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The Wild (Legal) World of Sports Betting

Sports betting is a completely unprecedented chapter in the legal history of the United States, as there has never been an issue so convoluted between state lines.


Ever since the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting in 2018, the laws and regulations between different territories have been as varied as the sports that can be bet on. According to the American Gaming Association, 85 percent of American adults agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Yet, many states have tried and failed to pass legislation in order to legalize regulated sports gambling.


The most notable of which would be California, in which two different bills broke spending records and had record support in advertising, yet both were heavily voted down in a public vote in 2022. Meanwhile, Delaware had little hesitation in passing legislation to legalize the matter in 2018, a little more than a month after the Supreme Court ruling. If you think that is a confusing concept, those are only the cut-and-dry cases.


The real grey area can be found in states such as Florida, in which sports betting was legalized for three weeks before it was swiftly banned again. This was until mid-2023, when a D.C. Court of Appeals overturned the decision and decided that tribes in the state could test-launch a betting initiative to Florida residents. That lasted until September of 2023, when cease and desist orders were sent to multiple betting organizations operating in the area, which is an issue that is still ongoing to this day.


That said, there are some straightforward cases, but the finite details of certain laws are still being determined within certain states. Some states, such as Indiana and Illinois, have placed certain rules on betting on collegiate games, whether it be that they must be placed in person, or that only certain bets are allowed. This is in comparison to Washington D.C. and Montana, who have simply deferred the power of deciding what bets are legal to the state lotteries. This confusion pales in comparison to that of Oklahoma, who has legalized sports betting but the programs to launch it are currently in limbo, with little to no news regarding the progress of sports betting organizations actually running within the state.


In order to increase the ability for state laws to work in tandem with one another, sports betting needs to be similarly legalized in most, if not all states within the country. There are currently too many different variations of sports betting laws within different states, which does not allow for synergistic laws to be created that can help to make sports betting to be a more easily understood phenomenon within the country. It is still a relatively new concept, as it has only been around the last 5 or 6 years, and so there is still a lot of work to be done.


Overall, sports betting is in a strange state in the United States. Perhaps a European approach to the matter would be more effective, with much looser laws only requiring that a person be 18 to be able to bet, with much less difference between laws in different countries. Either way, for further transparency in the industry, something needs to change.


Jon Trusz is a graduate of the University of Connecticut who achieved degrees in Political Science and Communications and can be reached on LinkedIn under his name, or via email at [email protected].



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