The first wager on sports likely occurred seconds after the first organized sporting event was held, and throughout most of human history, and the history of the United States, the activity has taken place in the shadows. That’s no longer the case.
The first appearance of legal sports betting in the USA dates back to 1949 when Nevada legalized the activity. Very little changed over the next 70 years. The rest of the world was legalizing and regulating the industry, the US was The US fought to maintain the status quo. But now, following the repeal of PASPA (The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), the US is in the midst of a sports betting boom.
Below you’ll find a timeline of legal US sports betting, from federal laws to court cases to states legalizing and launching.
Nevada Legalizes Sports Betting
18 years after it legalized casino gambling, Nevada is the first state to legalize sports betting. The state’s monopoly on single-game sports betting lasts until the repeal of PASPA in 2018.
The Federal Government Imposes A 10% Tax
On the heels of Nevada legalizing sports betting, Congress imposes a 10% tax on the new industry.
Sports Bribery Act
In an effort to further crackdown on illegal gambling, Congress passes the Sports Bribery Act.
Illegal Gambling Business Act
The Illegal Gambling and Business Act is enacted as part of the 1970 RICO or Organized Crime Control Act.
Montana Sports Pool Act
The Montana Legislature passes the Card Game, Bingo, Raffles and Sports Pool Act, authorizing sports pools, fantasy sports leagues, and sports pull-off tabs. The law is amended several times over the years, increasing limits and payouts.
Sports Betting Tax Lowered to 2%
Congress reduces the sports betting tax from 10% to 2%.
Delaware Parlay Betting
Delaware introduces NFL Parlay cards to its lottery offerings. The parlay cards are pulled shortly after launch but will resurface some 15 years later.
Sports Betting Tax Cut to .25%
The federal government further reduces the sports betting tax to .25%.
Oregon Parlay Betting
The Oregon Lottery introduces Sports Action, offering football and basketball parlay cards.
New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley spearheads the passage of Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The law prohibits states from legalizing sports betting, with carveouts for Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana allowing them to continue offering their current sports betting products.
A detailed look at PASPA
Delaware Takes on PASPA
In 2009 Delaware uses its PASPA exception to legalize sports betting. However, the court limits Delaware’s offerings to the parlay bets it offered in 1976.
New Jersey Joins the Fray
New Jersey voters thumb their nose at PASPA and legalize sports betting. The law kicks off a multi-year legal battle that will ultimately bring about the repeal of PASPA.
NCAA and Pro Leagues Sue NJ
Following the passage of New Jersey’s sports betting law, the NCAA and major professional sports leagues sue New Jersey to prevent the law from being enacted.
District Court Squashes NJ Sports Betting
The US District Court for New Jersey sides with the NCAA and leagues, dealing the state its first, but far from its last loss. The state will go on to appeal the decision.
Third Circuit Upholds Lower Court Decision
On appeal, the Third Circuit upholds the District Court’s ruling. The state appeals, but the United States Supreme Court will later decline to hear the case.
New York Preauthorizes Sports Betting
Voters approve a referendum that will bring commercial casinos to the state of New York and that also includes language preauthorizing sports betting at the facilities should federal law be changed to allow sports wagering.
New Jersey Goes Back to the Drawing Board
New Jersey lost in the courts, but the Third Circuit ruling provided a glimmer of hope, and NJ goes back to the drawing board to craft a new sports betting law that aligns with the court’s arguments. Instead of legalizing and regulating, the new law merely decriminalizes sports betting.
The NCAA and Leagues Sue NJ Again
The new law doesn’t win over the NCAA and professional sports leagues, and New Jersey finds itself back in court defending its sports betting law .
District Court Sides with the Leagues Again
The same judge who heard the first case in 2013 once again sides with the NCAA and sports leagues. New Jersey appeals the decision.
Third Circuit Upholds District Court Opinion, Again
As was the case the first time around, the Third Circuit sides with the NCAA and leagues. New Jersey requests an en banc hearing (the en banc panel rules against NJ in August 2016).
New Jersey Appeals to the SCOTUS
Following it’s en banc defeat, and hoping for a different result, New Jersey petitions the highest court in the land to hear the case.
Mississippi Legalizes Sports Betting
As was the case with New York, Mississippi attaches sports betting legalization to another bill (daily fantasy sports), setting the stage for the state to offer sports betting if New Jersey prevails in its case.
SCOTUS Takes the Case
New Jersey’s prospects for sports betting improve dramatically when the Supreme Court decides to hear its appeal.
Pennsylvania Joins the Preauthorization Party
With New Jersey’s chances improving, Pennsylvania includes the preauthorization of sports betting in a comprehensive gaming reform package passed by the legislature.
SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments
Oral arguments are presented to the Supreme Court and the general consensus is that New Jersey is now a favorite to win its case, putting PASPA on life support.
West Virginia Legalizes Sports Betting
With the writing on the wall, West Virginia passes a bill legalizing sports betting.
New Jersey Wins: PASPA Repealed
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court strikes down PASPA, opening the door for New Jersey and every other state to legalize sports betting. The proverbial floodgates are open.
Delaware Sportsbooks Go Live
With a law on the books since 2009, Delaware quickly expands its sports betting offerings, adding single-game and other wagers to its existing NFL parlay betting system.
New Jersey Legalizes and Launches Sports Betting
Following its SCOTUS victory, the New Jersey legislature quickly passes a sports betting bill and the state’s regulators and operators are ready to go, launching just days later.
Rhode Island Legalizes Sports Betting
18 years after it legalized casino gambling, Nevada became the first state to legalize sports betting.
West Virginia Sportsbooks Launch
With a law already in place, West Virginia becomes one of the first states to launch legal sportsbooks following the repeal of PASPA.
Mississippi Sportsbooks Go Live
Mississippi was another state that preauthorized sports betting, and as was the case in West Virginia, Mississippi is able to get its sportsbooks up and running before the 2018 NFL season.
Sportsbooks at New Mexico Tribal Casinos
Taking advantage of a perfect storm of state law and compact language, New Mexico’s tribal casino operators are able to offer sports betting without new legislation or renegotiating their tribal compacts.
Pennsylvania Sportsbooks Go Live
More than a year after the state legalized sports betting, The Hollywood Casino Sportsbook becomes the first legal sportsbook in Pennsylvania. More retail sportsbooks open in the ensuing weeks and months, but online sports betting will have to wait another six months until PlaySugarHouse launches its mobile betting app.
Rhode Island Adds Sports Betting
Retail betting launches at Rhode Island’s two casinos operated by Twin River. Online betting sites launch nearly a year later, in September 2019.
Arkansas Legalizes Sports Betting
Arkansas is the last state to legalize sports betting in 2018, setting the stage for a fast-paced 2019 in other statehouses.
Sports Betting Legalized In The Nation’s Capital
Washington DC throws its hat into the sports betting ring when it passes one of the most contentious and controversial sports betting bills to date.
Montana Legalizes Sports Betting
Montana passes legislation authorizing sports betting.
Iowa Legalizes Sports Wagering
Iowa becomes the second state to legalize sports betting in 2019. Seven more states will follow suit before the end of the year.
Tennessee Passes A Mobile-Only Sports Betting Law
Tennessee takes a unique approach to sports betting as the retail-gambling-starved state crafts and passes a mobile-only sports betting bill.
Illinois Passes A Sports Betting Bill
After a lot of back and forth in the legislature (and from lobbyists) Illinois, one of the US’s top gambling prizes passes legislation legalizing sports betting.
North Carolina Approves Tribal Sports Betting
North Carolina passes a sports betting law that authorizes sports betting at the state’s tribal casinos.
Retail Sportsbooks Go Live in New York
New York’s commercial casinos start rolling out retail sportsbooks thanks to the constitutional amendment the state passed in 2013. The state’s tribal operators launch retail sportsbooks of their own in the coming weeks.
Arkansas Sports Betting Launch
After legalizing sports betting in late-2018, sports betting in Arkansas becomes a reality with the ribbon-cutting at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort.
New Hampshire Legalizes Sports Betting
New Hampshire passes a sports betting law that will bring retail and online sports betting to the Granite State.
Indiana Legalizes Sports Betting
Indiana passes one of the most industry-friendly sports betting bills to date, making the state one of the most anticipated markets in the country.
Iowa Launches Retail and Online Betting
Iowa’s sportsbooks go live, but mobile betting gets off to a slow start due to an in-person registration requirement.
Indiana Launches With A Lot Of Fanfare
The ink is barely dry on the state’s sports betting law when Indiana retail and online sportsbooks begin going live. As expected, the state gets off to a fast start and quickly becomes one of the top markets in the burgeoning US betting industry.
Oregon Lottery’s Sports Betting Site Goes Live
The Oregon Lottery’s Scoreboard betting app goes live.
Colorado Passes Sports Betting Referendum
An oddly worded question on the November ballot makes the sports betting vote closer than it needs to be, but at the end of the day, Coloradans vote in favor of bringing sports betting to the state.
DraftKings Goes Live In New Hampshire
DraftKings launches New Hampshire’s first and only online sportsbook. Retail betting is expected to launch in 2021.
Michigan Passes Sports Betting Legislation
After falling short in 2018, Michigan is able to pass a comprehensive gaming reform and expansion package that includes retail and mobile sports betting.
Montana Sports Betting Goes Live
The Montana Lottery launches its sports betting terminals at over 100 locations.
Washington State Legalizes Sports Betting
Tribal gaming operators in Washington get the go-ahead to offer retail sports betting, but the legislation is challenged by commercial gaming operators.