casino sports betting expansion 2020
Legal Developments

Ranking Casino Hopes in States With Commercial Gaming Limits

Nebraska gaming backers have reportedly garnered enough signatures to place a casino authorization voter referendum on the 2020 ballot.

If certified by the secretary of state’s office, casino approval is no foregone conclusion in one of the nation’s most politically and culturally conservative states, but just the apparently successful collection bodes well for future gaming growth. If Nebraska can approve casinos, so can anywhere.

Virginia authorized its first-ever legal casinos earlier this year, further underscoring the rising approval for organized gambling in the U.S. A 2019 American Gaming Association study found 49% of American adults approve of the casino industry, a record high. Roughly 44% of U.S. adults visited a casino last year, a 9% increase from 2018.

Additionally, all but five states have a government-sanctioned lottery, and roughly half the nation’s legislatures have legalized sports betting in the past two years.

Even in traditionally conservative Nebraska, attitudes are apparently shifting.

A 2004 poll found just 40% of percent of state voters supported a casino proposal, even as Iowa casinos attracted millions of dollars from Nebraskan gamblers each year. Keep the Money in Nebraska, the 2020 signature drive’s organizer, says internal polling shows growing support for this year’s measures, which would expand and tax gaming options at existing pari-mutuel horse tracks.

Here’s where the other remaining states without Native American or full-scale commercial casinos stand heading into 2020’s second half.

Some Momentum

Elected officials in these states have supported casino authorization, although they face an uphill climb politically.


Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s 2019 gubernatorial campaign supported commercial casinos and sportsbooks. Although 2020 casino efforts gained little traction in the Republican-controlled legislature, and sports betting legislation died after a promising start, gaming advocates at least have an ally in the governor’s mansion for at least three more years.


Peach State lawmakers, with the support of Georgia’s professional sports teams, studied sports betting earlier this year, and it appeared momentarily lawmakers would authorize wagering as part of the 2020 budget. That bill, and a more far-reaching casino legalization voter referendum, fell short, but the groundwork was laid for a possible second act in 2021.

Sports Betting (But Not Much More)

Several states with legal sports betting may reconsider their casino prohibitions, but these seem unlikely in the immediate future.


In arguably the most surprising development in the nascent U.S. sports betting industry, Tennessee passed the first full multi-operator, mobile and untethered sports betting bill in the country. But more than a year later, Tennessee still hasn’t taken a sports bet, and casinos seem no more likely.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire also approved mobile sports betting in 2019, accepting its first bet that same year. Aside from a handful of retail sportsbooks approved as part of the mobile betting bill, and another group of “casinos” that are more akin to private cardrooms, lawmakers in Concord seem disinclined to further expand the state’s gaming options.


Like its eastern neighbor, Vermont is considering a mobile sports betting bill. That has so far been a tough sell in Montpelier, and makes casino gambling that much less likely.

Little Chance

Despite shifting national attitudes, a few states are little closer to legal sports betting today than they were a century ago.

South Carolina

Though a few a lawmakers have floated gaming bills in recent years, there has been little momentum for any new legal gaming since the 2002 South Carolina Education Lottery ratification. With anti-gambling Gov. Henry McMaster in office, this seems unlikely to change.


Hawaii is one of two states without so much as a lottery – or any legal gaming options. With no border neighbors to compete for resident or visitor dollars, and an overall cultural aversion to gambling, the Aloha State has had little motivation for a casino.


Arguably the most politically and culturally conservative state in the country, Utah is the other state with no legal gaming. This won’t likely change any time soon.  

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