Sports Betting Comes To More and More States — And Mobile Is Key

In a show of how Americans are increasingly able to bet legally on sports, a big Heartland state became the second this year and the 10th overall to legalize sports betting. And two companies announced the biggest media investment yet in sports betting.

The developments sum up the landscape in sports betting: more and more states are on board with the idea and, increasingly, the future of sports betting appears likely to occur more on smartphones than at casinos and tracks.

The Latest 

On Wednesday, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed legislation legalizing sports betting, adding to a growing list of states where sportsbooks — usually in casinos or racetracks — can offer bets on professional and college sports.

Holcomb’s signature moves sports betting into the Heartland, erasing any remaining questions about whether the legal bookie industry could gain a foothold in conservative areas with strong anti-gambling constituencies.

But the real future of sports betting was probably on display in a much less-noticed announcement that same day. Fox Corp. FOXA’s FOX Sports and Canadian company Stars Group Inc. TSG announced plans Wednesday to launch FOX Bet, a mobile betting app for people in states where mobile betting is legal.

Right now, that’s only New Jersey and Nevada.

While sportsbooks get the attention with their walls of televised games, those two states make it clear that phone betting is the future.

New Jersey was one of the first states to legalize sports betting after the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that states could do so. And unlike most states that have since legalized sports wagering, it made mobile gaming legal.

New Jersey has since brought in $2 billion — with about 80 percent of the money wagered via online or mobile betting.

Nevada, which was exempt from the former federal prohibition on sports betting and has had it since 1949, has allowed betting on mobile apps since 2010. Even in a place where casinos are ubiquitous, bettors prefer mobile: more than half the sports wagering handle in Nevada, and maybe as much as 75 percent, is bet on apps.

Several other states have legalized sports betting since the 2018 ruling, but some, like Delaware, haven’t made mobile betting legal, and others, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia, have sought to legalize mobile, but haven’t gotten app-based betting vendors approved or up and running.

States that legalized brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, but not mobile, aren’t reaping as much revenue as many had anticipated.

Tennessee: Straight To Mobile

Tennessee lawmakers went straight for the future, skipping brick-and-mortar sports books altogether. The bill that Gov. Bill Lee has said he will let become law without his signature only allows betting online through apps like those offered by DraftKings and FanDuel.

Mobile At Center of New York Debate

Tennessee, Indiana, Iowa and Montana lawmakers all have passed legislation this year allowing sports betting.

Oregon law already technically allowed sports betting, and that state’s lottery said it will offer some sort of sports wagering by next fall’s football season. That means 14 states and the District of Columbia will soon allow some form of sports betting.

But in terms of population, those are small fish.

The biggest states still don’t allow sports betting. California, Texas and Florida aren’t close to approving it.

New York may be — and it could be a big prize if lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration can reach an agreement on mobile betting.

Officials say sports betting could be a $1-billion market in the Empire State, but only if it lets New Yorkers bet on an app without having to drive upstate to a casino.

“Our neighbors in New Jersey have shown us here in New York just how much revenue can be made from legal sports betting with a mobile component, ” State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr., who is sponsoring sports betting legislation, said during a March legislative hearing.

FanDuel says about 25 percent of its online bets in New Jersey are made by people who live in New York and go to New Jersey to bet.

“New York could be reaping those same benefits, while simultaneously increasing our educational funding, if we are able to get mobile sports betting passed before session ends in June,” Addabbo said. “It is a shame that our residents who wish to participate and enjoy legal sports betting must jump ship to other states.”

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Photo credit: Baishampayan Ghose, Flickr

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