2021 Look Back: States That Legalized And/Or Launched Sports Betting

The post 2021 Look Back: States That Legalized And/Or Launched Sports Betting appeared first on SportsHandle.

If it seemed like a new state was legalizing or launching sports betting every time you turned around in 2021 that’s because … well, somewhere, one was.

Eleven states went live with some new form of wagering over the last 12 months, and six U.S. states or territories legalized. And those numbers don’t include Florida, where the Seminoles negotiated a compact with the state and the U.S. Department of Interior approved it, but a federal judge threw it out.

While no discussion of how the sports betting landscape would be complete without Florida, it’s not on the list here of new states because in the moment, sports betting is not legal anywhere in Florida. Lawmakers only approved the now-nullified compact and not statewide commercial sports betting. If the compact is invalid, then the vote lawmakers took is moot.

That could change, of course, as a lawsuit brought by two parimutuels is working its way through the court system. And bettors in Florida were able to wager for nearly 34 days in November and early December before the Seminoles pulled down their Hard Rock digital app.

With that out of the way, New York this year became the biggest state in the U.S. to legalize all forms of sports betting since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned in 2018. Nine operators have been approved to have digital platforms and retail locations in the state, but the landscape — most particularly a 51% tax rate — is kind of making stakeholders close their eyes and hold their noses before jumping in.

“Hopefully, it won’t be a model for anyone,” consultant John Pappas said during an ICE365 webinar last week. “You’d rather be in New York than not in New York, regardless of the tax rate, and hopefully it can work for the benefit of the state and the operator. Many people, including me, warned the governor by saying that with a tax rate like this, you might not get the tax revenue you want.”

Said Sportradar’s Brandt Iden: “In what other industry do legislators kill the golden goose before it can lay fruitful eggs? If you kill that before it takes off with astronomically high tax rates, how do you expect that to take off?”

Time will tell.

Ohio next?

With all eyes on New York, the number of legal states in 2021 could still rise: Ohio lawmakers in stunning fashion on Dec. 8 moved their sports betting bill from conference committee to the Senate to the House in less than a day. In fact, if you added up the introduction of HB 29 and the limited discussion in each venue, it may have been less than an hour. In any event, the bill is sitting on Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk.

While we wait to see what happens in Ohio, below is a look at every state that either legalized or launched some form of sports betting in 2021. As a note, only four of those states — Arizona, Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Wyoming — did both. (But Wisconsin has a little asterisk because the legalization was via tribal amendment and there’s only a bit of retail sports betting going on there.)

In alphabetical order:

ARIZONA: Arizona lawmakers created a complicated law that regulators sometimes struggled to interpret, but they managed to go from legal to live in less than five months. The new law allows for statewide mobile wagering while calling for 10 licenses each for professional sports venues/franchises and tribal casinos. With more than 15 gaming tribes in the state, that meant that some were left out … and in the current situation, all 10 tribal licenses are allocated, but there are two pro sports licenses lingering because there are no more teams or venues that appear to meet the criteria.

Sports betting went live on the first day of the NFL season with seven platforms launching on the same day. The latest entries — FuBo Sportsbook, which went live Monday in partnership with the Ak-Chin Indian Community, and SuperBook, which went live last week — bring the number of available digital apps to 12.

Legal date: April 15, 2021

Digital launch: Sept. 9, 2021

Retail launch: Sept. 9, 2021


CONNECTICUT: After years of jousting among them, state lawmakers, the governor, and the state’s two tribes finally found a way to make sports betting work. It wasn’t easy and there were many tense moments, but here we are. Connecticut’s new law allows for statewide mobile wagering and iCasino. The only other state to legalize the two simultaneously was Michigan in 2019.

The Mashantucket Pequots (Foxwoods) are now partnered with DraftKings for retail and digital wagering and iCasino in Connecticut, while the Mohegans (Mohegan Sun) are partnered similarly with FanDuel. The Connecticut Lottery has a digital sports betting platform (it cannot legally offer sports betting) under Rush Street Interactive’s SugarHouse brand. The new law also allows the lottery to open up to 15 retail sportsbook locations.

Legal date: May 27, 2021

Digital launch: Oct. 12, 2021

Retail launch: Sept. 30, 2021


LOUISIANA: Just about a year after voters legalized sports betting via referendum, the first retail casinos opened in the state. Caesars on Halloween debuted its sportsbook at the Harrah’s in New Orleans and at its Bossier City location, making it the first commercial operator to take bets. The tribal Paragon Casino in partnership with Betfred took its first bets on Oct. 6. About a half a dozen brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are open across the state, and 13 licenses have been issued. A total of 20 sports betting licenses are available to existing casinos and racetracks, and according to the gaming control board, all have been claimed. Digital launch is still a moving target, but regulators are aiming for the first quarter of 2022.

Legal date: Nov. 3, 2020

Retail launch: Oct. 31, 2021

Digital launch: First quarter 2022

MARYLAND: After voters legalized sports betting on the November 2020 ballot, lawmakers created a framework and regulators began what turned into an arduous and sometimes contentious licensing process. The state’s new law is the most inclusive in the nation in terms of minority inclusion and benefits. The concept nearly derailed a 2021 retail launch when the Sports Wagering Application Review Committee considered delaying the openings of some big retail sportsbooks to wait for a minority applicant to be ready. But MGM National Harbor was the first to open its book on Dec. 9, and Caesars and FanDuel followed a day later. One minority-owned and one women-owned business are in the next group that could launch. Digital wagering isn’t available yet, but in a state where there could be as many as 60 licensees, it’s sure to be a competitive market.

Legal date: Nov. 3, 2020

Digital launch: Expected first quarter of 2022

Retail launch: Dec. 9, 2021


MICHIGAN: More than a year after legalizing, operators went live with statewide mobile. About 10 operators launched on the same day in January, and there are now nearly 15 digital options. All but three platforms — Barstool Sportsbook (Greektown Casino), BetMGM (MGM Grand), and FanDuel (Motor City Casino) — are tethered to tribal properties. Michigan’s tribes in 2019 gave up exclusivity and agreed to be regulated by the state and pay taxes in exchange for statewide mobile betting.

Legal date: Dec. 20, 2019

Digital launch: Jan. 22, 2021

Retail launch: March 11, 2020



NEW YORK: While sports betting was already legal at four upstate casinos, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo all but forced sports betting on the state by including it in his budget. The result is being touted as one of the worst deals in the industry, though as one operator said, “You’d rather be in New York than not be in New York.” So who will be there? Bally Bet, BetMGM, BetRivers, Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, WynnBet, and one non-traditional operator, Fanatics. Cuomo insisted on limiting the number of operators, regulators slapped a 51% tax rate on operators, and betting on local college teams is prohibited. Operators are grinning and bearing it for a chance to be in New York.

Legal date: April 21, 2021

Digital launch: Expected ahead of the Feb. 13, 2022, Super Bowl

Retail launch: July 2019


NORTH CAROLINA: The state legislature in 2020 legalized a narrow scope of wagering, allowing it at two tribal casinos. Caesars, at the time operating under its William Hill brand, took the first bets just ahead of March Madness this year. Lawmakers have been considering a broader bill for some time. Early this year, a statewide mobile betting bill was filed and got out of the Senate, but it hasn’t been approved by the House.

Legal date: July 24, 2020

Digital launch: N/A

Retail launch: March 18, 2021


PUERTO RICO: The first U.S. territory to contemplate legal U.S. sports betting, Puerto Rico has been moving in fits and starts. Wagering was first legalized in 2019, but a replacement bill that requires in-person registration for digital accounts and allows for betting everywhere from corporate casinos to the local corner store was passed. Puerto Rico’s bill also allows for betting on “non-sports” events, like the Academy Awards, as well as betting on eSports.

Legal date: Jan. 21, 2021

Digital launch: Unknown

Retail launch: Unknown


SOUTH DAKOTA: Voters legalized retail-only wagering in Deadwood on the November 2020 ballot, and regulators were able to craft rules and issue licenses in time for a football-season go-live day. BetMGM was the first to take bets in a state where digital wagering appears to be a long way off.

Legal date: Nov. 3, 2020

Digital launch: N/A

Retail launch: Sept. 9, 2021


VIRGINIA: Less than a year after legalization in the state, the Virginia Lottery was able to pull off the nation’s first launch of 2021, albeit with only one operator for the first few days. In a bit of a surprise, FanDuel, which is partnered with the Washington Football Team, launched its app on Jan. 21. That was a day ahead of the Michigan launches, and several days ahead of DraftKings’ Virginia launch. Since then seven other operators have launched platforms. The law allows for 14 sports betting licenses, so there are more to come. And a handful of cities around the state are in the process of adding casinos. Virginia is one of six states that will ultimately allow for retail sportsbooks at professional sports venues.

Legal date: April 22, 2020

Digital launch: Jan. 21, 2021

Retail launch: TBA


WASHINGTON: The first state to pass sweeping tribal-only wagering legislation, Washington retail sportsbooks have been opening steadily since Sept. 9, when the Snoqualmie Tribe in partnership with IGT took the first bets. Washington’s legislation doesn’t allow for statewide mobile wagering, though that will likely be added in the future. Bettors can wager via mobile device on property at some casinos.

Legal date: March 25, 2020

Digital launch: N/A

Retail launch: Sept. 9, 2021


WISCONSIN: In what turned out to be something of a surprise, Wisconsin’s Oneida Nation announced in July its plan to open retail sportsbooks. There was no new law passed in the state, but the tribe negotiated an amendment to its compact with the governor to include sports betting, and it appears that many other tribes will follow as their compacts are up for renegotiation. For now, though, bettors can wager on pro sports only in person at the Oneida casino near the airport and Lambeau Field.

Legal date: July 1, 2021

Digital launch: N/A

Retail launch: Dec.


WYOMING: Lauded in the industry for following neighboring Colorado‘s lead, Wyoming lawmakers legalized in April and set a hard go-live date of Sept. 1. Regulators in Wyoming sprinted through the summer and were able to launch BetMGM and DraftKings ahead of the start of the NFL season. The new law made Wyoming the second state behind Tennessee to legalize digital-only wagering, and it was the first state to allow for cryptocurrency to be used to fund accounts. The new law requires that a minimum of five platforms be operating in the state, and it appears that Barstool Sportsbook, FanDuel, and PointsBet could be in the next wave.

Legal date: April 5, 2021

Digital launch: Sept. 1, 2021

Retail launch: N/A

The post 2021 Look Back: States That Legalized And/Or Launched Sports Betting appeared first on SportsHandle.