People like to bet. Apart from the financial incentive, they like to participate in the thrills of rivalry and prove to others that they know more about sports.
On the other hand, athletes and teams, as well as sport managers and owners, have always had an ambivalent approach to the idea of betting money on the outcome of the game. They understood that money may encourage unfair practices, such as giving up fights or matches. Combine that with a puritan approach to both sport (which is seen as a way to better oneself) and gambling (which is seen as immoral) and you understand why sports betting in the US was banned by law and frowned upon.
This all changed in 2018, when the Supreme Court repealed the famous PASPA law, effectively leaving the sports betting legislation up to the individual states. Although four states (Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana) had exemptions from the PASPA law and could run retail sports betting way before PASPA was overturned, the 2018 decision allowed just about any state to join as well.
This has caused a rush among some – and fear among others. The current legal landscape of sports betting legislation is complex.
This article aims to provide information regarding the current status of sports betting in each US state to marketers, sportsbook operators and ad networks that sell traffic in this vertical. Knowing what can be legally advertised is the first step in designing any advertising strategy.
Explaining the terms
It is important to clarify what different terms mean.
- Igaming, sometimes used interchangeably with ‘online gambling’, is a general term that describes all games conducted online whose outcomes depend on probability. The most narrow understanding includes casino games (poker, roulette), a more inclusive one also counts sports betting. The approach in terms of legislation towards these two groups of games differs vastly, so whenever you see a headline such as “Igaming is now legal in Maine”, you should read thoroughly into the details.
- Sports betting. This activity usually refers to both online and offline (‘in-person’, ‘retail’ or ‘on-site’ betting) but very often only to the latter part. Also, there is a whole discussion about daily fantasy sports, if this is a game of skill and therefore should be treated separately or if it is a game determined by chance, in which case it should be regulated like sports betting.
In this article, I will make a clear distinction between online and offline sports betting. Additionally, sports betting in the understanding used here does not include daily fantasy sports. More often than not, they are subject to online gambling laws.
US states & the legalization of sports betting
In general, authorities look much more favorably towards sports betting than online gambling (such as online poker, casino or roulette). As of now, more than two thirds of states have already adopted or are in the process of adopting laws that allow sports betting (mobile or in-person) to some degree.
In those states, a sportsbook operator has to apply for a license. There are a limited number of licenses available in each state. Some states allow for an operator to use different skins or brands, so it may appear as there are more sportsbook operators than there actually are.
Many of these licenses were picked up by existing casinos or racinos or by offshore operators. Sometimes there is a separate pool of licenses available for Indian tribes that can partner with a sportsbook operator by themselves.
There are many big sportsbook operators that pick up many state licenses or cooperate with multiple existing land-based casinos or Indian tribes. Companies such as Fanduel or DraftKings are so prevalent that they appear as they operate on a federal level, when actually they operate in each state independently, according to the state’s rules and with a separate state license.
It is worth noting that the rules of legal sports betting apply not only to state residents but also visitors that connect to a sports betting website from within state’s borders. Using unlicensed offshore operators is illegal and does not give any protection in case of fraud or other mishaps.
To sum up: 30 states allow sports betting but fewer allow online sports betting. Let’s go over each of them and see how things are.
30 states with legal sports betting
Both offline and online sports betting have been legal in Arizona since 2021. Daily fantasy sports are also legal. You can place bets via licensed sportsbooks (each licensee can operate under up to two skins or brands). Some sportsbooks have partnered with the tribes and some operate by themselves.
There are 8 licensed sports teams and 10 tribes that have sports betting licenses in Arizona.
When it comes to advertising, you can advertise sports freely, as long as you don’t target minors under 21 or suggest that winning is guaranteed.
Online betting has been legal in Arkansas since 2022, while offline sports betting has been available in the state’s casinos since 2018.
However, due to the adoption of the controversial revenue-sharing rule (51% goes to the state), only two online sportsbook operators have entered the market with 2 out of 8 available licenses.
Advertising laws specify that the message must be truthful and explain the rules clearly.
After voting in 2019 and a marginal (1%) win, the state of Colorado has legalized online sports betting. There are now 26 licensed online sportsbook operators and 17 retail operators. Colorado is the only state apart from New Jersey that has granted Bet365 a license.
Advertising can’t contain dishonest or misleading information, has to explain the rules clearly, and can’t claim that something is free unless it actually is free.
Connecticut is one of the few states in the union that legalized igaming in its broadest sense: online sports betting and online gambling. You can place your bets via 3 licensed online sportsbook operators (one state-owned and two other run by tribes) or in-person in Connecticut’s casinos.
Advertising rules only require you not to target minors or use images of minors, unless they are professional athletes.
Delaware is in the weird place when it comes to sports betting legalization. It has a long tradition of betting on horse races and retail sports betting was available long before the PASPA repeal. In 2018, Delaware legalized online sports betting, however, no one got a license yet. So, while it is legal to place an online bet, it is now not possible to do this legally.
The only sport betting options are in one of the state’s three casinos.
Daily fantasy sports are legal.
Legalized in 2019, online sports betting in Illinois had originally required people to sign up in-person at a brick-and-mortar casino or retail sportsbook before they could place bets online. This requirement was put on hold during the pandemic and eventually completely struck down in 2022.
Illinois has 7 licensed online sportsbooks.
Online sports betting is legal in Indiana through a partnership with a land-based casino. There are 7 online sportsbook operators in Indiana.
Advertising rules specify that you cannot target minors and you have to include the following line in your ad: “If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800-9-WITH-IT”.
Iowa allows for online sports betting that, after removing the obligation of in-person registration in 2021, requires its residents and visitors to register at a licensed online sportsbook.
It is worth noting that esports and TV events such as Oscars are not allowed to be bet on.
19 Iowa casinos take sports betting, with 18 of them holding an online sports betting license. The Iowa law allows each licensee to use up to two skins or brands.
Advertising guidelines only state that you have to advertise with decency and include all relevant information in your message.
Louisiana allows for 41 mobile sports betting operators and grants 20 existing casinos the right to cooperate with up to two online sportsbooks, with the remaining license going to the state’s lottery. These applicable laws were signed in 2021.
Advertising rules state that marketers can’t target minors or self-excluded people, can’t misrepresent odds of winning, and have to include information regarding compulsive or problem gambling.
When you think of gambling, you have Nevada in mind, with its luxurious casinos, neon lighting and water fountains. Nevada has a long tradition of gambling and for decades it was the only state where betting was legal.
Nowadays, there are thousands of casinos that also operate as online gambling service providers. Weirdly enough, when it comes to sports betting, Nevada is far behind most states.
The state of Nevada requires online sportsbook operators to have physical locations where residents can make bets and where they register before placing a bet online. This requirement, although initially introduced by other states as well which by now have walked back on it, makes online sports betting a real hassle.
This requirement makes some Nevadans cross the state line to Arizona and create their sports betting account there, instead of within their home state.
The state offers 10 retail and 5 mobile sports betting licenses. However, for the time being, there is only one sportsbook operator in New Hampshire – DraftKings. The reason behind this is that DraftKings have struck an exclusive deal with the state where the operator agreed to share 50% of its revenue with the state. This number would go down if other parties entered the market.
New Jersey is the second gambling Mecca in the Union, after Nevada. When it comes to sports betting, New Jersey was one of the states responsible for overturning the PASPA law. This caused New Jersey to legalize sports betting in 2018.
Now, there are 17 online sportsbooks. A New Jersey licensee gives a licensee the right to operate under up to three brands or skins.
Advertisers cannot target minors and have to display the following message: “”If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800 GAMBLER”.
New York legalized online sports betting in January 2022. The state granted 9 licenses to operators, with this number unlikely to change.
There are few advertising rules in New York and they mainly require marketers to put information about a hotline for gambling addicts.
Michigan legalized retail sports betting in 2019 and online sports betting in 2021. In total, the state offers 15 sports betting licenses to each of its casinos or the ones run by tribes. On top of that, casinos can partner with online sportsbook operators for providing online sports betting services. In such a case, these operators have to apply for a separate license.
Michigan’s online sports betting advertising rules are among the loosest in the country. The only requirements are that you cannot advertise illegal gambling facilities and cannot target self-excluded individuals.
Mississippi has allowed sports betting in 2018 but online options are limited to casinos only. This means that you can place an online bet only within the premises of a licensed casino, thus negating the convenience of online betting.
Montana follows Mississippi’s footsteps when it comes to their approach to sports betting. Legal sports betting in Montana is available through the state’s lottery. Montana Lottery had signed an agreement with Intralot to provide it with online sports betting services. So, as of now, there is only one online sportsbook operator in Montana. What is more, you can only place bets while within the premises of a physical sports betting facility – same as in Mississippi.
Oregon, which was one of the few states with legal retail sports betting before 2018, has allowed online sports betting through its own dedicated app, only to move away from it and eventually partner with DraftKings.
As of now, sports betting is possible in casinos and via one online sportsbook operator. You can bet on all sports games, apart from college football.
Sports betting on professional and college sports is allowed in Pennsylvania through regulated sportsbook operators. There are currently 13 licensed online sportsbook operators in Pennsylvania.
Advertising regulations require ads not to be misleading and contain a number for a toll-free helpline for problem gamblers.
Rhode Island residents have one online sportsbook operator available to provide them with online betting services. Initially the state required in-person registration. That obligation was ditched in 2020 and bettors only need to register online.
There are also two retail sportsbook locations in the state.
South Dakota has a ban on sports betting throughout most of its territory. The exception is the city of Deadwood, where residents can place bets at retail locations and via mobile phones, provided that they are within the city limits.
Betting on state college teams is not legal anywhere in the state.
There are no concrete advertising policies regarding sports betting in SD.
Tennessee is home to 9 online sportsbook operators. Tennessee is the only state that has adopted an online-only approach. This means that there are no land-based venues where you can bet on sports legally – everything is done online via licensed operators.
When it comes to advertising rules, apart from standard ones such as not targeting minors, you need to submit all your marketing materials to Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) for review prior to publishing.
For now, Virginia offers online-only sports betting options but the legal process that will allow for retail sports betting is already in motion.
There are 14 mobile sportsbook operators available in Virginia.
Advertising rules state that you cannot target minors, self-excluded individuals and you must not misrepresent the chances of winning or say that success is guaranteed or risk-free.
Sports betting laws in the DC area are tricky. Firstly, there is only one app that works in the entire district. The two remaining apps (Washington DC has allowed 3 apps up to this point and offer 5 online sports booking licenses in total) work in selected zones only.
There are some retail locations, with some of them cooperating with online sports booking operators.
Washington state allows sports betting only in retail tribal casinos starting 2020. While you can place bets online, you can do that only when on the premises of a casino.
There are no specific rules regarding advertising.
West Virginia is home to a robust igaming industry. It allows its five retail casinos to apply for an online sports betting license. Each licensee can operate under up to three skins.
Wyoming bets on big online sportsbook operators to come, as it requires operators to be licensed in at least three other states. There is no cap on the maximal number of licenses the states can give.
Wyoming has adopted a mobile-only approach to sports betting, as there are no retail casinos in the state. There are four tribal casinos that could offer sports betting services on-site in the future.
Wyoming is the only state in the union to allow bettors to make deposits using cryptocurrency.
Soon to change
The above list will soon be expanded, as the states listed below are expected to make sports betting operational soon.
Although Florida has initially allowed for sports betting in 2021, the Seminole Tribe has challenged this ruling and until the legal dispute comes to a conclusion, sports betting is not legal in Florida.
Sports betting in Kansas is technically legal since 1st of July 2022 but no entity was granted a license yet. The legislation allows its four casinos to partner with up to three online sportsbook operators each.
Maine has passed a law that will give its four federally recognized tribes an option to become sportsbook operators. The law comes into effect in August 2022.
The law that legalizes online and retail sports betting in Maryland is expected to come into effect in fall 2022. The state will grant licenses to 60 sites and 30 retail sportsbook operators.
Nebraska’s law is expected to allow retail sports betting in late 2022. No plans to legalize online sports betting.
Ohio has already legalized online and retail sports betting but the regulatory framework is still under way. The deadline for launching sports betting in Ohio is the 1st of January 2023.
Advertising sports betting in the US
You now have a fuller understanding of what is allowed in the United States and what is not.
Don’t forget that apart from complying with state’s laws, you also have to be compliant with any ad network’s requirements and compliance policies. For example, Google requires its advertisers to apply for a country-specific license.
Once you get the legal aspect out of the way, you should remember about running your ads efficiently. This means using optimization tools such as Voluum.
Voluum is an ad tracker that partners with popular iGaming operators to provide the best experience for marketers that want to advertise sports betting or online gambling. With Voluum, you will get a full picture of how the audience in each state or a city reacts to your online ads and what parts of your traffic should be cut off.
It expands the rudimentary tracking options that all ad networks, social platforms or search traffic providers have, allowing you to advertise your own or third party sports betting offers.