Skip to content

Interest in Online Sports Betting Is Rising. But Is It Legal?

The pandemic prompted the closure of casinos across the United States, and gaming venues that are now reopening are generally required to follow strict protocols around physical distancing and sanitation. These changes may prompt more gamblers, including sports betters, to turn to online betting options.

But is online sports betting legal in the US? Before 2018, the answer was generally "no." The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) outlawed sports betting nationwide, with the exception of a few states. In 2018, however, the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA for infringing on states rights, and opened the door for states to create their own regulations.

As a result, sports betting laws have been in flux for the last couple of years as state legislatures work to draft and adopt their own regulations. As of the publishing of this blog post, more than 20 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of sports betting, but this doesn't mean it's open season for online or mobile betting platforms. Each state has particular rules around sports betting to which a merchant must adhere. We outline where many states currently stand below.


The following states legally offer online sports betting. Mobile bookies must hold a state-specific license.


States listed below have passed legislation allowing online sports betting but do not yet have any live, licensed operators:

  • Delaware
  • Rhode Island
  • Michigan
  • Illinois
  • Tennessee


The jurisdictions below will only allow sports betting through their lotteries, but may allow for lottery-run mobile betting:

  • Oregon
  • Montana
  • Washington, DC
  • Rhode Island


Five states have legislation currently only allowing for in-person sports betting:

  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas
  • New York
  • New Mexico (only tribal casinos)
  • North Carolina (only tribal casinos)


Of the remaining states, several are considering legislation to legalize sports betting in some form.


Several sports betting websites claim that because they are located in and operate within the laws of another country, it is legal for US residents (or residents of other countries) to place bets through their platforms. While the US government may be unlikely to seek action against an individual user placing bets through one of these offshore websites - federal and state laws are focused on restricting the casinos rather than the players - these offshore operators are still considered illegal bookmakers because they are operating in states in which they do not hold a license. For players, this means there is no government oversight and these websites may be at a higher risk of engaging in shady practices, such as refusing to pay out winnings. The safest bet is to steer clear of these operators.


Daily fantasy sports and paid fantasy sports leagues both offer prizes for winners in exchange for an entrance fee, so what makes them different from sports betting? The argument over the legality of fantasy sports - and whether or not the states can regulate them - boils down to whether fantasy sports are a form of sports wagering under federal law. This question can be further broken down to whether or not fantasy sports are a game of skill or chance. When viewed as a game of skill, these contests are legal as long as a state has not prohibited them. When viewed as chance, they fall under the same restrictions as gambling.

Few states have passed legislation dealing with the issue of daily and paid fantasy sports. Therefore determining the legality in most states relies on the opinions of attorneys general, court precedent, or statements by other public officials. Currently most big fantasy sports platforms operate in 43 states; the only states that expressly forbid fantasy sports are Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, and Washington.


Regulations around sports betting are dynamic. Contact us to learn more about laws related to online gambling and how LegitScript can help keep you and your merchants in compliance with this and other high-risk industries.


David Khalaf is a writing, communications, and marketing professional with specialties in media, investigations, content strategy, and writing instruction. His 20 years of writing, media, and communications work have included two top-tier universities (USC and UCLA), print and digital magazines, consulting firms, and technology companies.

His current work involves content strategy and development at LegitScript, a company that helps the world's leading search engines, payment service providers, and internet platforms and marketplaces do business with legitimate, legally operating entities in more than 80 countries and 15 languages around the world. LegitScript specializes in risk and compliance for highly regulated industries including CBD/cannabis, online gambling, cryptocurrencies, drugs, financial trading, online adult, scams and fraud, and more.

Recent Blog Articles

Synthetic identity fraud

What You Need to Know About Synthetic Identity Fraud

LegitScript noticed an increase in the sale of fraudulent document services, including fake IDs, synthetic identities, and artificial intelligence (AI) passport photo generators. Read further to understand how this trend appears to align with an emergence of more effective methods of stealing and fa...
proposed changes to DSHEA

Proposed Changes to DSHEA Could Impact You — Here’s How

According to the Pew Research Center, many US consumers believe that the current regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't adequately protect them. Read further to discover the potential impact of the FDA's proposed changes to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education...

Problematic Product Spotlight: Tainted Royal Honey

Products Claiming to Enhance Sexual Performance Have Experienced a Surge in Popularity No longer relegated to the shelves of gas stations and corner stores, dietary supplements or other products claiming to enhance sexual performance have experienced a surge in popularity within e-commerce marketpla...
LegitScript updates advisory committee policies and seeks to invite new members.

LegitScript Relaunches Its Addiction Treatment Certification Advisory Committee — and Seeks New Members

In an effort to strengthen avenues of communication and identify opportunities for optimizing the client journey, LegitScript is relaunching its Addiction Treatment Certification Advisory Committee. Keep reading to learn how this may impact you. LegitScript Bolsters Collaboration Efforts With Organi...