The US online gambling sector is still in its baby steps. A decade ago, the industry was a legal grey area. The Unlawful internet Gambling Enforcement Act was still in effect. In fact, it was the reason behind the infamous Black Friday crackdown on Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker in 2011.
In the same year, the Department of Justice made a clarification on the Wire Act of 1961, stating states had the authority to legalize online casinos but not sports betting. Delaware and New Jersey swung into action immediately—legalizing online casino games in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Nevada legalized online poker in 2015 while Pennsylvania joined the league in 2017. To be clear, PA legalized most casino games and not just poker. That said, below is a timeline of how US online gambling has changed in the past five years.
2017: Online Casinos Legal in Four States
By the end of 2017, online casinos were legal in four states across the country. As we mentioned, Delaware and New Jersey were the first two states to permit online casinos. Nevada followed but failed to legalize slots, blackjack, roulette and baccarat. Instead, it permitted poker only.
Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online casino games in 2017. It permitted nearly all casino games, from Keno and bingo to slots and poker. With that in mind, these states didn’t have a lot of customers.
New Jersey, which has licensed 30 online casinos by 2023, had only partnered with a handful brands. PA opened with a couple of casino sites. But it has since expanded to 12 brands. Delaware licensed three casinos initially and has not expanded since then.
You can learn more about US online gambling sites on casino-focused websites like online-gambling.com. That particular site also features a detailed guide on how identify a reliable online casino. Additionally, it features a list of brands with the best freebies for new players.
2018: The Supreme Court Legalizes Sports Betting
2018 will go down as a monumental year in the history of sports betting in the US. In a bill sponsored by New Jersey and opposed by the NCAA, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Garden State to bring down the PASPA Act of 1992.
Following the ruling, New Jersey and Delaware legalized sports betting almost immediately. These two states legalized both online and land-based sports betting. Out of the two, NJ has had the most success from this iGaming industry, generating up to $400 million from a $5 billion industry.
Delaware, by comparison, hasn’t been so lucky. Its laws tie online casinos to local racing tracks. And all of the three licensed operators need to pay the state 40% of their revenues as tax. Delaware is also a small state, which limits its revenue to just a fraction of the money NJ collects per year.
With that in mind, West Virginia legalized both sports betting and online casinos in the same year. Pennsylvania also expanded its gambling portfolio to include sports betting in mid-November, 2018.
Other states to have legalized sports betting in 2018 were Mississippi and New Mexico. Both of the jurisdictions permitted in-person and not online sports betting.
2019: An Explosion of Legal Online Sports Betting Bills
Although New Jersey and Delaware had prepared bills to legalized sports betting before the Supreme Court verdict, most states waited until the ruling was made. In the usual styles, drafting bills, debating and passing them into law dragged on until 2019.
An example is Rhode Island. This state began the legal framework to legalize sports betting in mid-2018. It succeeded in legalizing in-person sports betting by November. However, an amendment to accommodate mobile betting didn’t succeed until early 2019.
Arkansas, New York, Iowa, Oregon, Indiana, and New Hampshire all legalized sports betting in 2019. All of these states, besides Arkansas and New York legalized online betting. The Empire State, though, is in the process of legalizing mobile betting. But with Gov. Cuomo leaving office, the process could drag on longer than expected.
2020: More States Get On-board Sports Betting
In March 2023, Illinois joined the list of states with legal sports betting with a bill permitting both in-person and mobile betting. Governor J.B. Pritzker also noted the Prairie State would consider legalizing online casinos in the future.
The land of Lincoln aside, Michigan, Montana, Colorado, D.C, Tennessee and Virginia all joined the club of legal sports betting in 2023. Out of the states, Montana is the only place where online sports betting was not legalized.
Interestingly, Tennessee legalized mobile and not in-person betting. The state also added a clause requiring bookmakers to use the official league data when it comes to in-play betting.
On the other hand, Virginia didn’t open its first sportsbook until January, 2023. That’s alright, though. The state legalized both in-person and mobile betting. The only exception was betting on in-state colleges, which is banned at most states anyway.
North Carolina also opened its first sportsbook in 2023. However, Gov. Roy Cooper legalized the industry back in 2019. That said, NC only permits punters to wager at brick-and-mortar casinos.
2021: Over 20 States are Finalizing Legalization Bills
Some states were never in a hurry to legalize online gambling. But after COVID-19 hit and their revenue sources declined, online gambling is turning into a prime moneymaker. Some states aren’t legalizing online gambling due to the pandemic though.
They’ve had bills about online gambling since 2018. But for one reason or another, they are yet to legalize the industry. Oklahoma, Maine, Kentucky, California, Texas, Ohio, Hawaii, Georgia and Minnesota are examples.
These states have had bills meant to legalize mobile gambling for a while now. And they’re still on track to legalize online casinos or online sports betting. That said, some jurisdictions don’t appear interested in permitting the industry.
Idaho, Wisconsin and Utah belong in this category. None of these states have made an attempt to legalize online gambling. Utah, in particular, has always opposed any form of gambling. And it will likely oppose the industry at least in the near future.