When Did Sports Betting Become Legal in the USA?

Nowadays, sports betting is everywhere, but didn’t it use to be illegal in the United States? That’s true, and many might not have realized that it’s completely legal now.

Only a few states do not allow sports gambling of any kind as of today, so most people in the USA are good to go, but when did sports betting became legal there?

Our article will help guide you through the legality journey of online sports gambling in America.

Key Takeaways

  • Find out about the origins of sports betting: its laws, its prohibitions and its biggest breakthroughs.
  • Take a look at our predictions for the future of sports gambling.

The Early Days of Sports Betting

Sports gambling and legality have always had a bit of a strenuous relationship. It has been legal and illegal at times, and the sport and state in which it occurs has often played a role as well.

It’s been an up-and-down journey since the inception of sports, but it has arrived in 2024 with eyes on growing even bigger in the future. 

Origins and Early Regulations

Right now, there are not a ton of regulations in the sports gambling industry. At least, there’s a lot fewer than there used to be. Consider this timeline of events, which begins shortly after the lottery is banned:

  • 1867 — Elite begin betting on horse racing.
  • 1890 — Horse race betting becomes widespread.
  • 1910 — Scandals lead to a nationwide ban on sports betting.
  • 1919 — Chicago White Sox players receive lifetime bans for fixing the World Series.
  • 1960 — Congress introduces legislation to legalize and regulate sports betting.
  • 1980 — Las Vegas rises as a key betting hub.
  • 2018 — The Supreme Court decision enables states to set their sports betting laws, leading to widespread legalization.

Gambling used to be very restricted and now, unless you live in one of the US states that doesn’t allow it, it’s easily accessible! 

The Road to Legalization

The legalization of retail and online sports betting has been a complex journey shaped by changing public opinion and significant legal efforts.

Key Legal Battles and Turning Points

A pivotal moment came in 2018 when the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), allowing states to choose their sports betting regulations. Justice Samuel Alito noted that states are free to regulate sports gambling if Congress chooses not to.

This ruling removed the federal ban and led to widespread legalization across various states. Meanwhile, efforts by figures like former US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to curb illegal betting in earlier decades highlighted ongoing challenges in regulating sports betting.

State-by-State Legalization Efforts

Upon that decision in 2018, the entire sports gambling industry changed. What was once an admittedly small and uncommon field suddenly had the opportunity to grow legally.

In the days after, most states adopted laws regarding it, and that continues to this day.

In 2024, only these states don’t apply legal sports betting:

  • California
  • Texas
  • Idaho
  • Utah
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • South Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii

Focus on North Carolina State Situation with Sports Betting

I live in North Carolina, which means I’m free to bet against the Carolina Panthers (which is a good bet most of the time) as much as I please. With that said, California is a surprising omission. There are quite a few sports teams in the state.

Sports Teams of North California State:

  • Los Angeles Rams
  • Los Angeles Chargers
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Sacramento Kings
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Oakland Athletics
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers

It is a massive state for sports, so why not for sports gambling? The laws may be changing soon on California sports betting. The issue has been a hot topic in the state for a while, and there was real hope in 2022 that they’d finally get access to the industry. That didn’t happen, but that wasn’t too long ago and the movement still has life today. 

Legal experts believe it’s just a matter of time. That could be true for many states that still outlaw it, as it’s a growing industry that’s getting too big to ignore. Every online sportsbook is pretty easy to access, so it wouldn’t be a difficulty for any state to introduce it. 

The Modern Era of Sports Betting

Sports betting has come a long way in the year 2024, officially being dubbed the modern era. The need to submit a ticket to a person at a sports event and return after to collect winnings or pay up on the losses is truly a thing of the past.

The modern era makes placing a wager so much easier, and bettors are better for it. Thanks to digital, you can also find countless available sources — like our betting 101 section — to help you become an expert sports gambler.

Recent Legal Developments

2018 marked a pivotal year in American sports gambling history when the Supreme Court invalidated PASPA, significantly advancing the industry. New Jersey played a key role in this change, quickly becoming one of the first states to legalize sports betting.

Since then, more states, including Vermont and North Carolina, have joined in legalizing sports wagering. North Carolina, previously limited to in-person betting at two locations, expanded to include online and mobile betting in 2023.

This change means residents can now place bets directly from their phones, catching up with the now 37 states that offer similar options. The trend continues to spread, with expectations that more states will soon follow suit.

The Impact of Legalization

From a cultural standpoint, sports betting has had a huge impact. The industry is almost synonymous with sports itself.

A game isn’t just a game anymore, it’s a matchup between a favored team and an underdog.

The MVP race in any sport isn’t just the most deserving candidate, as the odds often tell the story as well. They are almost inseparable entities now. 

From a social standpoint, sports have always been associate to social events. Now, there’s gambling involved and that is social as well. The impact legalization has had on it is now almost every person who’s watching the Super Bowl with their friends and family has a parlay going.

Their longstanding gamble that the Baltimore Ravens would win it all is on the line, so it’s an entirely unique social experience with an all-new connection to the game. 

In 2022, the sports gambling industry in America brought in $7.5 billion in revenue.

It’s made a huge economic impact as well. Without legalization, this money might not have been spent, and the economy might have suffered as a result. 

Understanding the Legal Landscape

With anything that was once illegal and is now legal, it is necessary to know the laws about it before taking part.

This is especially true when it’s not legal in every single place. Sports gambling is legal in most states, but not all. And many have slightly different rules. 

Navigating Current Laws and Regulations

First and foremost, you have to know exactly where you can and cannot bet. If you’re in California, you have to leave for Las Vegas to be able to legally place a bet. If you’re in South Carolina, head north to NC to do so. That’s the biggest thing any sports bettor must be aware of. 

You must, along those same lines, know which sportsbooks are legal in your state. Most of them are good in most places, but that’s crucial to check before wagering anything. 

For example: The Caesars Sportsbook app is legal in the following:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Washington D.C.
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Unfortunately, I cannot use it in North Carolina.

The final thing you need to know is whether ONLINE gambling is allowed. Some states have legalized the process, but not online. For a while, North Carolina was like that. The inverse is also true in some places, which matters if you think you might want to offline bet somewhere. 

Future Outlook and Predictions

The outlook for the future is incredibly bright in the sports world. In just five short years, 37 states have legalized sports betting. More is extremely likely. They have almost all legalized online gambling, too.

In the next five years, that number might get even bigger. Eventually, all 50 states might make sports betting legal or have their own unique sports betting laws. Several states, like California, are experiencing pushes from voters to legalize the issue, and they can only hold out so long. 

While it’s not going to be from a federal law, the entire United States could very well have legal sports gambling soon. Until then, it’s necessary to know the rules, laws, and locations you can gamble in.

If your state doesn’t allow it, then you may be out of luck for now. But do not worry, I have my secret solution for you: social sportsbook sites. I’ll talk to you about that very soon in a dedicated article!