For the first time in more than 25 years, sports fans can legally place bets on sporting events at casinos in numerous states around the country.
In May, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that banned commercial sports betting. The decision opened the door for individual states to legalize sports betting, potentially recovering some of the estimated billions of dollars in illegal sports wagers made by Americans every year.
Previously, fans could place sports bets legally only in Nevada. Some states, like Delaware, moved quickly to allow sports betting in their state. Other states are studying the issue or watching to see whether or not legalized sports betting is successful.
Many gaming experts expect states to eventually allow sports betting, with some predicting that in five to 10 years, 20 to 30 states will have legalized the practice. For now, the focus is on six states now leading the charge: Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, West Virginia, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.
Delaware became the first state to legalize sports betting after the Supreme Court’s decision by opening bets on June 5. Gov. John Carney placed a $10 bet on the Philadelphia Phillies to beat the Chicago Cubs, which he won.
The state is also hoping to cash in by opening full-scale sports books at the state’s three racetrack casinos: Delaware Park Casino, Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, and Harrington Raceway and Casino. Gaming enthusiasts can also place professional and college football parlay bets at 100 retail locations across the state.
The Delaware Lottery plans to offer mobile wagering at a later date, although no timeline has been released. Casino guests can now place single-game bets on football, baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer, golf and auto racing.
Delaware sports books accepted about $17 million in wagers for the first month of football season. The largest of the state’s three racinos, Delaware Park, has pulled in most of the wagers. Delaware Park sits just outside Wilmington in Stanton, about 30 miles from Philadelphia.
Groups visiting Delaware Park can place wagers on Arabian horse races, 2,500 slot machines and live table games. The park also offers 11 dining venues and an 18-hole golf course called White Clay Creek Country Club.
Hoping to generate more revenue for local gaming properties, Mississippi officials approved sports wagering, but with the caveat that all wagering take place inside a casino. Limited mobile sports betting is now allowed while on casino grounds. Officials enforce this regulation with geofencing that uses a phone’s location to check if a participant is betting while inside a gaming facility.
So far, the state has seen impressive numbers, with sports gamblers wagering $9.8 million at Mississippi casinos from August 1 to September 3. Though September figures aren’t available yet, many believed the numbers would increase with the start of the football season.
Casinos executives hope sports betting will lure more wagers on other casino games, restaurants and hotels. In anticipation of a favorable decision by the Supreme Court, Mississippi lawmakers passed a bill in 2017 that allowed for sports betting. The pre-existing law made it easy for the state to cash in on sports betting earlier than many other states.
The Beau Rivage in Biloxi and the Gold Strike in Tunica became the first two of the state’s casinos to offer sports betting. Since then, 21 operators have opened sports books, with seven other operators either in the process of sports book approval or choosing not to participate. Some casinos already plan to expand their sports books to meet demand.
Mississippi is the only Southeastern state that legally offers sports wagering.
New Jersey led the charge to legalize sports betting, bringing the lawsuit that challenged the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that outlawed sports betting in 1992. However, the state was the second state to accept bets after the Supreme Court’s decision. The governor signed a sports betting bill into law less than a month after the Supreme Court decision, with the hope of bringing in $13 million in tax revenue in the first year.
Fans placed the first bets on June 14, just days after the law legalizing sports betting was approved. Gov. Phil Murphy placed one of the first legal sports bets in the state at Monmouth Park, a racetrack in the northern part of the Garden State. The Meadowlands Racetrack near New York City also opened a sports book.
Gamblers can legally place online and mobile sports wagers throughout the state. Racetracks and casinos rolled out several internet offerings during the summer. In July, the state collected $325,000 in tax revenue from sports wagering, although more is expected during football season.
Six New Jersey casinos and two racetracks now offer sports betting, and more casinos may follow soon. Some casinos cite business relationships with professional teams, such as the Hard Rock’s partnership with the NFL and the Miami Dolphins, as a reason for delaying sports betting.
Some of the first casinos to offer sports betting in the state include the Borgata Casino, Caesars Entertainment’s casinos, the Gold Nugget Casino and the Ocean Resort Casino and Resort.
High rollers headed to West Virginia in September to place sports wagers at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. The Charles Town casino and race track’s sports book features individual viewing stations and expects lounge seating soon. Guests can view betting odds on display monitors, and the casino has 50 feet of wall space dedicated to 80-inch televisions showing live sports action.
The casino accepted the state’s first sports bets on August 30. Former NFL player Joe Theismann joined the opening ceremonies on September 1. The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs also began offering sports wagering, and the other three state casinos plan to offer sports betting in the near future.
Officials estimate sports wagering could bring in about $5.5 million in the first year. The state offers betting both on-site and online via mobile apps. The first weekend at the Hollywood Casino alone drew in $320,000 in table revenue. West Virginia officials believe that since many of West Virginia’s neighboring states haven’t yet offered sports betting, the opportunity will draw people across state lines.
Currently, sports enthusiasts can bet on football, basketball, hockey, soccer, baseball, golf, tennis, auto racing, rugby, cycling, boxing and cricket. Bold bettors can request several types of wagers, including parlays, straight bets, matchups, futures, props and in-play betting.
Though initial projections offered October 1 as the launch date for sports betting in Rhode Island, the state now hopes to accept its first wagers in mid-November. Rollout delays occurred from IGT and its partner William Hill, the company in charge of building and testing the sports betting systems. The companies have been busy, since they also helped launch West Virginia and Mississippi’s sports betting systems.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the state budget with language allowing sports betting. The new law would allow only in-person betting, with no current plans to provide mobile betting. The state estimates that sports betting wagers could exceed $800 million the first year in the state. The current agreement allots 51 percent of sports betting revenue to go to the state.
The state offers two locations that will soon allow sports wagering: the Twin River Casino and the Tiverton Casino Hotel. The Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln, Rhode Island, sits inside a recently renovated facility with 162,000 square feet of gaming space. The casino operates 4,200 slot machines and virtual table games, as well as 119 live table games.
Visitors can also enjoy the site’s headline entertainment, live music and over 16 dining outlets. The Twin River Casino Hotel opened in October with 136 rooms and suites.
Rhode Island’s second casino, the Tiverton Casino Hotel, opened in September.
Although Pennsylvania was the fourth state to pass legislation allowing sports betting, the state has yet to green-light a casino sports book because of disagreements on final regulations and license fees.
The state requires that casinos interested in offering online sports betting, slot games and table games apply for a license and pay a fee of $10 million. Other requirements include one of the highest sports betting tax rates in the world, at 36 percent. Of the state’s 13 casinos, 11 have applied for the online gambling license, but only five have applied for the sports betting license.
The first sports wager in Pennsylvania is likely to come from either the Parx Casino outside Philadelphia or the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Hollywood Casino constructed six new betting windows in anticipation of receiving a license soon. The windows sit near the simulcasted horse races.
The Parx Casino is now pursuing two sports betting licenses for its main casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and one at its South Philadelphia Turf Club. Though the casino has no opening date on the books, it is preparing a space in the Bensalem casino with the hope that sports wagering will go live soon after official approval. The casino will offer wagers on a range of American and international sports, including soccer, tennis, golf and boxing.
Other casinos hoping to offer sports bets include Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino at Chester Downs and the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.