Sports betting in the United States is growing at a phenomenal rate as individual states across the nation push through legislation to create regulated markets. As a result, a huge number of both local and international sports betting companies have entered legal markets throughout the USA creating a highly competitive industry. It’s no surprise then that gamblers are often spoilt for choice in those states with legalized gambling.
US online sports betting regulators
Both retail and online sports betting regulation in the United States is managed internally by state governments. Each of these states, regardless of whether or not they have legal sports betting, will often have a department or division of gaming within the government. Some states with established horse racing industries may have an independent racing and gaming commission governing all in-state gambling.
Any sports betting company that wants to launch a sportsbook in a specific state must first apply for licensure to that state’s relevant gambling or gaming department. However, this isn’t always a straightforward process as some state’s have set specific limitations on the number of sports betting companies that can operate within state lines.
With sports betting gathering so much momentum throughout the USA, it won’t be too long before states with legal sports betting are in the majority.
Online sports betting laws in the United States
For many years, sports betting in the United States was considered illegal with many states having specific legislation prohibiting either all forms of gambling or sports betting in particular.
The biggest obstacle in the path of legal sports betting was the Federal Wire Act which was originally enacted to counteract money laundering activities carried out by criminal gangs. However, this soon became a tool for opponents of sports betting to use against any potential legalization of sportsbooks.
In 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This law made it illegal for businesses to transfer funds to and from online gambling companies. And in 2011, the Department of Justice published a revised opinion on the Federal Wire Act that indicated that it only applied to sports betting. This was thought to be the final nail in the coffin for both online and retail sports betting.
2012 saw New Jersey pass the Sports Wagering Act 2012, following a referendum. This legalized sports betting in the state but was immediately challenged in court by the NFL, NHL, MLB, and NCAA. The leagues claimed that it was in direct violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). PASPA was yet another act that stood in the way of sports betting as it restricted any potential legalization of betting on a federal level. The leagues won their case but the state took it to the US Supreme Court.
On May 14th, 2018, the court ruled that PASPA was unconstitutional rendering the injunction taken by the sporting leagues null and void. This meant that there was now no legal obstacle in the way of states passing their own sports betting legislation and the flood gates were opened.
Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and Mississippi all moved to legalize and launch sports betting in 2018. Since then many other states have followed suit.
It’s important to note that not all states that have legalized sports betting have legal mobile sports betting options. For example, Arkansas launched retail sports betting in 2019 but is only now getting around to launching mobile sports betting.
How to spot a licensed US online sportsbook
Despite many states now having regulated legal sports betting markets, there are numerous international sports betting companies (also known as offshore companies) that allow residents of some states to gamble at their online sportsbooks. However, players who place wagers on these sites have no legal protections should they have issues with the company’s practices.
With this in mind, it makes sense to only use online sports betting apps that are licensed by a state authority. Details of this license should be clearly displayed on a sportsbook’s website or app and is usually found at the bottom of the homepage.
It’s also possible to visit a state’s gaming department or division’s website and find a complete list of all gambling companies that are licensed to offer mobile sports betting in the state.