Online MLB betting is now legal in a growing number of states thanks to the May 2018 Supreme Court decision to overturn the federal sports betting ban that for decades prohibited all states other than Nevada from legalizing and regulating sports betting.
Multiple states have passed laws since then and more are on the way. New Jersey, West Virginia and Pennsylvania were some of the first to legalize online sports betting, while additional states have opened the doors to physical sportsbooks.
As impressive revenue figures continue to roll in from states with legal MLB betting, it looks increasingly likely that most states will eventually have legal in-person or online sportsbooks.
Best MLB Betting Sites
The changing legal environment in the United States has unlocked a whole new world of baseball betting now that sportsbooks are opening for business across the country. What was once the purview of Nevada and questionable offshore betting sites is now legal in multiple states with more to come.
What this means for fans of America’s pastime is we finally have access to betting sites that are legal, licensed and safe. Unlike offshore sportsbooks that are run by questionable people with questionable security standards, legal betting sites in the United States are run under strict regulatory regimes and are subject to US law.
The biggest downside right now is that legal online betting is not yet available in all states. A handful of states do have legal betting sites up and running right now, but it will still be a process waiting for additional states to do the same. However, we closely follow legal developments and will keep the following map up to date as other states legalize online and in-person betting.
States with Legal MLB Betting
This map provides a current overview of where sports betting is legal. As additional states legalize sports betting, we will update this map with the latest information. In time, we hope to see this map full of color.
States with legal sports betting
- Blue: Online/mobile betting is legal
- Green: Land-based sportsbooks only (no online betting)
- Red: MLB betting coming soon; legislation fully passed but waiting for implementation
Note: If you do not live in a state with legal online betting, our advice is to stay away from offshore betting sites. The next few years are expected to be very busy in terms of new legislation passing and eventually, more states than not will have legal MLB betting.
The next-best alternative if your state does not have legal sports betting is daily fantasy sports. More specifically, FanDuel and DraftKings are your two best bets when it comes to fantasy baseball. Both sites award millions of dollars’ worth of prizes in baseball contests every year. For instance, both sites hold an annual end-of-the-season championship with more than $1 million in prize money.
For those unfamiliar with daily fantasy baseball, the basic idea is similar to those office leagues you may have played in the past with the key difference being these contests only last for a single day. You draft a team of players, earn points based on their real-world performances and then earn payouts if you outscore the competition.
Fantasy MLB isn’t quite the same as actual sports betting, but the general sense of having something on the line when you watch baseball games on TV is the same. Every time one of the players you drafted connects with the ball, advances a base, throws a strike and wins a game, you’ll know that’s potential money in your pocket.
You can read more about each site here:
The Impact of Legal Sports Wagering on the MLB
The legalization of sports betting has the potential to impact Major League Baseball in a big way. In fact, the MLB at one time feared the impact of legal sports betting so much that it joined the other major sports leagues in a lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s attempt to legalize sports betting within state lines.
The MLB ultimately failed in its attempt to stop New Jersey from legalizing sports betting, but losing the Supreme Court case may in fact have been one the best things to ever happen to the league.
According to a study commissioned by the American Gaming Association, the MLB stands to see annual revenue grow by more than $1 billion as a result of the Supreme Court decision. The study, which was conducted by the Nielsen Company, estimates that if legal sports betting becomes widespread in the US, the MLB will see more than $950 million in increased revenue due to enhanced fan engagement alone and another $154 million as a result of new advertising sponsorships with gaming companies.
Nielsen arrived at the $950 million figure by surveying gamblers and sports fans in relation to their viewing habits. As one would expect, people who bet on sports tend to watch more sports and stay tuned to sports websites, social media accounts and so on. Nielsen took all of that into account, crunched the numbers and estimated that increased fan engagement alone is worth just about an extra billion dollars a year.
MLB Partnerships with Betting Operators Highlight Value of Data
Another $154 million is predicted to flow to the MLB in the form of gambling sponsorships and advertising opportunities. Major sports betting operators such as MGM Resorts International, William Hill and many more have already shown they are more than willing to pay good money for access to the perfect target market: engaged sports fans.
For instance, the MLB signed MGM Resorts International as its “Official Gaming Partner” and “Official Entertainment Partner” in the league’s first deal with a sports betting operator. That deal gave MGM Resorts advertising space on MLB broadcasts and social media in addition to allowing MGM properties to host MLB-themed events.
The deal also gives MGM sportsbooks such as BetMGM access to proprietary league data such as game results and statistics that are used for settling wagers and operating in-play betting markets.
The bit about data is especially noteworthy because the leagues (especially the MLB and NBA) have been unsuccessful in convincing lawmakers across the country to give them a cut of the profits earned from sports betting via so-called “integrity fees.”
In 2019, the league signed a similar deal with FanDuel Sportsbook establishing the latter as an “Authorized Gaming Operator of MLB.”
That deals not only gives FanDuel Sportsbook the right to use certain MLB trademarks, but also gives FanDuel access to official league data. As the press release noted, the portion of the deal relating to data “allows FanDuel to enhance the in-play and overall sports wagering experience.” This is key because in-play betting already accounts for more than half of FanDuel’s total sports betting handle.
With their requests for integrity fees going unheeded, the leagues have turned to selling data to sports betting operators. While integrity fees were wildly unpopular as proposed, data is something the leagues have that the major operators actually want. The MLB is still lobbying Congress for integrity fees and mandatory data rights, but what we’ve seen so far is that sports betting operators are happy to buy data from the leagues with no government intervention necessary.
Data is especially valuable in this context because it goes way beyond simply informing sportsbooks who won the game. If that was the extent of what the leagues had to offer, sportsbook operators could just as easily check the scores themselves and save the money.
What the leagues have to offer is the type of data that cannot be gleaned by simply turning on a TV and watching the game. For the MLB, this type of data is provided by Statcast. While Statcast data may provide interesting filler material for the casual viewer, it provides sports betting operators with a treasure trove of valuable information.
For one, Statcast metrics such as catch probability, base-to-base speed and pitching speed collected over time assist the oddsmakers in creating more efficient betting lines.
Secondly, that kind of data makes it possible for sportsbooks to come up with all sorts of unique in-play wagers. If a sportsbook wanted to, it could use that kind of data to create wagers such as the fastest time any runner achieves between two bases, how fast the fastest pitch of the game will be and the highest speed in MPH any outfielder will achieve when throwing the ball to an infielder.
Looking at the MLB Position on Baseball Betting
The MLB’s official stance on sports betting has evolved over the years in alignment with legal changes on the ground. In 2012, the MLB joined the NFL, NHL, NBA and NCAA in suing New Jersey over the state’s effort to legalize sports betting. Suffice it to say, the MLB at one point was very much opposed to sports betting.
Although the league’s longstanding opposition to sports betting may have been frustrating for those of us in favor of legalization, the MLB’s position is understandable. After all, baseball betting has led to more than one high-profile scandal for the league over the years.
The most iconic baseball betting scandal of all time may very well be the Black Sox World Series scandal dating all the way back to 1919 that tarred the great Shoeless Joe Jackson and which remains controversial to this day. Over the many years since then, Major League Baseball spared no expense in making known its strong opposition to sports betting.
However, the league began to change its stance in early 2018 as word began to spread that the Supreme Court seemed to be on the verge of siding with New Jersey in its effort to legalize sports betting.
In anticipation of that possibility, the MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league was “reexamining our stance on gambling.” Manfred went on to explain that with the massive amounts of illegal gambling already going on under prohibition, it may be better for Congress to regulate sports betting at the federal level in order to provide a uniform set of rules and regulations to protect the integrity of the game.
Ultimately, the MLB came out in support of federal regulation. The Supreme Court ruling that was issued in May of 2018 opened the door for individual states to pass their own laws, but the MLB continues to support federal intervention. The MLB also supports integrity fees and data mandates, both of which have proven unpopular among most lawmakers at the state level.
Regarding integrity fees, the MLB at one point argued that it needed laws put in place that would require all sports betting operators to pay a fee equal to 1% of total betting handle in order to offset costs associated with protecting the integrity of the game. When that argument fell flat, the MLB rebranded the integrity fees as “royalty fees” and lowered its demand to 0.25% of betting handle.
MLB demands for data mandates would have lawmakers create legislation requiring all sports betting operators to purchase data directly from the league in order to settle wagers and manage in-play betting markets. That request has also proven unpopular at the state level with lawmakers telling the leagues they can make agreements with betting operators on the free market.
Still, at least one federal law proposed at the end of 2018 would give the leagues a monopoly over data for at least a few years. Not surprisingly, the MLB strongly supported that effort. The MLB today continues to advocate for strong protections and will continue to lobby lawmakers anywhere there is a chance sports betting legislation will advance.
Best MLB Betting Sites
The end of the federal sports betting prohibition has finally cleared the way for well-financed and highly experienced gaming companies to open betting sites in direct competition with the various offshore sportsbooks that have served the US market illegally for years.
The overall quality of the online sports betting experience has risen dramatically as a result with the likes of MGM Resorts, DraftKings, FanDuel, Rush Street Interactive and others all getting involved. In all, this has made it easier to find high quality sportsbooks whatever your sport of choice may be.
The key is to always stick with licensed online sportsbooks in your state. State gambling regulators are so selective in awarding online betting licenses that even if your sole criteria for choosing where to play is whether or not a sportsbook is licensed in your state, you will be in good hands when it comes to security, betting options and overall experience.
There are two ways to find licensed sportsbooks in your state. First, you can visit our state pages to see which online sportsbooks (or fantasy sites) are legal in your state. Alternatively, you can visit your state regulator’s website for a list of sportsbooks that hold active licenses. For example, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement keeps such a list on this page.
This point applies to online sports betting in general, but something else to consider when it comes to baseball betting in particular is to look for betting sites that have formal partnerships in place with the MLB.
For instance, consider the deal we discussed previously between the MLB and MGM Resorts International. That deal extends well beyond advertising by also giving betting sites operated by MGM Resorts access to in-depth Statcast data that will make it possible for BetMGM and other sites operated by MGM to offer unique types of wagers and a more comprehensive in-play betting experience.
Online sports betting is still a fairly young industry in the United States, but as the industry continues to mature and innovate, we should start to see individual betting sites begin to differentiate from one another to offer in terms of features, live streaming of MLB games and unique forms of wagers.
One example that comes to mind is PointsBet, which offers variable payouts based on how right you are. If you bet on the over in a points total, for example, PointsBet doesn’t just pay a flat amount if the score goes over; it actually pays more based on how many points the total is exceeded. That’s just one example, but it goes to show how innovation will continue to shape the industry moving forward.
How to Bet on Baseball Online
Learning how to bet on baseball online begins with understanding the moneyline odds format. Once you have that down pat, you will have little trouble getting a handle on the many other types of MLB wagers that you’ll encounter in your time as a bettor.
How Baseball Moneylines Work
To begin, moneyline odds are used as an expression of how much money you stand to win versus how much you’re being asked to risk. The most basic type of wager, which is aptly called “the moneyline,” is a straight-up bet on which team will win an upcoming baseball game.
The basic concept here is that the stronger a team is believed to be, the less your sportsbook is willing to pay for wagers on that team. On the flip side, the weaker the team in a matchup, the more the sportsbook is willing to pay.
For example, let’s imagine the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks are scheduled to play this afternoon and you’re interested in betting on the game. You visit your favorite betting site and see the moneyline wager listed something like this:
- Colorado Rockies: -155
- Arizona Diamondbacks: +128
At a glance, we can see that the Colorado Rockies are the favorites due to them being priced with a negative number (-155). Whenever you see a team listed with negative odds, that means you will be risking a larger amount than you stand to win. This number tells you how much money you need to risk for every $100 in potential winnings.
In this example, the Rockies’ price of -155 means you stand to win $100 for every $155 you risk. You could also say you need to risk $1.55 for every $1.00 in potential winnings.
A $155 wager on the Rockies would return $100 in net profit in this example, giving you a total payout of $255 if the Rockies win ($100 in net profit plus the return of your original $155 wager).
Likewise, we can see that the Arizona Diamondbacks are the underdogs due to being priced with a positive number (+128). These odds tell you that you stand to win $128 for every $100 wagered or $1.28 for every $1.00 wagered.
A $100 wager on the Diamondbacks would therefore return $128 in winnings for a total payout of $228 ($128 in net profit plus the return of your original $100 wager).
- Favorites are priced with negative moneyline odds and issue smaller payouts relative to the original wager
- Underdogs are priced with positive moneyline odds and issue larger payouts relative to the original wager
Oddsmakers design wagers in this manner in an effort to account for perceived disparities in skill with the goal being to attract a roughly equal amount of action on both sides of the wager. If the oddsmakers get it right, the sportsbook can use the losers to pay the winners and still have something left over to keep as profit.
Other Types of MLB Wagers Explained
If you take the time to get moneylines down pat, you’ll find it easy to apply that knowledge to other types of wagers since they all use a similar format to display the betting odds. Some of the other types of baseball wagers you’re likely to see at some point include the following.
- Run Line: The run line looks and acts similarly to a standard moneyline but also adds a point spread to the equation in order to offset some of the skill disparity. For example, a baseball run line may price the favorite at -110 -1.5, which means that team needs to win by more than 1 run for wagers on that team to be graded winners. If the other team is priced at +110 +1.5, that means they can lose the game by up to 1 run and your wager on them will still be considered a winner.
- Run Total: Your sportsbook sets a total and then you wager whether the total number of runs scored in that game will be greater than or less than the total. If the sportsbook sets the total at 8.5 runs and you take the over, you win if the combined run total for both teams ends up being 9 or more.
- Series Bet: A series bet is wagering on the outcome of a 3, 4, 5 or 7-game series between two teams. Rather than betting on who will win an individual game, you’re betting on who wins the series as a whole.
- Futures: Futures look further into the future as the name suggests. The most common types of futures are wagers on who will win the division, the league and the World Series.
- Prop Bets: Proposition wagers deal with just about everything other than predicting the game winner or point total. Props can take many forms such as how many strikeouts the starting pitcher will have, how many home runs there will be, total hits in the game, whether or not there will be a triple play, whether or not a pitcher will throw a no-hitter and much more.
- Parlays: Parlay wagers combine two or more individual bets into one wager and offer a higher payout. Today’s MLB betting sites allow customers to create custom parlays by adding multiple wagers to the betting slip and checking the “parlay” option to wrap them all into one. A simple example of a parlay would be picking the winning teams of two different games. Parlays can pay very well, but they only win if you get every prediction correct.
In-Play MLB Betting Sites
Traditionally, the big downside with sports betting was that all action stopped after the start of the game. If you were late to tune in and missed the first pitch, you’d be out of luck with all markets closed for action. Any missed opportunities would just have to be filed away in the “what if” box as you wait to try again another day.
In-play betting takes the traditional concept of a sports wager and turns it on its head by getting started after the game begins. With in-play betting, you can watch the first few pitches (or even the first few innings) before making a decision and laying down a wager.
The most basic in-play wagers mirror standard bets such as moneylines, run lines and totals, but with the key difference being the odds are updated in real time. Thus, you can get a feel for the momentum of the game and place a wager based on the most recent information possible: what has actually happened on the field up to this point.
The best in-play MLB sites also offer shorter-term wagers such as how the next at-bat will go, which team will be next to score a run, which team will win the next inning and much more. In short, in-play betting greatly expands the opportunities you have as a bettor while watching the game in real time.
Baseball is especially fitting for in-play betting because the pace of the game affords enough time to make reasonable decisions while still moving quickly enough to keep things interesting. Even in a fairly tame meeting between two teams you don’t particularly care for takes on new meaning when you can potentially bet on the outcome of every at-bat and every play from the first inning on down to the final pitch of the game.
In-play baseball betting is a fun way to experience the sport with a mobile sportsbook in the palm of your hand and a game on TV, but some caution is warranted. The sheer number of in-play wagers offered during a single game makes it easy to get carried away and wager more than you intended. Consider setting a cap on how much you’re allowed to wager during a game and stick to it no matter what happens.
In addition to being a fun way to take in a game, in-play baseball betting can also be used to hedge pre-game wagers and to pounce on opportunities where you perceive an edge. You’ll have to think quickly and be ready to strike on a moment’s notice, but the opportunities are there if you keep your eyes open.
When choosing the best in-play baseball betting sites, it again pays to note which operators have signed agreements with the MLB for official data. The in-play betting options are greatly expanded for betting sites that can draw timely, accurate and unique information straight from the league.
It is also conceivable that some sites will eventually strike deals with the league to stream games live such as some of the big European sportsbooks do with certain soccer and tennis matches. When and if that happens, look for the in-play betting model to quickly overtake traditional sports betting in terms of popularity and total handle.
Best MLB Fantasy Sites
Daily fantasy MLB is the statistician’s dream come true. It’s true that traditional fixed-odds baseball betting is a great way to put your knowledge to use, but daily MLB fantasy leagues for real money take it a step further.
In drafting a fantasy baseball lineup, there is so much information to take into account. Those who study the game truly have the advantage. Additionally, all that practice you get researching and drafting MLB teams in fantasy contests will come in very handy if and when you make the switch to traditional baseball betting.
What I’ve found is that fantasy baseball works best at the sites that have the most active members. More active players means more contests and bigger potential prize pools. With those considerations in mind, that makes our top two picks obvious choices:
Is Fantasy Baseball A Legal Alternative to Sports Betting?
Yes. If you live in a state that has not yet legalized sports betting, fantasy MLB contests offer the next best thing. In fact, the experience is quite similar between the two. Whether you’re playing fantasy baseball or betting on the day’s MLB games, you’ll find every game that much more exciting. With a real money payout possibly waiting in the wings, every pitch takes on greater meaning.
As far as legal concerns go, fantasy MLB contests are legal in almost every state thanks to an exemption from federal anti-gambling laws made specifically for fantasy sports. When the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in 2006, lawmakers included a carve-out for fantasy sports allowing individual states to regulate the activity as they see fit.
It took the industry a few years to catch on, but we’re in the full swing of things now. Daily fantasy sports sites are now legal in most states.
It wasn’t all that long ago that major sports leagues such as the MLB actively opposed fantasy sports. They considered it just another form of gambling and claimed that it threatened the integrity of America’s Pastime.
Things have come a long way since then. In 2014, the MLB announced a partnership with DraftKings and instead of comparing daily fantasy to gambling, they compared it to a strategic game of chess.
More recently, the MLB has taken to joining forces with traditional gambling companies now that actual sports betting is legal. A strong argument could be made that the rise of daily fantasy in those early years played an instrumental role in convincing pro leagues such as the MLB that legal gaming is an opportunity rather than a risk.