United States sports betting has a long and complex history. Horse races were a major form of entertainment in early America. Bets on animal races were the most common form of United States sports betting well into the 19th century. Betting has influenced every major American sport, for better and for worse.
For much of American history, bets on sports were illegal. Most Americans gained legal access to sportsbooks within the past few years. Those changes came courtesy of a shift in the government’s thinking about United States sports betting.
Even still, American sports fans that want to place bets have a lot to deal with. State and federal laws regulating the behavior of bettors are confusing. An activity that’s legal in one municipality may be illegal in another, to say nothing of what happens when you cross state lines. Major American financial institutions are hesitant to process payments with gambling providers.
This page describes the state of the United States sports betting scene. It begins with a short history of American sports bets, before identifying the US states where sports betting is legal, discussing the most common United States sports betting markets and ways to wager, and answering questions newcomers to the United States sports betting scene typically have about the industry. From this page, you can navigate to more detailed coverage of related topics here on the site.
The History of United States Sports Betting
It’s hard to overestimate the value of gambling in general (and race betting in particular) to early America.
America’s first horse track was built on Long Island in 1665, when the country’s population hovered around 90,000. If we’d maintained that ratio of tracks to people through to today, we’d have about 3,600 active horse tracks. We really have about 100.
America’s famous revolution, the fight against colonial occupation that continues to inspire revolutionary movements today, was funded in large part through lottery sweepstakes. By the time of the American Civil War, all three legs of horse racing’s Triple Crown were active, making them the longest-running professional sporting event in the country today.
Why did a country built on the backs of bookmakers turn so sharply against gambling?
Two reasons – baseball and organized crime.
“Say It Ain’t So, Joe” – How A Baseball Scandal Rocked US Sports Betting
The 1919 Black Sox Scandal, in which members of the Chicago White Sox lost the World Series intentionally to the underdog Cincinnati Reds as part of a betting scheme, led to permanent bans from America’s pastime and a permanent black mark on United States sports betting. United States lawmakers in just about every corner of the country moved to outlaw all forms of wagering, not just sportsbook bets.
In fact, for about twenty years, there was no legal way to wager anywhere in the country. When Nevada legalized some forms of gambling in 1949, it became the first state to accept legal sports wagers since the time of the thrown World Series.
Obviously, when you outlaw sports betting, only outlaws accept bets on sports. In the decades since sports wagers went away, organized crime activity filled in. The US government used strict laws and harsh penalties to attempt to control the market.
Laws like the Federal Wire Act (1961), the Travel Act (1961), the Sports Bribery Act (1964), and the Illegal Gambling and Business Act (1970) did even more to tighten the noose around United States sports betting. In fact, these laws mostly targeted online sports betting in the United States.
Two later pieces of legislation made it practically impossible to place a legal sports wager as an America, even at offshore sportsbooks. In 1992, PASPA prevented states from legalizing sports gambling on their own. The infamous Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 tried to prevent the use of credit cards and other financial products at off-shore bookmakers.
United States Sports Betting Today
Cut to 2016 – the US Supreme Court hears a challenge to PASPA from the state of New Jersey. That state, already heavily invested in the United States sports betting scene, wanted to expand its offerings to include a retail sportsbook marketplace.
Finding that PASPA exerted federal influence over state law in an unconstitutional way, the US Supreme Court struck it down.
Within six months of that decision, seven states legalized and launched their own sports betting markets. Some states had sports betting legislation passed and were ready to open, in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling on PASPA. Just like that, the United States sports betting industry was back, in a safe and legal form. By 2022, 31 states and the District of Columbia offered some form of legal sports bet to its citizens.
These days, between daily fantasy sites and full-fledged US-facing sportsbooks, more Americans can access legal bets on sporting events than ever before. That’s a startling thing to say, considering how much of American history is colored by games of chance and skill. It’s only been possible thanks to those sweeping changes in official attitudes toward sports wagering at both the federal and state levels.
States with Legal Sports Betting
It would be hard to write a page about United States sports betting without including a section about legal online sports betting states. The following states offer legal sports wagering, or have passed sports betting laws and are in the process of launching their sportsbook programs:
- 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.
* indicates a state where sports betting is legal but not yet live
Legislation that would allow for licensed and regulated sports betting is being considered in the following states:
The state’s voters will consider retail sports betting on the 2022 ballot as part of a tribal gaming initiative. Is sports betting legal in California yet?
Two previously withdrawn bills that would regulate retail sports betting in the state have been recommitted and are still part of several legislative plans on both sides of the aisle.
House Bill 2450, authorizing the state lottery to offer retail sports betting, is sitting in committee as of the spring of 2021, awaiting further work before reconsideration.
A baker’s dozen pro-sports betting bills are making their way through the legislative process.
A bill (Minnesota Senate File 574) that would establish a sports betting commission and regulate and tax retail sports betting is under consideration.
Voters placed a May 2022 deadline on any attempt to legalize sports betting, and as that deadline approaches, it’s unclear what the fate of HB 2502 and HB 2556 will be.
In one of the states most likely to next launch a retail sportsbook system, House Bill 631 passed its first reading in the spring of 2021 and is likely to come up for a full vote in 2022.
The legislature of South Carolina is studying the creation of a retail sportsbook through SJR67.
Five bills (HB2070, SB616, SJR36, SB736, and HB1121) were referred to various committees or tabled at the last legislative session; four are under consideration for the next legislative session.
VTS77, regulating sports betting, was most recently referred to committee and is still an active piece of legislation.
In some US states, we’ve seen failed attempts at sports betting legislation. This tends to indicate little hope of expansion into retail sports betting, though we’ve seen states change courses in the past. Other states have traditionally fought against any expansion of gambling, including lottery and simple games of chance. That makes a regulated sports wagering environment unlikely to develop there soon.
Here are 8 states where sports betting law is unlikely to change soon:
Deep in the American Bible belt, Alabama is one of the last holdouts among conservative southern states once deadest against all forms of betting. It seems like every year we read rumors of legislation allowing lottery or casino play in the state, and every year that legislation is destroyed long before it comes to a vote.
Put Alaska on the list of US states that have rejected gambling because the state simply doesn’t need the money. Alaska’s oil and mineral wealth produces enough cash to pay every resident a residency stipend worth about $1,600 a year. The state runs a rudimentary lottery sweepstakes, but outside of that (and bets on sled dog races), you can’t gamble legally anywhere in Alaska.
The Sunshine State earned its spot on this list the hard way. For about six months in 2021, online sports bets were a reality in Florida, before legal challenges shut the whole operation down for good. Now, the question of sportsbook legality is open again in the state, and it seems unlikely to resolve any time soon.
When will legal Florida sports betting return?
The Aloha State has long banned all forms of gambling, including simple forms accepted practically nationwide, like bingo games and the lottery. Gambling is seen as a gateway to a total tourism takeover of the state, a stepping stone on the way to a complete destruction of the state’s delicate natural resources. Besides, Hawaii does well on the tourism front without sportsbooks and casinos.
You can predict which states will move to regulate sportsbook bets by how quickly states are to adopt or ban daily fantasy betting. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s somewhat predictive. By that measure, you shouldn’t expect to see legal sports betting in the Gem State any time soon. Idaho is on the shortlist of US states that don’t allow any form of DFS betting. Most forms of gambling are heavily restricted in the state.
Going through four consecutive failed legislative sessions is generally the kiss of death in American law. Pro-sports betting law in Kentucky is now on its fourth or fifth go-round, depending on how you define it. It just doesn’t seem likely.
In states without much of a cultural history of gambling, legal sports betting has been slow to take hold. Maine is a good example of what that looks like in practice. The Pine Tree State is home to just two small commercial casinos and six OTB facilities. Combined with opposition from two consecutive governors, and it doesn’t seem like a sportsbook industry is likely to appear in Maine.
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 United States Sports Betting
Sportsbook Apps in the United States
The United Stats sports betting market, once composed entirely of offshore operations, is suddenly stuffed with new options. The rise of the mobile sports betting market has led to this increase in options. Below is a short guide to the most popular American sportsbook apps:
This English sportsbook offers its USA customers a FULL 100% match bonus and bring its players over 40 years of experience and amazing customer service as well.
Another English offering that has come west to the expanding United States sports betting market of the United States, Betfred has more than 50 years of experience and a $500 risk-free bet for new customers.
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.
Also, be sure to read this analysis of BetMGM versus DraftKings here.
One of the first sportsbooks on the scene in New Jersey after United States 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 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.
You can find details about Caesars Sportsbook promo codes here.
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.
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.
You can find details about FanDuel Sportsbook promo codes here.
FOX Bet combines the technology and talents of the Stars Group with the credibility and name recognition of FOX Sports. FOX Bet offers a tiered bonus worth as much as $1,000.
This is United States 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.
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.
You can also find a list of legal USA sportsbooks here.
Sports to Bet in the United States
Americans love sports.
8 of the 10 biggest stadiums in the world are in the United States. 4 of the 5 most profitable global sports leagues are American. United States sports betting is worth $23 billion a year – and that’s just the legal bets.
With respect to the European (especially English) professional football leagues, Americans have a constant barrage of sports coverage in multiple sports.
Sure, there’s the NFL on Sunday, but also college football on Saturdays, the NBA basically every day of the week, not to mention March Madness, horse racing’s Triple Crown, the various golf tournaments of the calendar year, baseball’s World Series, the Stanley Cup, and on and on. It all adds up to a constantly engaged and spend-happy audience, hungry for even more sports.
Most sportsbooks across the world offer a wide volume of sports to wager. But when engaging in United States sports betting, 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.
Typical United States sports betting wagers include:
- College Football
- College Basketball (Men’s and Women’s)
- Major League Baseball
- PGA Tour
American sports bettors don’t just want to bet on their own sports. International sports available for wagers at 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 United States sports betting sites 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.
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.
Types of Bets Available in the United States
Here’s a guide to each of the common types of United States sports betting options available:
the simplest type of sports bet. Betting on the money line means picking the winner of the game outright. Oddsmakers set different lines for the game’s favorite and underdog teams. Favorites typically have minus odds (-150, for example) that pay out less than successful bets on underdogs. Those underdog teams get plus odds (+140, for example) that pays out much more than a bet on a favorite.
For point spread bets, the house sets a line that represents a margin of victory for the favorite and margin of loss for the underdog. The favorite has to win by that set margin of victory for wagers on the favorite to pay off, typically at -110 odds. A bet on the underdog pays off (also typically at -110 odds) so long as the underdog loses within that set margin or wins outright.
This type of bet is sometimes called an over/under. This is a wager on the total number of points scored by both teams. Oddsmakers set a number and take bets on either side, with bettors picking whether the total will be over or under the number set by the book.
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. Those larger potential payouts come with increased risk – when any leg of the parlay loses, the entire parlay ticket is a loss.
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.
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. That doesn’t mean you’ll find every option described below at every American sportsbook.
United States sports betting deposits can be made using the following methods:
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.
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.
The most popular way to fund a United States sports betting account is by using a credit or debit card. It’s easy and relatively risk-free. Most American sportsbooks warn users that some banks will refuse deposits to gambling providers. Other banks will attach extra fees to the transfer, seeing it as a cash advance rather than a purchase. You should check with your bank before attempting to make a deposit to a legit US-facing sportsbook using a credit or debit card.
About half of all sportsbooks accepting American customers accept deposits using various forms of cryptocurrency. Users can make deposits using currencies like bitcoin, Litecoin, dogecoin, and Ethereum, often directly from their crypto wallets. Some sportsbooks have special promotional offers for customers who use crypto as their deposit method, promising instant deposits and withdrawals, reduced or waived fees, and special math offers.
These include popular names like PayPal, Neteller, and Skrill. eWallets act very much like paying with a bank account or debit card. The transfer of funds for United States sports betting is immediate and easy to do from a computer or mobile device.
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. The downside – relatively strict limits at most books, and longer waiting times compared to other funding methods.
No card, no problem. Almost every state allows for the use of PayNearMe terminals to transfer funds to a sports betting account. Located inside convenience stores and small retail environments, PayNearMe kiosks allow users to add cash to their online or mobile sportsbook bankroll. Users get a receipt with a number and barcode that they can use to transfer money same as cash. There’s a small fee associated.
Pay with Cash
Some online sportsbooks have deals with land-based casinos that allow customers to make cash deposits to their accounts at physical casino cages. For example, BetMGM customers in certain states can add funds to their BetMGM accounts by making cash deposits at an area casino. Withdrawals aren’t allowed, and there are limits on deposit size that vary by sportsbook and by state.
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.
Take note that each United States sports betting site has its own policies regarding deposit minimums and maximums and the amount of time it takes to process payments.
FAQ for United States Sports Betting
Is it legal to place sports bets in America?
The answer depends on where in America you live, and (to a lesser extent) where and how you do your betting. Federal law no longer prohibits states from setting their own laws about sports betting. Every state approaches the subject differently. If you live in a state where this type of wager is legal, then you’re entitled to place sports bets.
See our page titled “Where Is Sports Betting Legal in the United States” for more details about this aspect of United States sports betting.
How old do you need to be to bet on sports 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 to participate in United States sports betting. 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.
Do American sportsbooks offer bonuses & promotions?
Familiar to American sports bettors from offshore casinos and sportsbooks, these offers are a way for competing gambling providers to set their services apart and entice customers to make a deposit. They’re absolutely a part of the legal and regulated United States sports betting market, though the terms and conditions are likely different from what was once available in the unregulated offshore marketplace.
Find out more about sportsbook bonuses and promo codes in this guide.
Is online sports betting safe for Americans?
If you are betting with a legal and regulated sportsbook, then online wagering is extremely safe. All regulated United States sports betting 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 United States sports betting winnings subject to income tax?
If money was made, you can be sure that the IRS wants its cut. All winnings from United States sports betting must be declared when filling out your income tax return in April. The federal government taxes United States sports betting income at a flat 25% rate. The state income tax rate you will pay varies from state to state.