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The Wild Ride of Sports Betting: America's State-by-State Expansion

Gambling on sports has long lived in the shadows of American life, but recent years have seen it emerge into the spotlight. For most of the 20th century, Nevada stood alone as the only state where placing a legal sports bet was possible. Elsewhere, bookies linked to organized crime raked in an estimated $40 billion annually on illegal wagers. Occasional scandals like the infamous 1919 "Black Sox" World Series fix revealed the vulnerability of sports to underworld gambling interests.

This began to change in 2018 when the Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting, allowing states to legalize it. Since then, over 30 states have approved sports gambling in a rapid expansion. Supporters argue regulation will increase protections and produce tax revenue. Critics worry about harm to sports integrity and more problem gambling.

Sports leagues once opposed betting but now seek to profit from it. The NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB have all signed big sponsorship deals with gambling companies, and stadium sportsbooks are opening. However, insider betting remains forbidden. Athletes and officials who bet on their own sports face severe sanctions, as recent disciplinary cases have shown.

America's sports betting journey has zigzagged between prohibition and proliferation for a century. Where it goes next remains uncertain. Will licensed betting become as commonplace as lottery tickets sold at every corner store? Or will scandals revive opposition? One thing is clear - with over $4 billion now wagered annually in legal markets, sports gambling is out of the shadows and oddsmakers are looking to grow.

Current State of Sports Betting (As of October 2023)



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