Senior Research Analyst
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 New Jersey later repealed the state law expressly authorizing sports wagering, but did not replace it with language expressly prohibiting sports betting.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. Since the Murphy decision, 32 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports wagering, and 13 other states have considered legislation during the 2021 legislative session.
According to the American Gaming Association, a total of 28 states and the District of Columbia currently accept sports wagers, and a total of 4 states have legalized sports betting, but are not yet operational.
The following map shows states that are currently accepting sports wagers in orange. States that have legalized, but are not operational are shown in blue.
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, New York (tribal casinos only), Rhode Island, Washington, and Wyoming, persons age 18 or older may place sports wagers.
Out of the 32 states with legal sports wagering (either active, or pending implementation), 19 states and the District of Columbia restrict wagering on either local collegiate teams or on amateur sports: Arizona, Arkansas (restriction only on amateur sports), Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Five states, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, and Virginia, require the use of official league data for either proposition bets, or in-play wagers, or both.