College sports betting is legal in roughly two dozen states today.
Most states with legal sports betting allow licensed sportsbooks to take wagers on NCAA games, often subject to certain restrictions on the types of wagers that sportsbooks may accept on college games.
Each state approaches sports betting differently, resulting in a patchwork of rules and regulations that can be confusing. On this page, BettingUSA provides a straightforward rundown on how college betting works in each state.
States with Legal College Sports Betting
The following map displays where college betting is legal for quick reference. Readers may click or tap on any state for more information about local laws and licensed sportsbooks.
States with Legal College Betting
- Blue: It is legal to bet on college games online
- Green: State is home to retail sportsbooks that may accept wagers on NCAA games
- Yellow: Legal sports betting legislation has been passed; first sportsbooks still to open
- Red: Sports betting is legal but college betting is prohibited
The Unique Rules Governing College Sports Betting
College sports are often given special consideration in states that legalize sports betting. In many jurisdictions, special rules apply only to college betting. For example, it is common for states to permit college sports betting but prohibit wagers on in-state teams.
The inclination of regulators to treat college betting differently stems from several concerns that are either unique to college sports or magnified at the collegiate level.
- Young, unpaid athletes may be more susceptible to bribery and outside pressure to throw games or share inside information
- Universities are interested in protecting the wholesome, amateur image of the sports programs upon which they depend for funding and recruitment
- University officials say they are subject to increased integrity costs as they must educate staff, students, and players on the rules governing their behavior, what information they can share with others, risks students and staff face, and more
Proponents of legalization contend that it is better to regulate the activity rather than push it underground to illegal offshore sportsbooks and local bookies. If people are going to bet on college sports either way, it is better to have a regulatory regime. A well-regulated sports betting industry provides oversight, funding for problem gambling treatment, and the ability to detect suspicious betting patterns.
Both arguments have merit, but most states that have legalized sports betting allow college betting with some restrictions.
Below is an overview of the college betting rules in each state where sports betting is legal.
How the NCAA Approaches Sports Betting
The NCAA approaches sports betting from a position of skepticism and caution. The organization led the lawsuit against New Jersey’s effort to legalize sports betting in a case that eventually made its way to the United States Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey against the NCAA in May 2018 when it struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional. The NCAA does not endorse sports betting, but it still views the activity in an unfavorable light.
A statement published prominently on the NCAA website makes the organization’s stance on sports betting clear:
NCAA rules prohibit participation in sports wagering activities and from providing information to individuals involved in or associated with any type of sports wagering activities concerning intercollegiate, amateur or professional athletics competition. Sports wagering has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the well-being of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community. It also demeans the competition and competitors alike by spreading a message that is contrary to the purpose and meaning of “sport.” Sports competition should be appreciated for the inherent benefits related to participation of student-athletes, coaches and institutions in fair contests, not the amount of money wagered on the outcome of the competition.
The NCAA exercises significant control over student athletes’ relationship with sports betting, but colleges maintain a great degree of autonomy otherwise. As a result, individual colleges sometimes take very different approaches to sports betting.
For example, the University of Colorado announced a deal with online sports betting operator PointsBet in September 2020. Marketing plays heavily into the agreement, including the display of PointsBet marketing material at Folsom Field and the CU Events Center, radio ads on CU broadcasts, and ads on other media channels.
The deal also places a heavy emphasis on responsible gambling education and investing in CU Athletics’ Leadership and Career Development Program for student-athletes. The agreement goes far beyond a typical sports betting sponsorship agreement, but it will still put gambling ads in front of CU students in a more direct manner than advertising elsewhere.
At the other end of the spectrum are colleges that directly advocate against authorizing betting on NCAA games. One example comes from Massachusetts, where eight state universities’ presidents and athletic directors wrote a letter to lawmakers asking them to prohibit wagers on college games.
In part, the letter said this:
We recognize that during the current difficult economic climate, the Legislature desires to develop new sources of revenue, including sports wagering. But like other states, Massachusetts can gain those benefits without legalizing college sports betting.
Such a limitation is necessary to safeguard the longstanding distinctive role and contribution of student-athletes as well as to preserve the integrity of intercollegiate athletics in the Commonwealth.
Licensed College Betting Sites
Nearly every state with legal online sports betting permits wagers on NCAA games. Finding a place to bet on college games online is a matter of knowing where to look. BettingUSA provides listings of licensed sportsbooks in each state for quick reference. Every online sportsbook and mobile betting site listed at BettingUSA.com is legal, licensed, and safe.
Most state gambling regulators also provide lists of licensed sports betting operators online. For example, New Jersey customers can see licensed sportsbooks here while Indiana customers can view all licensees here. Other states offer similar listings – see our state-by-state guides for more information and links.
Aside from the occasional outlier, most licensed sportsbooks in the US provide a high-quality experience in presentation, promotions, customer support, and security. Where many sportsbooks differ is in the quality of lines offered to customers.
The difference in lines for any one college game can be significant from one sportsbook to the next in some cases. Bettors in every state should know which operators are available and pay attention to the odds offered on college games. In many cases, it is worth keeping a portion of one’s bankroll at two or more online sportsbooks to get the best prices as often as possible.
In-Play College Betting
In-play college betting is permitted in states with legal sports betting.
A handful of states enforce limits on the types of college bets that may be accepted. For example, Illinois prohibits wagers on in-state college teams, and Indiana prohibits in-play prop bets on individual players. Still, college betting is widely available in most states where sports betting is legal.
The types of in-play bets offered on NCAA games vary by sportsbook and state, but the options range from betting on the outcome of the game to the outcome of the next play.
Mobile sportsbooks usually provide a greater variety of in-game markets for high profile games. One thing that differentiates NCAA sports from the professional leagues is the sheer number of games played in a given week. The best NCAA betting sites cover games across the spectrum of competitiveness, but the biggest games consistently provide the most betting opportunities.
The types of in-game betting options offered for NCAA games vary by sportsbook, but some of the most common include:
- Game outcome: Bet on the point spread, moneyline, or total after the game has started at updated odds – most common type of in-play bet and can be found for even the smallest college games – some games also offer alternate point spreads and totals
- Team totals: Bet on the total points to be scored by one team only – offered throughout the game with odds adjusted in real time based on what’s happening on the field or court
- Quarter and halftime bets: Bet on the point spread or total for a single half or quarter
- Race to points: Bet on which team will be the first to score X points
- Next scoring play: Predict the type of play that will score next (will the next score be a Michigan touchdown, Minnesota field goal, etc.)
- Outcome of the next play: Bet on whether the next play will result in a score, turnover, punt, field goal attempt, and more depending on the sport
- Instant markets: Instant markets, also called flash bets, are the shortest-term in-play wagers offered and cover outcomes such as the outcome of the next pitch or free throw