As long as there has been the United States, there has been betting in the United States. In fact, the Revolutionary War was partially funded with a lottery. More than 100 years earlier, in 1665, the very first horse track in the Americas was built on Long Island. And even though betting wasn’t widespread, it was common among horse owners. By the 1860s and 1870s, all three legs of the Triple Crown were running, and pari-mutuel wagering was becoming a regular thing.
Betting on boxing became commonplace, and as the calendar ticked over to the 20th century, gambling was generally accepted across the country, right up until 1919, when everything changed.
It was baseball, America’s pastime. It was the World Series, the crown jewel of the king of American sports. And it wasn’t just a single player who fell to the temptations of the sports bookmakers. When the dust settled on the Black Sox scandal involving the Chicago White Sox throwing the World Series to the underdog Cincinnati Reds, eight players had been permanently banned from baseball.
Attitudes regarding sports betting changed immediately. Gambling was wrong, the moralists shouted. A short time later, the laws followed, and gambling (including sports) became illegal. America was content to keep it like that until 1949, when the state of Nevada added legalized sports wagering to its growing list of legal games of chance.
In the rest of the country, sports betting was dominated by organized crime, among other industries that they had a hand in. The federal government was dedicated to fighting against the criminals, which also meant that they were fighting against the crime.
Beginning with The Federal Wire Act in 1961, the war on illegal sports gambling began in earnest. There was also The Travel Act in 1961, the Sports Bribery Act of 1964, and the Illegal Gambling and Business Act of 1970. All of these laws were passed to fight the mob but also had a knock-on effect that prevented anyone from participating in legal sports betting.
Illegal sports betting, however, continued to thrive as the attitudes across the country changed. Super Bowl pools, March Madness brackets, wagers on title fights – all became acceptable forms of gambling. Even the federal government acknowledged as much by writing in its own report that “80 percent” of Americans approved of sports betting.
A couple of more laws were passed – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (banning states from passing their own laws) and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (banning the use of credit cards at off-shore bookmakers). There were even more scandals, with Pete Rose banned from baseball for betting on Major League Baseball, and NBA referee Tim Donaghy sent to prison for accepting bribes to fix games.
But the momentum in favor of legal sports gambling was too much. In 2016, the state of New Jersey filed a writ with the United States Supreme Court claiming that the PASPA was unconstitutional.
In 2017, arguments on the case were heard before the Court, and in 2018, it handed down its ruling that the PASPA was struck down. The federal government overstepped in 1992, and states did have the right to pass their own sports gaming laws.
U.S. States with Legal Sports Betting
In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling on the PASPA, several states had sports betting laws on their books and ready to go. New Jersey had already passed its law – leading to the showdown against the federal government – and Pennsylvania had joined its neighbor in preparing itself for imminent legalization.
Since that ruling was handed down in 2018, and New Jersey and Pennsylvania had their successful launches, the legalization movement has spread across the country like wildfire. The following states currently offer legal sports wagering or have passed sports betting laws and are in the process of writing the regulations:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- New Mexico
- North Carolina (not operational, but bill has been passed)
- Rhode Island
- Tennessee (not operational, but bill has been passed)
- Virginia (not operational, but bill has been passed)
- West Virginia
- Washington (not operational, but bill has been passed)
- Washington, D.C.
Other states are taking their time with sports betting legislation, either because attitudes have been difficult to change or lawmakers wanted to see how things unfolded in neighboring states. But sports betting bills are being worked on and put forward in the following states:
Yet other states have tried to pass sports betting laws, only to see them fail in the legislature or with the voters, meaning that legalization isn’t likely in the near future:
Finally, there is a small collection of U.S. states that do not have any sports betting legislation currently, nor do they have coming legislation on the horizon. These are the states where if residents want to place legal sports wagers, they need to organize a road trip:
Mobile and Online Sports Betting in the United States
There are some things to note about mobile and online sports betting in the United States.
There are some states that have retail sportsbooks in operation but have yet to legalize online and mobile sports betting. New York is the biggest of these, and it may still be a few years before they expand beyond brick-and-mortar operations.
In terms of how mobile sportsbook apps differ from online sportsbooks, a mobile app is just another way to access a web-based sportsbook. An app may be far more convenient, in that a customer always carries their phone with them. But it connects to the same online account.
One account will connect you to a sportsbooks website and mobile app. All transactions, no matter the device on which they are made, show up both places.
How you choose to access that account – via mobile app or website – really comes down to personal preference. Typically, an account holder will find that the connection speed of their mobile device is faster and more reliable than the connection over their home computer.
There is one final note regarding mobile and online sports wagering in the United States. Because each of the 50 states (and the District of Columbia) have their own sports betting laws, each website and mobile app is specific to the state in which a customer is placing bets.
On the app store, there will be apps listed for each state, and when accessing a sportsbook online, there will usually be a dropdown menu that takes the customer to a specific state.
No matter the location, a customer can create an account for any sportsbook in any legalized state, and browse the app and website, and even make deposits into their new account. But wagers can only be placed when the customer is physically inside the borders of that state. This is confirmed by using the IP address on a web browser or geolocation technology inside a mobile device.
Sportsbook Apps in the United States
As fast as the legalization movement has been, the number of sports betting apps coming to market has been just as quick.
Bet365: This England-born sportsbook offers its American customers a dollar-for-dollar deposit bonus of up to $100, along with its 40 years of experience and worldwide reach.
Betfred: Another English offering that has come west to the expanding sportsbook market of the United States, Betfred has more than 50 years of experience and a $500 risk-free bet for new customers.
BetMGM: BetMGM brings with it loads of experience and one of the most iconic brands in all of gaming. It also has partnerships with the NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball, making it one of the more unique sportsbooks on the market.
BetRivers: One of the first sportsbooks on the scene in New Jersey after sports betting became legal, the Rush Street Interactive property with up to $250 in bonuses has been quick to spread to newly legalized states (All SugarHouse sportsbooks are rebranding as BetRivers).
Caesars: Caesars is American gaming royalty, and its mobile reach is now covering all of the states where sports betting is legal. Caesars offers $300 in deposit matches and customer access to Caesars Rewards.
DraftKings: The daily fantasy sports giant has partnered with tech giant Kambi for its mobile sportsbook app. It has a responsive platform, $1,000 in risk-free bets and deposit matches, and an endless parade of daily bonus offers.
FanDuel: Another one of the daily fantasy sports operators that has successfully remade itself into a complete online sportsbook, FanDuel has a technology partnership with IGT/GAN. It offers up to $500 in risk-free bets just for signing up.
PointsBet: This is sports betting reimagined, with a unique form of spread betting. Win your bet by five points over the posted spread, and win five-times the amount you wagered. They offer traditional fixed-odds wagering as well.
William Hill: With original roots that go back to 1934 as a postal and telephone betting service, the grandfather of modern sports betting gives new American customers up to $150 in dollar-for-dollar deposit matching.
Depending on the state, there are several other available sportsbooks. Some of them are big and worldwide, like 888Sports, and others are affiliated with independent retail sportsbooks and tribal-based sportsbooks located in the state.
Sports to Bet in the United States
It’s fair to say that no country on earth loves its sports more than America. Of the 10 biggest stadiums in the world, eight of them are in the United States.
While the Champions League final is the most-watched single-day annual event on the worldwide sports calendar, the next six are events taking place in the United States, including the Super Bowl, the NCAA basketball championship game and the Kentucky Derby.
That is where the U.S. and the U.S. betting market distinguishes itself from the rest of the world. Betting on football (soccer) in Europe is as big as any NFL Sunday at a Las Vegas sportsbook.
But in America, you have those NFL Sundays, as well as college football Saturdays, the NBA Playoffs, March Madness, horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Masters, the World Series, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and on and on, all year long.
Most sportsbooks across the world offer a wide volume of sports to wager. But when betting on sports in the United States, it’s the volume of sports, but also the volume inside each of the sports.
You can place a baseball bet sitting at a sportsbook in London. Playing baseball in Atlantic City, you have game bets, dozens of proposition bets, and in-play wagering that allows you to bet on individual innings, at-bats, and even single pitches.
American sports you can wager at most U.S. sportsbooks include:
- College Football
- College Basketball (Men’s and Women’s)
- Major League Baseball
- PGA Tour
Worldwide sports that are available to wager at most U.S. sportsbooks include:
- Alpine Skiing
- Australian Rules
- Baseball (leagues in Asia and Central and South America)
- Basketball (leagues in Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America)
- Canadian Football League
- Esports (not legal in all states)
- Formula 1
- Gaelic Sports
- Hockey (International Ice Hockey Leagues/Field Hockey)
- Horse Racing
- Nordic Combined
- Olympics (Summer and Winter)
- Rugby League
- Rugby Union
- Ski Jumping
- Soccer (leagues on five continents)
- Table Tennis
- Track & Field
If you can’t find the sport and specific event that you want to wager, many American sportsbooks offer a “You Call It” option. Send them a message via email or social media regarding the sport you want to wager, and they will get back to with odds that you can bet.
It’s a lot of sports to juggle and a lot of different seasons. But you’ll notice that when a special event is taking place – like baseball’s Opening Day, the Cricket World Cup Finals, or the opening of the English Premier League – most sportsbooks will offer boosters and bonuses and extra bets to coincide with the day’s festivities.
Types of Bets Available in the United States
Most American sportsbooks offer just as much variety in their wager types as they do in the sports they offer. You make single bets, combined bets, individualized bets, future bets, and live bets. To explain, let’s break them down even further.
Point Spread: This is the most popular and most basic of single sports bets. The bookmaker’s point spread represents the margin of victory in which the favorite must win to cover the spread. Bets on the spread typically pay -110 for both the favorite and the underdog, which means that for an $11 bet, you will win $10.
The extra $1 is known as the vig or juice, and it’s how the sportsbook makes its money.
Moneyline: A moneyline bet is a simple single bet on the winner of the game outright. There is no point spread, and instead, the bookmaker has set odds on the favorite and underdog.
For example, if you bet the moneyline at -150, you are betting the favorite, and for every $15 you bet, you will win $10. On the other side, a bet on the underdog at +140 pays $14 for every $10 you wager.
Totals: Also known as an over/under bet, this is a bet on the combined total of points, runs, or goals scored by both teams in a single event. The winner of the event does not matter. Just as with a point spread bet, you place your money on whether the total amount will be over or under the posted line.
Parlays: A parlay is a combination of two or more single bets, which pay out escalating odds the more bets you combine. For example, if you combine two point spread bets, you will win $2.60 for every $1 wagered.
Combine three bets, and you win $6 for every $1 wagered. A four-team parlay pays $11 for every $1 wagered.
The one problem with a parlay is that if just one of your bets loses, the entire parlay loses, and you get nothing.
Round Robin: A round robin is like a parlay in that you take a series of bets and combine them into a single round robin. But they are different because each possible combination is its own separate bet.
So if one wins and one loses, you still get the money for the win. Of course, because they carry less risk than a parlay, the payout is also less.
Player Propositions: These are bets that focus on the outcome of individual achievements within a game. You can bet on which pitcher will have the most strikeouts, who scores the first touchdown, the over/under on an individual’s passing yards, and so much more.
Player props can also include seasonal bets, like which player will win the MVP award.
Team Propositions: Like player props, team props are bets on specific events or outcomes, and they usually have nothing to do with the result of the game. These can include simple things like which team wins the opening coin toss, to which team hits the most three-point baskets in the fourth quarter.
Just as the name implies, these are bets on events scheduled for the future, such as which team will win the Super Bowl and who will win next year’s U.S. Open. You can also bet on the top seeds at the next NCAA Tournament and which teams will qualify for next year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Live betting, also called in-play or in-game betting, has become incredibly popular across the world, and now in the United States. It’s far more interactive than traditional betting in that as the game progresses, the odds and point spread change, giving the player an entire new set of possible bets.
Players also get quarter and halftime lines, buyout options, and there are smaller wagers inside the event, like the result of a specific game inside a tennis match.
Banking Options for Sportsbooks in the United States
Even with different laws, different regulations, and different customer bases, the banking options at sportsbooks across the country are relatively uniform.
Deposits can be made in many different ways:
Online Bill Pay: This is the easiest, the fastest, and the safest method of funding a sportsbook account. Because the customer sets it up from their own bank account, there is never a reason to give someone else an account number. This cuts down considerably on the risk of fraud, which is why every sportsbook in the country recommends it as the best way to move money.
Credit/Debit Card: The most popular way to fund an account is by using a credit or debit card. It’s easy and relatively risk-free, but sportsbooks do issue a warning when using a credit card.
Many banks treat charges to a gambling establishment like a cash advance, so they attach extra fees to the charge. Customers are told to check with their banks before making any credit card transactions.
Bank/Wire Transfer: Not too dissimilar from online bill pay in the speed in which funds are transferred, a bank or wire transfer often comes with fees on the bank’s end, and it does require that a customer’s account number be shared with others.
E-Wallets: E-wallets include PayPal, Neteller, and Skrill and act very much like paying with a bank account or debit card. The transfer of funds is immediate and easy to do from a computer or mobile device.
Prepaid Card: Only select sportsbooks offer a prepaid card. When filled with money, it acts like any debit or gift card and is a safe and immediate way to put money in an account. It’s equally easy to refill.
PayNearMe: No card, no problem. Almost every state allows for the use of PayNearMe terminals to transfer funds to a sports betting account. Located inside most 7-Eleven stores, a customer can insert cash into the PayNearMe terminal and receive a receipt with a number and barcode. That can then be used to transfer money to an account.
Check/Money Order: Checks are still a fashionable way to send money in America, and sportsbooks are happy to take them as well. Personal checks, cashier’s checks, and money orders will all take extra time to arrive in the mail, and there will be delays for processing, but the money is just as good as any other method.
There are fewer ways to withdraw money from a sportsbook account, and that number shrinks even further if you deposited money by check or cash.
If deposits were made electronically, often, the process can be reversed for withdrawals. If not, the only choice is to have a check sent through the mail, which comes with delays for processing.
A few notes to keep in mind:
Some sportsbooks will not allow withdrawals until 48 hours after a deposit as a means of fraud protection. Customers will also encounter minimum deposit amounts and the possibility of maximum deposit and withdrawal amounts. Some state laws, as well as some sportsbooks, extend deposit limits to a weekly maximum amount.
FAQ for Sports Betting in the United States
Who is legal to place sports wagers in the United States?
Every state has different laws, but the industry standard has become that you need to be at least 21 years old. Also, because of the different laws, you need to be physically inside the state in which you are placing bets.
The legal age for pari-mutuel wagering is typically 18 but also varies from state to state.
Is online sports betting safe?
If you are betting with a legal and regulated sportsbook, then online wagering is extremely safe. All regulated sports wagering is subject to strict oversight, and all sportsbooks have laid out their procedures for arbitrating any disputes with customers, should there be a payout discrepancy.
Most legal online sportsbooks also employ the most advanced encryption technology to protect the accounts and identities of their customers.
If you place wagers with an unregulated sportsbook, like an off-shore bookmaker, those same protections cannot be guaranteed.
Are sports bet winnings subject to income tax?
If money was made, you can be sure that the IRS wants its cut. All winnings from sports wagering must be declared when filling out your income tax return in April. The federal government taxes this type of income at a flat 25% rate. The state income tax rate you will pay varies from state to state.
Do sportsbooks in the United States support responsible gaming?
At sportsbooks all across the country, staff is trained to help spot problem gamblers and to prevent underage gambling. All sportsbooks also offer access to gambling addiction resources, like Gamblers Anonymous, the National Council of Problem Gambling, and Gam-Anon.
They also offer each account holder self-help tools, like deposit limits, wager limits, loss limits, session time limits, and access to self-exclusion lists. Joining this list means that you are asking officials to prevent you from having access to any legal casino or sportsbook operating in the state for between two and five years.
The details vary from state to state, but all states offer some sort of self-exclusion.