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Almost a Year with Legal Sports Betting

Online gambling has been somewhat controversial in America with different actors expressing varying sentiments on its legalization. Online betting suffers the negative stigma attached to traditional gambling, at the same time, the speculations of how negatively it will affect the sporting landscape in terms of match-fixing and such. This has led to strict enactments like the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that illegalized all online gambling activities in the country. Tides are however changing fast as the digital world evolves introducing lucrative opportunities within such digital spaces for sports operators, the gambling community, and the state itself. American states are getting wind of recent developments in the betting industry and do not intend to be left behind. While online casino gaming is legal in some states, these 4 states excluded online casinos while they have legalized sports betting for almost a year now. Let us review the current sports-betting environment in these 3 states.


Sports betting was officially legalized in Iowa in August of 2019 granting online and retail developers license to operate under a new set of regulations. The Iowa debut has been nothing short of impressive considering that the current pandemic halted all major sporting events in the country. The state’s gambling regulatory body reports that the licensed sportsbooks have handled over $300 million since legalization, making over $25 million in revenue and paying over $1.5 million tax. This puts into perspective the massive potential held by the sports betting industry more so when the Covid-19 crisis is kicked to the curb. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission oversees gambling in the region and although the state is taking a liberal approach to sports betting, online gambling is still illegal. Different sportsbooks have to operate within the state law to retain licenses. Even with the different sportsbooks app launched after legalization, the customers have to visit the sports betting facilities physically to transact. Legalized gambling in the state includes live poker- currently, with nine active live poker rooms, horse racing events, as well as sports betting. Betting on esports, on the other hand, is still illegal.


Indiana is an excellent example of states that vehemently opposed the idea of legalizing online gambling but have abruptly changed their stand legalizing online sports betting in 2019. The first sportsbook in the state became operational in October 2019 giving Indiana residents the much-desired freedom to take part in sports betting. Online casinos are not yet legalized, but the change of rules in sports betting raises hopes that the state is in the path of accepting online casinos. Indiana residents can now wager in a variety of legalized sportsbooks including BetMGM, BetRivers, FanDuel, Caesars Sportsbook, and many others. Betting on offshore books is still illegal so all residents are advised to do a background check to ensure they register with legal sites to avoid attracting criminal charges. After the legalization in October, local bookmakers have enjoyed a good business window despite the outbreak. According to legal sports reports, Indiana sportsbooks have handled wagers worth $962,475,566 in the period ending on 16th July 2020 retaining revenues of $78,521,718 and paying tax of up to $7,459,564. All these sportsbooks are established within active land-based casinos in the region and even feature poker card rooms. Other sporting activities you can wager on include live horse track racing whose betting odds are available online.


The Illinois Gambling Act was passed by a popular vote in June 2019 and sports betting became operational in March 2020, after the Illinois Gaming Board gave operating licenses to seven local casinos. In the first days after legalization, big sharks in the gaming industry had already picked up on the fresh blood in the water, thus promptly invested big money in a bid to carve out a chunk of the lucrative sports betting market. More operators are still pitching camp in Illinois’ gaming scene giving the state a massive revenue boost in the tough economic times brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic. The only downside to the exciting developments is the holdup imposed by the Illinois Gaming Board regulations demanding that the already licensed casinos request separate approval to offer online wagers. The state is slowly easing its gambling regulations, but not in major strides as other states. The 2019 act allowed sports facilities that can hold a minimum capacity of 17,000 seek licenses to host online and live sports betting, but only within a radius of five blocks of their facility. This has sidelined online gamblers in Illinois who cannot access such facilities under lockdown. The state should hasten to actualize the next phase of online gambling to allow residents to bet in the comfort of their homes on local sports events currently taking place behind closed doors.

West Virginia

The beloved state which is the focus of the timeless John Denver song - Take Me Home, Country Roads, is also the 5th US state to legalize sports betting. It happened in August 2018 following Nevada, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Delaware. In December of the same year, West Virginia became the 3rd US state to legalize online sports betting. In the first year, the sports betting business has generated a humble $6.5 million in revenue. that is of course due to the legalization only coming to effect at the end of the year. 2019 was the real test, and that year the bookers reported a whopping $226 million in revenue. Then 2020 came along and brought its friend, COVID-19 who cause a collapse in most aspects of life, including gambling. Revenue in the COVID-19 era was 7 times lower than in previous months.

Gambling in America has to adapt to the changing times. Avid sports fans in the country have more reason to celebrate their enduring sports culture as betting steadily moves online, while other online betting niches, like online poker, will take more time to move online. It is clear that other states are bound to follow this trend in the coming years.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes

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