These States Could Accept Legal Sports Bets By The Time The NFL Season Rolls Around

At least five states appear extremely well-positioned to offer sports betting by the first NFL kickoff of 2018, and a handful of others have at least a reasonable shot.
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Punters throughout the country got their wish, as on Monday the US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting (PASPA). The court ruled 7-2 in favor of New Jersey, citing that PASPA is unconstitutional and that in the absence of regulations enforced by Congress, individual states are free to enact their own laws.

Full opinion here.

The ruling will inevitably open the floodgates on sports betting in the United States, with several states already taking preemptive action and others poised to act swiftly. That’s not to say any US resident will be able to place a bet at their local casino or from a mobile device tomorrow, but a significant minority should have access to a legal bookmaker by the first kickoff of the 2018 NFL season.

New Jersey

New Jersey has been at the forefront of the fight for legalized sports betting since 2011, so it’s only fitting that it will (likely) be the first state to roll out the vertical.

However, the ideal that sports books will launch in a few days or even a couple of weeks doesn’t seem grounded in reality. New Jersey has recently submitted a bill that lays the groundwork for regulating and taxing both the land-based and online sports betting industry, but that bill is probably not in its final form.

Still, given that the legislature is in recess in July and August, it’s exceedingly likely that the laws governing the industry will be on the books by June, paving the way for the first licenses to be issued this summer. Those licenses will go to horse racing facilities and land-based casinos in Atlantic City.

Bottom line: It would shock if sports betting wasn’t legal in New Jersey by September.

West Virginia

In March of this year, West Virginia passed the WV Sports Lottery Wagering Act — a law that effectively legalized sports betting pending a favorable outcome in the US Supreme Court. WV is the only state to pass sports betting legislation so far in 2018.

The law commissions sports betting at both land-based casinos and via Lottery approved mobile applications.

Recently, controversy emerged when state Gov. Jim Justice indicated in a press release that the state’s gaming interests would pay an integrity fee to the major sports leagues. There is no mention whatsoever in the bill that passed in March.

Suffice it to say, the gaming industry went up in arms, claiming no knowledge of a deal and calling the governor out for having closed door meetings.

While there is no real motivation for legislators to change existing law, Justice’s revelation will inevitably spawn some heated discussions, quite possibly resulting in casinos launching their sports books later than they originally intended to.

Bottom line: West Virginia is still a top candidate to launch sports betting by September, but questions loom.


If there’s one state that is as well-positioned to fast track sports betting as New Jersey, it’s Delaware.

Delaware is one of just a smattering of states that can already accept legal sports bets. However, the industry is currently limited to parlay bets on NFL games. In 2008, the state’s legislature enacted a law allowing for any form of sports betting, so in theory, an additional law should not have to be passed to get the industry rolling.

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, Gov. John Carney had this to say:

“We believe that Delaware likely already has all necessary laws and regulations in place to implement full-scale sports gaming under the direction of the Delaware Lottery. If it is permissible under the opinion, full-scale sports gaming could be available at Delaware’s casinos before the end of June,”

If what Carney stated is taken as fact, then the “end of June” launch date does seem feasible, which would possibly leapfrog New Jersey as the first state to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s favorable decision.

Bottom line: Delaware is in a good place to launch full-scale sports betting in a jif.


Mississippi is another prime time candidate to launch sports books at its land-based casinos in short order.

The Magnolia State took a sort of roundabout approach toward legalizing sports betting. Instead of passing a bill outright, it granted permission for the state’s gaming commission to regulate sports betting as part of a larger bill that legalized fantasy sports.

Granted, Mississippi would still have to pass separate legislation if it desires to offer online gambling. But for the time being, the state’s land-based casinos seem content to actively transform parts of their casino floors into sports books.

Bottom line: Forget about September, Mississippi sports books could be open for business in June.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is sort of a wild card, but we believe that of the remaining states pursuing sports betting, it has the best shot of going live by the time summer turns to fall.

Reason being, Gov. Gina Raimondo has already allocated $23.5 million in sports betting revenue toward the state budget. Furthermore, Rhode Island has voiced its desire to keep gaming revenue in the state.

According to Raimondo spokesman, Josh Block:

“The administration took proactive measures in anticipation of today’s Supreme Court decision which will allow Rhode Island to stay competitive with other states. Attorney General Kilmartin’s leadership has been critical to this initiative, and the State is already in the process of choosing a vendor and developing the infrastructure to begin sports betting this fall. We’ll continue our work to implement sports betting and keep Rhode Island revenue in Rhode Island.”

Sounds pretty serious. However, pending further legislation Rhode Island would be restricted to offering sports betting at Twin River Casino and a proposed casino in Tiverton.

Bottom line: Rhode Island could cross the finish line by Week 1 of the NFL season, and gamblers will almost certainly be placing bets by the season’s midpoint.

What about my state?

Unlike online casino and poker legislation, which has moved at a snail’s pace, sports betting stands to spread in a hurry, possibly reaching 20 or more states by the time 2019 comes to a close.

Of them, there are few others positioned for a launch in 2018, possibly as early as 90 – 120 days from now:

  • Pennsylvania: There’s an existing law on the books but regulators have a ton on their plates.
  • Montana: It’s one of only four states with sports betting laws grandfathered in.
  • Oregon: Yet another state that has sports betting laws grandfathered in under PASPA.
  • New York: Sports betting could conceivably happen soon, but Gov. Cuomo is no rush.
  • Connecticut: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is considering a special session to examine sports betting. CT failed to get a bill across finish line before the legislative session closed.
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