Next States That Could Soon Legalize Sports Betting

Map of USA with a red pushpin stuck

We’re now approaching three years since the federal ban on sports betting was removed. Since then, 21 out of 50 states — exactly 42 percent — have legalized it. Some states allow the practice via land-based casinos only, others through mobile, either way, almost half the country has access to sports wagering in some capacity. 

But believe us, the sports betting train isn’t stopping anytime soon, either. A slew of other states are in-line to legalize (or reform) it, as well. Here’s a look at several states that could soon enter the gambling space:  

California

“The Golden State” is the white buffalo of betting, at least in the eyes of sportsbook operators. That’s because the state has the largest population in the entire United States with 40 million inhabitants. Bookies can’t help but see nothing but dollar signs with the California sports betting scene, especially since the state is littered with pro and college teams. 

Native American casinos located in California are leading the push to legalize sports betting. They put together an official petition and earned enough signatures for the issue to get in front of government electives. From here, the to-legalize-or-not-to-legalize question should be in front of voters by next year. 

Though, if it goes, only tribal casinos would be able to capitalize off the legalization — not third-party operators like MGM, for instance. That would surely handcuff the growth of the industry so bookies aren’t celebrating quite yet. 

Maryland

During the November 2020 elections, Maryland voters overwhelmingly supported a bill to regulate sports betting — 67 percent of voters said yes to it. So it’s happening sometime this year, but the ball is currently in the state’s hands.  

State officials must figure out how exactly sports betting manifests itself in Maryland. Which operators become licensed? How is it taxed? Is betting allowed online or retail only? All those answers, especially the last one, will dictate just how lucrative the industry does or doesn’t become. 

As a frame of reference, six states currently allow sports betting but restrict it to retail locations only (or mobile, but with geo-fencing limitations within casino premises). As you’d expect, that model has been far less lucrative than a fully-mobile one. The consensus is, however, Maryland is leaning toward the online-based model. 

Nebraska

The Cornhusker State is in the same boat as Maryland. Nebraska also got enough votes in the 2020 election for legalization, but the issue is now on legislators to fine-tune how this will work. 

But for what it’s worth, Nebraska has not put the issue off to the side. No, in fact, there’s three different bills currently floating around the state regarding it. Each varies wildly from one another so we won’t even speculate which is gaining the most traction. The fact remains, though, Nebraska will get sports betting in some shape or form this year most likely. 

New York

The Northeast has become somewhat of a gambling mecca as Pennsylvania and New Jersey have become wildly successful in their sports betting regulations. However, much of their success is coming from New Yorkers crossing state lines to place bets since they can’t freely do it within New York borders.

You see, New York actually does have legalized betting, but they fall into the retail-only category. Those land-based casinos with the privileges are largely tribal-run and located in upstate New York — far away from the Big Apple. 

Like we alluded to before, that restriction has put a ceiling on a state with one of the highest populations in the United States. Matter of fact, a recent study done by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming pegged New York’s losses between $203 and $286 million for not allowing online sports gambling. 

But there is some momentum to change that. Back in January of this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed interest in allowing the practice online. Of course, this was before Cuomo became embroiled in sexual harassment allegations, which could cut his governor tenure — and any aspirations for mobile-based betting with it — short. We’ll just have to see what the fallout is here.

Regardless, the states we outlined above are only the tip of the iceberg in the race to legalize sports gambling. Outside a few states — we’re looking at you, Wisconsin and Utah — almost every one has expressed interest in “jumping on the bandwagon.” 

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