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United States online sports betting laws

The US is home to some of the most famous and most watched sports and events in the world. Millions love the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB – and millions more in the US and overseas relish the chance to bet on it.

Is sports betting legal in the US?

As of January 2021, USA online betting has been legalized to some extent in 18 states.

However, this is not a simple question as there is no federal legislation that specifically makes it illegal to place a bet online.

The complex relationship between betting and the US legal system has its roots in the fact that each individual state has the power to allow, or disallow, gambling.

The Federal Wire Act of 1931 and the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 were both intended to make all forms of sports betting illegal across the USA.

However, PASPA did not explicitly make it illegal to bet on sports. It merely made it illegal for a “governmental entity” to run or authorize sports betting. Also, Nevada was made exempt from PASPA, as were Delaware, Montana and Oregon.

Another piece of federal legislation was passed in 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. This was interpreted as an act that made it illegal to partake in any form of online gambling within the US. While it blocked organizations from taking bets, and made it hard for people in the US to use betting sites, it did not make it illegal to bet on sports online.

Things became slightly clearer in 2018 when PASPA was overturned because the Supreme Court ruled it conflicted with the Tenth Amendment. Since then, several states have taken advantage of this and legalized sports betting.

Given the amount of betting that takes place in the US, many international operators have found ways to capitalize on the sudden new freedom around online sports betting in the USA. Many have set up offshore operations in territories where sports betting is legal, like the Caribbean, from where they can deliver markets on US sports that US residents can bet on with impunity if they live in states where betting is legal.

The picture may be complex but the advice is simple. First, check on the relevant legislation of the state where you are located. Has the state you’re planning to bet in legalized gaming, and specifically ‘online gaming’? Second, please bear in mind that legislation that bans betting is aimed at the organizations running the betting, not at the individual placing a wager.

Use our infographic for more information about the USA online betting legislation per state.

What odds format is used in the US?

American odds

US online betting sites use American odds as a default setting. The odds are expressed, when you are backing a favorite, according to what you need to stake to win $100 for any particular bet.

If you are backing an underdog, they show what you will win for every $100 you stake. These are also known as negative and positive odds.

If the Dallas Cowboys are favorites to win a match against the Green Bay Packers, their odds may be shown as -200. Therefore, you have to stake $200 to win $100. Your total return would be $300, including your $200 stake.

In the same match, if the Packers are +200, you would win $200 for every $100 you wager. This would be a total return of $300, including your $100 stake.

For fractional odds, common in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Cowboys would be 1/2 favorites. The stake is represented by the right-hand number, while the return is represented by the number on the left. The reverse is true for the Packers, who would be 2/1 underdogs, meaning for every $100 you bet, you would receive $200 in return. Your profit and stake would equal a return of $300.

The third option is decimal odds, common in Europe and other countries including Australia and New Zealand. The Cowboys would be 1.5 favorites using this format and the Packers would be 3.00 underdogs.

Although $100 is a common bet total, especially when dealing with American odds, you can bet anything you like. Use our bet calculator to work out all your future bets.

Top sports in the US


The National Football League (NFL) is one of the biggest, richest and most prestigious sports leagues in the world. Enormous audiences – an average of 16.8 million viewers tune into the league’s Sunday Night Football game – love to watch a sport that embodies the character of the US.

The NFL sits at the top of a pyramid of football, which is played in high schools and colleges all over the country.

Each season culminates in the championship game, the Super Bowl, arguably the biggest single annual betting event in the world.

In 2018, the American Gaming Association estimated $4.76 billion was wagered on the game – a staggering sum that indicates exactly how popular this sport is with the US public.

US sports betting FAQs

Is betting online in the USA legal?
What are the best US betting sites?
Where can I bet online in the US?
Can I bet on my mobile in the US?
Can US gamblers get a welcome bonus?