Legalized single-event sports-wagering in the United States — outside of Nevada, where it’s been legal for decades — has begun its live rollout. In the past week, facilities in Delaware and New Jersey have begun accepting public wagers on sporting events for the first time ever.
It’s a huge step for the advancement and growth of the US sports-betting market, which is already estimated to be an underground activity involving tens of billions of dollars each year. It will likely take several full years for a majority of US states to legalize the activity, which will be done on a state-by-state basis following New Jersey’s US Supreme Court victory a few weeks back that killed the country’s quarter-century-old, federal “PASPA” ban on sports betting.
Delaware and New Jersey, like Nevada, are the three US states that already have some form of legalized online-gambling up and running. (A fourth US state, Pennsylvania, comes online later this year.) Delaware won the race to become the first new US sports-betting state on June 5, when the state’s governor, John Carney, placed a $10 money-line wager on the Philadelphia Phillies against the Chicago Cubs in a major-league baseball game that night.
Governor Carney placed the bet at Delaware’s Dover Downs “racino”, a pari-mutuel facility offering live horseracing in addition to casino-game offerings, both live and online. Dover Downs and two other Delaware racinos offer those services in conjunction with the state’s lottery operations, and since the state’s legislature had already approved the sports-betting business — contingent on a New Jersey win in the PASPA case — it was a rapid and easily coordinated rollout.
Neighboring New Jersey, which also bore the years of legal expense associated with overturning the federal PASPA ban, had to wait a few more days. New Jersey’s legislature struggled to put the finishing touches on the fine print of a new regulatory measure governing the sports betting, and it was finally passed on to the state’s governor, Phil Murphy on Monday.
Gov. Murphy signed the bill later that same day, and he too, plans to place a ceremonial first bet at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park Racetrack on Thursday morning. Monmouth Park is the fitting first location to allow wagering in the state, since the track’s parent corporation was a legal partner with the state in the years-long battle against the US’s major sports associations over the PASPA ban.
And so it begins, with a transition from offshore sites of varying reputation and reliability to a future US sports-betting world of legalized, regulated offerings. Some of the most aggressive industry analyses suggest that as many as 44 of the 50 US states will legalize sports betting in the next half dozen years. Over a dozen states are considering or have already approved contingency legislation, meaning the rush is on.
Still, a complete sweep of US states is unlikely. Utah, for example, is a very conservative, Mormon-dominated state that bans all forms of gambling, and the demise of the PASPA ban won’t change that. Hawaii also bans all gambling, but for very different reasons: Gambling is viewed there as a threat to the state’s tourism-driven economy… even if underground gambling thrives.
It’s a new era in the US, and with it will come some interesting twists and turns. The world’s sports bettors will be watching.
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