Why Is Sports Betting Illegal in Some Places Where Casino Gambling Is Legal?

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BetMGM Nov 21, 2023, 10:45 AM

Can’t get enough of online casino games? Already know how to play poker in a casino and searching for something new to try? If so, you’ve probably considered dabbling in the world of sports betting at some point. Unfortunately, depending on where in the US you live, you might find that while gambling and playing casino games are legal, sports betting is not. Or there may be certain limitations on sports betting activities in your home state.

Read on to find out where sports betting is legal and for a brief overview of how the US law has approached gambling on sports leading up to now.

A Brief History

For bettors, May 14, 2018, was a momentous occasion. It was the day that the Supreme Court of the United States lifted the federal ban on sports betting, making it possible for states to legalize the practice if agreed on by the relative authorities. Following this change to the law, over two dozen states have legalized sports betting. However, many of these states have only legalized in-person betting, deeming it illegal to place bets on sporting events or professionals via online casinos or betting platforms.

Many people wonder why so many states have such a firmly negative stance against betting on sports, especially since many of these states seem unfazed by other gambling activities. The reality is that there has been deep-seated opposition to this type of gambling for centuries and it all started at the horse tracks back in the 17th century. 

By the 19th century, horse racing was popular across the US. Because gambling was illegal, pari-mutuel betting was the name of the game. This type of betting involved putting all wagers into a pool and betting against other horse racing enthusiasts, as opposed to betting against the “house” in a casino-type setting.

Gambling in the 20th Century

Unfortunately, come the 20th century, casino-style betting started to develop a negative reputation and became associated with mobsters and questionable lifestyles. Many began to think twice about the integrity (or lack thereof) of sports betting.

Despite burgeoning social disapproval, sports betting was legalized in the state of Nevada in the late 1940s. The legalization came with an additional law that required sportsbooks to give 10% of the cut to the government, which would be rolled back. This new legal stipulation was completely unrealistic and led to significant struggles for sportsbooks.

Lots of sporting scandals took place over the course of the next few decades, which did little for the activity’s reputation. The scandals played a role in the passing of the Federal Wire Act of 1961, which outlawed the practice of placing bets via wires across state lines.

Waiving Certain Gambling Restrictions

People continued to gamble regardless of the laws and the government’s push-back against gambling of any kind. Eventually, this resulted in the Commission on the Review of the National Policy Toward Gambling basically “giving up” and waiving certain restrictions – but all laws revolving around sports betting remained. Many professional leagues agreed with this decision, stating that sports betting had an effect on their games’ integrity. They cited various sports scandals in the past as evidence, many of which had involved gambling activity.

The federal ban on sports betting, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, was passed in 1992; however, all states were given a year to opt-in or opt-out. At the time, Nevada was the only state that opted out and allowed all sports-related gambling activities within its borders. Montana, Delaware and Oregon chose to allow limited sports betting activity within their borders, and all other states opted to outlaw sports betting completely.

Obviously, attitudes and opinions surrounding betting on sports are changing – hence the lifting of the federal ban and more states moving towards legalizing all types of gambling.

The Bottom Line

By analyzing history, we see that the main reason sports betting is still illegal in some places where casino gambling is legal is due to concerns about integrity and how such activity could impact the outcomes of various sporting games and events. Those against sports betting insist that it takes away from enjoying sports for “the love of the game” and could encourage illegal activities such as match-fixing and “throwing” games. Of course, it’s also true that this type of illegal conduct often takes place for other reasons and regardless of any money exchanging hands! 

Where is sports betting legal in the US?

Delaware, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin all allow sports betting through in-person sportsbooks only.

Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming allow full mobile betting with multiple options.

Currently, there are four states where legalization is pending and awaiting further action by regulators, namely Kansas, Maine, Ohio and Nebraska.

If you’d like to give sports betting a try and are currently living in a state where it has yet to be legalized in any form, the laws and proposals are constantly changing – so keep a close eye on their progress in your state!

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.