Sports betting laws and bills are popping up around the US
Legal Sports Report

Legal March Madness Betting Outside Of Nevada Might Be A Reality By Next Year

Legal March Madness betting

One of the best times to be in Las Vegas is undoubtedly for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, aka March Madness.

A lot of people travel to Vegas just for the opening weekend of the tournament, which kicks off this week. The sportsbooks on the Strip are usually overflowing from the morning on Thursday, when the first games tip off, until the final buzzer on Sunday night. At some books, you even have to buy tickets just to get a seat.

The exciting thing for states around the country — they may get to experience this as well by this time next year.

March Madness betting, proliferating

Let’s start here — people who don’t bet on sports in any way, shape or form will often have a monetary interest on the NCAA tournament. Office pools are probably the most pervasive form of casual betting in the US.

Other than the Super Bowl, there’s no other sporting event more primed as a betting event in the US.

What’s all that have to do with the possibility of betting on March Madness outside of Nevada sports betting? We’re currently waiting for a decision in Murphy vs. NCAA (formerly Christie vs. NCAA), which is New Jersey’s challenge to the federal ban on sports wagering current awaiting a ruling from the US Supreme Court.

If that ban — PASPA — is struck down, Nevada will no longer have a monopoly on single-game wagering.

The states that will almost definitely have sports betting in 2019

We have a pretty good idea of which states are almost certainly primed for sports wagering by the time March 2019 rolls around (with a New Jersey court victory):

  • New Jersey: The state would likely offer sports wagering within weeks of a SCOTUS decision. It will be open season for betting at Atlantic City casinos and two horse racing tracks.
  • West Virginia: WV sports betting is on the way. The state enacted a law over the weekend, and launch could happen before football season, if things go well. Five commercial gaming facilities in the state will offer both land-based and mobile wagering.
  • Pennsylvania: The state legalized sports wagering in 2017, but it’s been busy implementing other parts of a massive gaming expansion. PA sports betting has taken a backseat as a result, but still a 2019 launch seems all but assured.
  • Delaware: The state already offers parlay betting legally. It won’t be a stretch for the state to authorize single-game wagering.

The states that might have sports betting in 2019

From those four states, things get more complicated. Sports betting legislation exists in a wide swath of states, but which ones will act on them in time for 2019 is unclear.

Still, these three states seem like favorites to do something by next year.

  • New York: NY already legalized wagering at its commercial casinos via a prior referendum. It is currently considering legislation that would expand that to other facilities in the state. Legislation seems like it will have the momentum to cross the finish line this spring.
  • Connecticut: The state already empowered regulators to start work on sports gambling. But it seems like the state won’t act until it has further clarity from the legislature. That could be coming soon.
  • Mississippi: The legislature already laid the groundwork for legal wagering in the state by repealing the prohibition via a fantasy sports law. But it’s not clear what the next steps are there. Still, it’s a state where many in government have been optimistic about the future.

Beyond that, the odds on sports betting laws going on the books can vary wildly. Missouri, Illinois and Rhode Island look like the next most likely states to pass a law.

The bottom line: With a favorable decision from the nation’s highest court, you’ll be able to bet legally on March Madness — outside of your office pool — in at least a few states outside of Nevada. And possibly many more.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.