How the United States Finally Embraced Sports Betting

Written by TrevStone

There’s always been an uneasy relationship with sports betting in the United States. Certainly, the country has never been able to embrace sports gambling with the same enthusiasm as the United Kingdom. For so many years, it was illegal in most states to even place bets on sporting events. In 2018 the situation changed thanks to a Supreme Court decision that has allowed states to open their doors to gambling. 

On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court threw out the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which made sports betting illegal in most US states. The ink had barely dried on the decision before seven states took the plunge and opened their own sports betting markets. 

Since then, more states have followed suit and a sizeable sportsbook market is developing. Here you can read about how the country has managed sports betting through history. However, if you want to know the legal situation regarding sports wagers around the country, LegalBetting is a resource that makes it easy. 

For the last 25 years, the situation around sports betting has been one of contrast in the United States. Nevada allows sports betting and has done so since 1931. Not only is Las Vegas the Mecca of the casino realm, but it has also been the preserve of the legal sportsbook. No other states ever embraced sports betting until the late 1980s when other states started signaling intentions to allow people to wager on sports events. 

In an effort to thwart this gambling uprising across the country, Congress sought legal means to prevent those states from even having the choice of introducing sports betting markets. Legislators pushed through the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 1992 and quickly thwarted the mounting proliferation of sports betting across the country. 

PASPA was an all-encompassing bill that ensured sports betting was shut off in the United States, although four states did receive a reprieve. Joining Nevada were Oregon, Delaware and Montana. All states had previously legalized sports betting operations and were exempt from the reach of PASPA. It is worth pointing out Oregon, Delaware, and Montana (Bingo games, pull tabs, etc.) had a limited sportsbook market, leaving Nevada as the only state with legal single-game wagering. 

The validity of PASPA as a working law was often debated, with most believing the law restricted states from accessing an obvious economic stimulus. Sports betting has been shown to be an important industry and economy driver. From protests to studies questioning PASPA, the law was often the center of controversy. 

Because it was such a powerful law, PASPA had a profound impact on the potential growth of sports betting, effectively killing off an industry before it could get started. The restriction would remain for the next 25 years until the Supreme Court stepped in and reversed PASPA in 2018. 

Within six months, Delaware, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico had announced full sports betting industries. Over two dozen states followed in 2019, either introducing one sports betting bill or fully passing legislation into law. Among those states were Iowa and New Hampshire. Michigan is one of the states that has voted for legislation to introduce legal sports betting in 2020. 

By early 2020, a total of 18 states have legalized sports betting. Looking at the economic boon sports wagering has brought to those states, it makes sense other states are looking at their own sports betting laws. In fact, most insiders within the industry believe 80% of US states will have legal sports wagering within five years. 

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About the author


Trevor 'TrevStone' Uren founded Pro Sports Extra in 2011 at the age of 13. He's hosted a podcast since 14 years old and continues to grow each month! He's currently 24 years old and has interviewed hundreds of professional athletes, business owners, and others who are shining online! Uren has built Pro Sports Extra to over 5M monthly visitors.