Sports Wagering

Background and Overview: Recent U.S. Supreme Court Decision

In Murphy v. NCAA, 138 S. Ct. 1461 (2018), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law prohibiting states from allowing betting on sporting events. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) (28 USC §§ 3701-3704) had prohibited all sports lotteries except those allowed under state law at the time PASPA was passed. Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon all had state laws providing for sports wagering in 1992; however, Nevada was the only one of those states conducting sports wagering in a meaningful way between 1992 and 2018.

In 2011, New Jersey passed a law authorizing sports betting. This law was struck down by the courts as a violation of PASPA as part of a challenge brought by five professional sports leagues. New Jersey later repealed the state law expressly authorizing sports wagering, but did not replace it with language expressly prohibiting sports betting. Again, the sports leagues sued New Jersey, claiming that by not expressly prohibiting sports wagering, the state law effectively authorized sports gambling by implication. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling striking down PASPA on the grounds that the federal law prohibited the modification or repeal of state law prohibitions and unlawfully regulated the actions of state legislatures.

State Action Since Murphy v. NCAA

As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s declaring PASPA to be unconstitutional, states can legally regulate gambling on sporting events. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports wagering and twenty-two other states have considered legislation related to legalizing the practice since the Supreme Court’s decision was released in May 2018.

According to ESPN, a total of nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently accept sports wagers, and a total of six states have legalized sports betting, but are not yet operational (

The map below shows states that currently allow sports wagers in gray. States that have legalized the practice, but do not yet have operational systems, are shown in orange.

Status of Sports Betting Legislation by state map graphic

Notable State Policies

In nearly every state with legal sports wagering, gamblers must be age 21 or older to place a wager. However, in Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Virginia, persons age 18 or older may place sports wagers.

Out of the 25 states with legal sports wagering, 13 states restrict wagering on either local collegiate teams or on amateur sports: Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

Two states, Illinois and Tennessee, require the use of official league data by operators who offer proposition and in-play wagers.

Jordan Milholland, Senior Research Analyst

Joanna Dolan, Principal Research Analyst