14 States Could Legalize Sports Betting in 2021

It’s no surprise that many of the 25 states yet to pass sports betting legislation will try to do so in 2021. The American Gaming Association predicts as many as 14 could join the club this year, but the realistic figure is probably six.

14 States Could Legalize Sports Betting in 2021

More than 23 million Americans were expected to gamble $4.3 billion on Super Bowl LV, according to research from the American Gaming Association. Though total bets were expected to be down, because crowds couldn’t gather as usual at casino and neighborhood sportsbooks, online bets were expected to increase about 63 percent, for the same reason.

Sports betting has become big business in the U.S. Investment bank Morgan Stanley has forecast a $15 billion market for sports betting and internet gambling by 2025, an increase of 27 percent over current levels. As much as $10 billion of that is likely to come from sports betting, according to the Associated Press.

That’s big bucks, and big bucks are driving many U.S. states to consider sports betting as a source of fresh revenue in a battered economy.

At the end of last year, 20 states plus the District of Columbia had active sportsbooks. Another five approved sports betting, but had yet to go live. Of the remaining 25 states, as many as 14 could be in play this year, if not more, according to the American Gaming Association.

In these states—which include Kansas, Alabama, Georgia and Texas—efforts to legalize sports betting have been pre-filed or introduced in the legislatures, or else voter referendums have been scheduled. The list also includes Florida, where sports betting is unlikely unless the state crafts a deal that can pass muster with the Seminole Tribe.

“Ohio, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Georgia already have a strong framework to start from this year by virtue of nearly legalizing sports betting last year,” said Jess Feil, AGA senior director of government relations. “While each state has its own unique considerations, we can hope to see at least six states cross the finish line and legalize sports betting this year.”

Even the 11 states not expected to act could consider some form of legislation this year, Feil added. ”Already, we see states that typically are not major players in the gaming industry with sports betting legislation pending, such as Hawaii. And while California doesn’t have active legislation right now, they’re making progress toward a statewide referendum in 2022.”

Visit the AGA website for an up-to-date map of U.S. states with sports betting.

Of course, these best laid plans are subject to change, but here’s where some of these states stand right now:


Alabama’s current proposal, House Bill 161, would allow wagering on pro and college sports through licensed venues or through mobile sportsbooks.

The Alabama Sports Wagering Commission would regulate the process, including licensure and could issue as many as seven licenses, each costing $100,000. They would be good for five years, after which operators could renew for an additional $100,000. The legislation includes a 10 percent tax on gross sports betting revenues, payable weekly.

In addition, the bill establishes supplier licenses that carry a $1,000 fee, renewable each year. Management licenses also come with a $1,000 fee.

The bill also establishes the Sports Wagering Fund to distribute the money to various causes, including higher education scholarships. It’s currently with the House committee on Economic Development and Tourism.


The Bay State has introduced a bill sponsored by state Senator Brendan Crighton. SB 177 resembles legislation that failed in the past, but with a higher application fee and tax rate.

That prior proposals failed has confounded operators and sports teams, especially in Boston. Meantime, neighboring Rhode Island and New Hampshire legalized mobile sports betting, and Connecticut could follow suit this year.

The new fee for an application jumps to $10 million in this year’s bill, with a tax rate of 15 percent. The proposal prohibits wagers on local Massachusetts colleges and also mandates official league data.

In addition to mobile options, retail sportsbooks could be established at casinos, slot parlors and racetracks as well as Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park and the Boston Garden, according to SportsHandle.com.

“Looking at the states around us, folks are going to bet on sports whether or not we legalize this, but right now the money’s going to the black market and to other states,” Crighton said.


In Georgia, House Bill 86, which would legalize sports betting, faces opposition from conservatives and also questions about how to avoid a constitutional amendment. On February 2, the Economic Development and Tourism Committee voted 20-6 to approve the bill, which now heads to the full House.

The measure calls for the Georgia Lottery Corp. to issue a minimum of six licenses to operators, each carrying a $900,000 annual fee. The state tax would be 14 percent. Committee Chair Ron Stephens said the tax could bring in more than $40 million for HOPE college scholarships, pre-K classes and child care.

The bill has the blessing of Atlanta’s four major league professional sports teams, according to the Associated Press. “The teams believe that fan engagement is what sports betting is all about,” Stephens told the committee.

If the lottery runs the show, a constitutional amendment would be unnecessary, as voters already went through the process in authorizing the lottery that way in 1992, Stephens said. That approach remains to be seen.


The Kansas Senate has introduced a bill that could lead to as many as a dozen sportsbooks. Under the proposal, each of the state’s four commercial casinos could open a retail sportsbook. Each of the four can also partner with up to three online operators. The state left the door open for Native American tribes to renegotiate their compacts to allow sports betting as well.

The Kansas Lottery, which oversees the commercial casinos, would regulate sports betting, although some lawmakers prefer the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission.

Senate Bill 84 would feature a 7.5 percent tax for in-person wagers and a 10 percent rate for online bets. The annual licensing fee remains to be decided.

The bill, now in the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs, could go through additional committees before the full Senate votes. The House would need to approve an identical version before heading to the Governor’s desk.

Impact On Early Adopters

At some point in the future, all 50 states plus D.C. could have sports betting. And what does that mean for the early entrants into the game, like New Jersey? The 800-pound gorilla of sports betting, New Jersey was the first state across the finish line after the Supreme Court overturned a sports betting ban in 2018. Residents in neighboring states like New York and Pennsylvania began to travel to New Jersey to place bets.

“As more states launch sports betting, especially online or mobile sportsbooks, New Jersey could lose those customers who traveled specifically across state borders to place their bets, but they’re unlikely to lose customers who are residents of New Jersey,” said Jane F. Bokunewicz, PhD, Institute Coordinator, the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University.

Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia could also affect New Jersey’s fortunes, but New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states can capture more serious bettors by differentiating their sports betting product from other gaming jurisdictions, Bokunewicz said.

“Much will depend on how the different states choose to design their sports betting offering. Of those states that haven’t launched legal sports betting and may not be likely to in 2021, Florida is perhaps the one that would most impact New Jersey, given the frequency of travel between the two states,” she said.

But the impact among states is not a hard and fast rule, said the AGA’s Feil. “We’ve seen that when a state legalizes sports betting, the revenue of its neighboring states is not negatively impacted. For example, Indiana recently had a record October for sports betting, even with a robust Illinois market right next door.”

The hunger for legal sports betting is clearly on the rise. According to Bloomberg News, a man in Houston, where sports betting is illegal, flew from Texas to an airport in Colorado to make a legal $3.46 million bet on Tampa Bay.

Eventually, ubiquitous gaming options “could drive down revenues from states that might now be benefiting from a relative monopoly,” said David Schwartz, a gaming historian with the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “It’s hard to say whether the broader legalization would harm destination markets like Las Vegas, since this was not at all the case pre-pandemic.”

The bottom line is, casual bettors will place bets where it’s most convenient: in their back yard, if they have the opportunity.

Articles by Author: Bill Sokolic

Bill Sokolic is a veteran journalist who has covered gaming and tourism for more than 25 years as a staff writer and freelancer with various publications and wire services. He's also written stories for news, entertainment, features, and business. He co-authored Atlantic City Revisited, a pictorial history of the resort.