We have a winner: Sports gambling

Legal sports betting, once relegated to a small handful of states, has quickly become a national phenomenon.
Photo: (AP)

We don’t know the result of this year’s presidential election… yet. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that Americans are in favor of legalizing sports betting (and weed, but that’s for another time).

This week, voters in South Dakota, Maryland, and Louisiana all supported ballot measures to legalize sports gambilng, bringing the total number of states that allow sports gambling to 25, plus the District of Columbia.

Voters in Maryland overwhelmingly passed their ballot initiative by a 2-1 margin. South Dakotans voted to legalize with 58 percent of the vote. And the majority of Louisiana’s parishes gave sports gambling a “lopsided” win.

Each state will now decide how they want to proceed with sports betting, be it online, at a sportsbook, or both. State legislatures, Louisiana’s specifically, will also weigh their options on in-state college sports betting.

While these three states passed legal sports gambling measures, live gaming will not come to Maryland or South Dakota till, at least, 2021. Louisiana may have to wait till 2022 for operational gaming.

The Election Day news gave a boost to sports betting stocks, which shot up after the votes were counted. Penn National Gaming, DraftKings, MGM and Flutter (which owns FanDuel) all saw a bump in their stock prices.

With these results, sports betting is now legal in half of U.S. states plus D.C. And more could legalize soon.

According to the American Gambling Association, Massachusetts, Ohio and Hawaii, all have active legislation.

Voters in Nebraska also approved a casino expansion which could pave the way for sportsbooks to open in the state.

Sports gambling legalization has exploded since 2018. That year, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) paving the way for states to decide whether or not they want legal sports gambling. Now, a majority of states (including the District of Columbia) have said yes.

The legalization of sports gambling only looks to accelerate.

Over the summer, Deadspin spoke to industry professionals, politicians and sports gambling media members to consider how the pandemic and economic recession could influence states’ decision to legalize.

Some, if not all, states will be strapped for cash after the pandemic and economic recession. Revenue generated from legal sports gambling could help states recover or fund other avenues of government spending. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan supported sports gambling legalization in his state. He wants to use the cash generated to help fund public education.

“We are already funding our K-12 schools at record levels, and this is another way to ensure that is the case for years to come,” Hogan said before Marylanders made their decision.

There are more states left to determine the fate of legal sports gambling. Not all will legalize immediately, or at all. Utah, for example, likely never will.

But with more states legalizing sports betting, you can bet on the trend to continue.

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