Legal Sports Betting

legal sports betting Photo credit: The News Journal-USA TODAY NETWORK

Legal sports betting is here.

At 1:30 pm EST on June 5, single-game sports wagering began in Delaware’s three casinos. Fans who have for years sent their bets overseas through “less than legal” means will now be able to place wagers in person, without any fear of penalty.

And for serious bettors, today is only the start. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in May striking down the federal ban on sports betting, wagering will rapidly expand across the country.

For now, though, you’re restricted to Delaware—although likely not for very long. Many states are seeking to legalize sports gambling in the US. Here are some answers to some key questions being asked.

This FAQ was put together by Mike Lyon. He is an attorney in Montgomery County, PA specializing in litigation and gaming law. He tracks all developments in sports gambling in the United States, with a particular interest in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The information provided in this post is not intended to be and should not be construed as legal advice. You should not act or rely upon information contained in this post without specifically seeking professional legal advice.

Is sports betting really legal in the US?

Yes. In Delaware only. For now. 100%.

Delaware has fully functional, fully regulated legal sports betting. It’s only available in-person, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Can I bet in New Jersey?

A common misconception about the Supreme Court case was that the professional leagues and NCAA were suing New Jersey to invalidate New Jersey’s own sports wagering laws. But the opposite was actually true. New Jersey didn’t have any laws on its books legalizing or regulating sports gambling at the time of the leagues’ second lawsuit. The leagues were actually using a federal statute to try to force New Jersey to put a law on its books which prohibited sports gambling. That’s what the Supreme Court found a problem with, and that’s why the federal ban on sports gambling no longer exists. States are no longer required to ban it.

So even after the Supreme Court’s decision, and all the legal wrangling that has gone on after seven years, New Jersey actually does not have any laws on the books regulating sports betting as of this moment. The state can’t permit unregulated, wild-west style gambling—that could be incredibly harmful to consumers, and would permit less-than-reputable folks to clean it up. It needs some laws on the books on how gambling is going to be run. That means spelling who is entitled to take bets, and, of course, the taxes that sports books will pay on the money they make. The league wants a piece of the action, too, but they may not get it.

When will New Jersey have legal sports betting?

Very, very soon. Possibly as early as June 8. Soon after the Supreme Court’s decision came down, New Jersey legislators introduced bills to regulate betting, and they are moving quickly. Legislation is likely to be passed and signed by Governor Murphy on Thursday. New Jersey expects to begin taking wagers at Monmouth Park and perhaps at the Borgata in Atlantic City on Friday. Shore-goers and gamblers alike should be excited.

Why is Delaware getting legal sports betting first?

Simple: Delaware already had the systems in place. Most people outside the First State don’t realize that some sports betting has been legal in Delaware since 2009, when the state legalized parlay betting on football games. Until now, however, single-game bets were not permitted (and have not been permitted anywhere in the United States besides Nevada since 1992).

Having had the regulations and systems in place to handle multi-game bets, it was pretty easy for Delaware to get single game sports wagering up and running.

Why was only parlay betting legal in Delaware?

That was a result of a compromise between the governor and legislature, and some intervention by Delaware courts. Then-Governor Jack Markell had wanted to legalize wagering on single games in addition to multi-game bets, but only parlay betting was made legal in the state. The Supreme Court’s recent decision eliminates the single-game wagering ban and allows the state to start taking those bets as well.

What will I be able to bet on?

Ultimately, this will be up to the individual sportsbooks as to what games are listed for action. But in theory, bettors should be able to place wagers on any single professional or collegiate game listed for betting within the sportsbook. This will include point spread, over-under, and mone line bets, and potentially prop bets. Parlay bets will likely continue as well. But check the boards in the sportsbook first to see what has action and what doesn’t.

Where can I bet in Delaware?

You’ll need to be in a Delaware casino, where the only established sportsbooks will be located. There are no free-standing betting parlors, and no electronic or telephone betting.

Will I ever be able to bet from my phone?

Probably in the future, but not yet. Delaware has not yet legalized online betting. New Jersey has legal electronic gambling within the state’s borders, but has not yet approved sports gambling electronically. That is likely to change as sports betting becomes more widespread throughout the country and the systems become more organized. Mobile betting is incredibly popular in the United Kingdom and Europe already, and there is clearly a market for it here as well. Many gaming companies have heavily invested in mobile technology. Opportunities for real-time betting abound as a result. This site is putting together a comprehensive sports betting guide.

Is Pennsylvania in the running for legal sports betting too?

Likely yes, but it will take much longer. Last year, Pennsylvania passed sports betting regulations that would take effect only if the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban. Pennsylvania casinos can start to apply for licenses to conduct sports wagering, but it will take no less than 120 days for those licenses to be issued. We need to find out which (if any) casinos will apply for licenses before we know where sports gambling will take place. And Pennsylvania’s Gaming Control Board will need to issue permanent rules on conducting gambling before it can up and running. I would not expect legal sports gambling within Pennsylvania until the fall or winter, at the very earliest.

This FAQ was put together by Mike Lyon. He is an attorney in Montgomery County, PA specializing in litigation and gaming law. He tracks all developments in sports gambling in the United States, with a particular interest in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The information provided in this post is not intended to be and should not be construed as legal advice. You should not act or rely upon information contained in this post without specifically seeking professional legal advice.