado Voters Approve Sports BettingNovember 5, 2019
By a much narrower margin than expected voters in Colorado approved Proposition DD, legalizing both online and retail sports wagering across the state. The state’s 40 operating casinos, which are clustered in the cities of Cripple Creek, Black Hawk, and Central City, can open physical sportsbooks and build a corresponding mobile app.
State regulators have set a first bet target date of May 1.
Oregon Lottery Launches Sportsbook AppOctober 16, 2019
Mobile sports betting is now live in the state of Oregon, and early returns suggest that it’s a success. In its first weekend of operation, the app took more than 55,000 bets from over 18,000 unique users. The Oregon Lottery Scoreboard App is, and will remain, the only legal online and mobile sports betting option in the state.
The Scoreboard App only allows betting on professional sports, and right now, the state has no plans to include NCAA sports – sorry Ducks fans
Indiana Welcomes State-Wide Sports BettingSeptember 1, 2019
Live in-person sports wagering is now a reality in the Hoosier State. Three Indiana casinos took bets to open the month – Indiana Grand Casino in Shelbyville, Ameristar East Chicago, and Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg – and a total of 13 casinos had open and operating sportsbooks by the end of the month.
Mobile sports betting went live in Indiana on October 3, and currently, six different mobile sportsbooks have launched, with three more in the works.
Retail and Online Sportsbooks Open in IowaAugust 15, 2019
The first sports bets in Iowa were placed at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, which partnered with WilliamHill to operate its sportsbook. The state has 18 licensed sportsbooks opening across the state, with four total in partnership with William Hill. There are six mobile sportsbooks operating in the state. Iowa law requires that players who download an app must complete registration at its land-based partner before placing any bets.Read more
North Carolina sports betting legalizedJuly 17, 2019
Although North Carolina has created something of a unique dynamic with its sports betting bills, the state passed its first law in July 2019. At the heart of the positive change was Senate Bill 154 (SB154). Giving Native American tribes the right to offer sports betting in North Carolina, the bill was signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper in July.
New Hampshire sports betting bill passedJuly 16, 2019
Despite delays back in January, House Bill 480 (HB480) made fairly swift progressive through New Hampshire’s House and Senate in 2019. Positive votes by both chambers in June resulted in the sports betting bill being passed to Governor Chris Sununu’s desk in July. Having previously supported the legislative efforts, Gov. Sununu signed HB480 on July 16, making sports betting in New Hampshire a reality.
Arkansas Opens Retail SportsbookJuly 1, 2019
As of March 2020, Arkansas is still without a plan for online or mobile sports betting, but in-person betting became a reality with the opening of The Race & Sports Book at Oaklawn. The very first bet taken was $5 on the Cowboys to beat the Giants on the NFL’s opening weekend.
Arkansas has issued three other gaming licenses for retail sportsbooks, but no other openings have been announced.
June 28 will go down as a definitive date in the timeline of Illinois sports betting thanks to Gov. Pritzker who signed SB 690 into law following positive votes by the state Senate.
Illinois Approves Sports Betting BillJune 28, 2019
Following numerous disagreements between casino operators, law makers and sports leagues, Senate Bill 690 received a positive votes in 2019. The bill first passed through the House on May 31 and then the Senate on June 2. The bill was subsequently sent to Governor J.B. Pritzker and signed into law on June 28, 2019.
New York State Takes Its First Legal Sports BetJune 16, 2019
Rivers Sportsbook at the Rivers Casino Resort in Schenectady opened its door and took the first legal sports bets in the Empire State. Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy placed one of the first bets, putting his money down on the Boston Red Sox – a bold move for a mayor in New York.
The Rivers was the first of eight New York sportsbooks slated to open. As of March 2020, legal online and mobile sports betting is still being debated by the state government and won’t happen anytime soon.
Indiana Launches Legal Live and Online Sports BettingMay 8, 2019
Indiana sports betting became a reality on May 8, 2019. Thanks to positive votes on House Bill 1015, the Hoosier State is now home to live and online sportsbooks. Indeed, the final decision to offer legal sports betting in Indiana fell on the shoulders of Governor Eric Holcomb. Although he left it until deadline day to sign the bill into law, he was ultimately happy with the decision to bring sports wagering to the region.
Iowa sports betting made legalMay 6, 2019
After submitting SF366 in February 2019, Iowa’s lawmakers passed the sports betting bill through to Governor Kim Reynolds. Following a brief review, Gov. Reynolds signed Iowa’s sports betting bill on May 6, making live and online bookmakers legal within the state.
Montana becomes first state to legalize sportsbetting in 2019May 3, 2019
Montana became the ninth state to regulate sports betting in the U.S. and the first to do so in 2019. Governor Steve Bullock signed one of two passed bills on the topic. While he supported the state of Montana introducing sports betting, he vetoed a second bill that was introduced that same day, stating that “Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively-adopting only one of the two models now”.
Montanta sports betting will be controlled by state state lottery and, interesting, the age limit for those interesting in betting on sports is only 18, compared with 21 in New Jersey.
Tennessee Launches Legal Sports BettingMay 1, 2019
Thanks to Senate Bill 16 (SB16), Tennessee became the third US state to regulate sports betting in 2019. Although the operating conditions are somewhat restrictive, sports fans can now bet on sports online. In getting to this point, SB16 passed two crucial votes in April and May, 2019.Read more
DOJ issues revised opinion on Wire ActJanuary 14, 2019
In January 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reversed its previous opinion on the Wire Act. Having previously stated that the Act’s gambling restrictions didn’t apply to online gaming, it performed a 180 under pressure from anti online gambling advocates.
Under the new opinion, the DOJ stated that the federal restrictions on “wire communications” apply to all forms of gambling, not just sports betting. In the weeks following the decision, Attorney Generals from New Jersey and Pennsylvania challenged the decision in a three-page letter. Subsequent challenges have also been made by other states.
Rhode Island launches legal sports bettingNovember 26, 2018
Rhode Island became the eighth US state to legalize sports betting. The state was quick to enact its own laws thanks to previous votes in 2012 and 2016 giving casinos and sports betting the green light.
Pennsylvania launches legal sports bettingNovember 17, 2018
Pennsylvania legalized sports betting in late 2017. However, due to PASPA, the law was put on hold. With an activation clause in place, Pennsylvania sports betting became a reality just five months after PASPA was deemed unconstitutional.
Hollywood Casino became the first venue to offer regulated sports betting along with the help of William Hill. In April 2019, the state legalized online and mobile sports betting.
Read the Pennsylvania legislative framework here.
Sports betting authorized in New YorkNovember 5, 2018
New York referendum authorizes sports betting at casinos when it is legal under Federal law. Up to 7 casinos allowed, 4 licenses have been granted
The decision was was supported by 57 percent of voters. Read more on nytimes.com
New Mexico tribe launches legal sports bettingOctober 16, 2018
Despite a lack of sports betting regulation in New Mexico, the Tamaya Nation at the Pueblo of Santa Ana seized an opportunity to exploit a legal loophole following the demise of PASPA.
Although the state itself hasn’t implemented its own sports betting laws, a tribal gaming compact gives native Indian tribes the scope to offer provisions inside gaming venues. With that being the case, the tribe launched sports betting at the Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel in Bernalillo, October 2017.
Read the Santa Ana Star Casino announcement here.
West Virginia launches legal sports bettingAugust 31, 2018
West Virginia introduced regulated sports betting in August 2018. It was the fifth state to do so after New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware and Mississippi. The Hollywood Casino at Charlestown Races took the first legal bets on August 30 and went fully live on September 1, 2018. In December 2018, West Virginia became the third US state to offer legal online sports betting.
Read the full announcement on forbes.com
NJ launches first legal sports betting appAugust 1, 2018
Following the advent of legal sports betting in New Jersey back in June 2018, the state’s top operators quickly moved to offer online options. By August 1, DraftKings beat the big casinos to the punch by launching the Garden State’s first mobile sports betting app.
The daily fantasy sports operator had a hold over the market for three weeks before playMGM mobile went live on August 22. With two operators offering mobile sports betting, others quickly followed. By April 2019, New Jersey had eight mobile sportsbooks.
Mississippi launches legal sports bettingAugust 1, 2018
Legal Mississippi sports betting started in August 2018. Having previously repealed laws that prohibiting sports betting back in 2017, the Magnolia State was quick to act once PASPA was defeated in May 2018.
In August 2018, the Mississippi Gaming Commission oversaw the launch of sportsbooks linked to Beau Rivage (Biloxi) and Gold Strike (Tunica). Today, the state has more than 20 venues offering regulated sports betting.
NJ launches legal sports bettingJune 14, 2018
After successfully working to overturn PASPA, New Jersey became one of the first states outside of Nevada to place a legal sports bet. The golden wager was placed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy at Monmouth Park Racetrack on June 14, 2018.
Murphy bet $20 Germany to win the soccer World Cup and $20 on the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup.
Delaware launches legal sports bettingJune 5, 2018
Like a horse in the home straight, Delaware sprinted towards the finish line in May 2018. Just two weeks after the Supreme Court shot down PASPA, Delaware launched its first regulated sportsbook.
Going live inside the state’s three casinos, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway & Casino, SportsPick made Delaware a sports betting state on May 31, 2018. To celebrate the launch, Governor Carney bet $10 on the Phillies.
SCOTUS declares PASPA unconstitutionalMay 14, 2018
Following a long running legal battle initiated by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the Supreme Court of the US declared Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) was unlawful. Following a legal challenge initiated by New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak in 2009, Governor Christie set the wheels in motion.
By 2012, New Jersey had passed its own sports betting bill, a move that laid the foundations for a six-year fight. Eventually, in May 2018, PASPA was deemed unconstitutional. This allowed New Jersey to enact its sports betting laws and other states to invoke the 10th Amendment and exercise their right to offer regulated sports betting.
New Jersey launches legal online poker and casinoNovember 21, 2013
Now considered a catalyst for the wave of online gaming and sports betting currently sweeping across the US, six casinos and seven poker rooms went live in New Jersey back in 2013. After the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) 2011 conclusion that the Wire Act didn’t extend to online gambling, Assembly Bill A2579 was filed in 2012.
Moving through the New Jersey Assembly and then the Senate, the bill was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie. By April 2013, Caesars Entertainment applied for the first license and in November the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) oversaw a soft launch. Today, New Jersey is the stand out state in terms of online gaming provisions.
Delaware launches legal online poker and casinoAugust 13, 2013
Regulated Delaware online poker and casino gaming became a reality back in 2013. The catalyst for change came in June 2012 when HB 333 was signed into law.
Nevada launches first legal online pokerApril 30, 2013
Like New Jersey, Nevada took advantage of a 2011 Wire Act opinion by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and launched online gaming. Ultimate Poker, owned by former UFC owners and Station Casinos, the Fertittas, went live in April 30, 2013.
Within six weeks, WSOP.com, backed by Caesars Interactive Entertainment, launched and quickly became the leading online poker site in Nevada. Today, the state has a thriving online gaming economy and an intrastate liquidity sharing compact with New Jersey.
Nevada launches first legal online sports betting appOctober 27, 2011
With the Wire Act allowing Nevada to offer sports betting, it became the first US state to launch mobile products. In 2011, Cantor Gaming created an Android sports betting app and started a wave of innovations.
DOJ Issues opinion on Wire ActSeptember 20, 2011
In September 2011, the US betting industry was handed a break by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Assessing the Wire Act, members of the DOJ concluded that the law only applied to sports betting, not all online gambling.
In making this assessment, the DOJ essentially made it possible for states to regulate online casino and poker. The opinion was subsequently reversed in January 2019 (see above) but challenges mean it may not bring an end to online betting and gaming in the US.
Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act UIGEA passedOctober 13, 2006
Coming into force as part of the SAFE Port Act, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) make it illegal for gaming to process or accept real money bets. One of the biggest misconceptions with UIGEA is that it made online gambling illegal. In practice, it simply made the movement of money into and out of gaming sites illegal, thus rendering it impossible to legally bet online within the US.
Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) passedOctober 28, 1992
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) was designed to prohibit sports betting outside of select states. Under the terms of the Bradley Act, only Nevada was allowed to offer full sports betting. Additionally, sports lotteries offered in Oregon, Delaware and Montana were exempt from PASPA’s restrictions.
The 1961 Wire Act is a federal act that prohibits certain types of betting via the use of wire communications.
Wire Act passedSeptember 13, 1961
The Federal Wire Act reads:
“Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”