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In Post-Shutdown US, Will A Bigger Value Be Placed On Legal Online Gambling?

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In May 2018, the US Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, opening the door for state-sanctioned legal sports betting.

That was just two years ago, but doesn’t it feel like much longer? It feels as if legalized wagering (outside Nevada) has existed as long as the traditional casino.

There’s no doubt that perceived longevity stems from the country embracing and expanding sports betting with such vigor that it seems as if decades of industry growth has been crammed into a brief window.

Indeed, legalized sports betting in America has grown rapidly over the past two years, particularly online. Without question, it will follow the same trend over the next two years. And the acceptance of online gaming — sports betting, casino and poker — will help states capitalize even more.

Sports betting has had rapid-fire expansion in US

Less than a month after SCOTUS repealed PASPA, Delaware became the first state to accept a legal wager outside Nevada. New Jersey followed soon after and quickly became a power player that now keeps see-sawing back and forth with Nevada for the most lucrative sports betting state.

Its operator-friendliness fueled the fire, and the state’s readiness to allow online gaming resulted in some 84% of $4.6 billion in legal wagers placed over the internet in 2019. Not to be outdone, online casinos and poker have perked up in 2020, as the two verticals have combined for nearly $210 million this year.

Since the PASPA repeal, 18 states and Washington, D.C., have gone live with legalized wagering with 13 of them featuring some variation of online betting. They have combined for more than $20 billion in handle since May 2018, a total that expects to grow exponentially in the near future.

More states appear ready to offer legalized sports betting

Four other states have enacted wagering legislation and await launch. And 16 states have active legislation, a total that seemingly continues to increase with each passing day.

All told, all but 12 states in the country are at least exploring regulated betting.

In late 2019, expansion began out west. Since that time, Oregon and Montana joined Nevada as states with legal sports betting. After Washington passed legislation to do the same, Colorado launched online wagering in May 2020. Then, a big domino fell, as California introduced a bill that, theoretically, would appeal to cardrooms and tribal casinos — though the jury is still out on how successful that compromise will become.

Back east, activity abounded as Virginia and Tennessee targeted summer launches for their respective sports betting industries while Louisiana and Ohio pushed legislation forward.

This all came after Michigan and Illinois introduced retail wagering and as the nation’s capital debuted its mobile platform.

Even before summer officially starts, the nation is abuzz with legalizing wagering, many of which are including the online aspect.

That vertical holds significance, and it is one that states still considering legalization or that already have operational industries need to consider implementing.

Pandemic sheds light on value of online gambling

Without question, the coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves around the world. It has hit both the US retail and online gambling industry hard.

Across the US, hundreds of properties were forced to shutter for the better part of two months. Only recently have they begun to reopen. Major sports leagues and organizers elected to suspend and cancel seasons and events, such as the NCAA tournament, the Masters and the Kentucky Derby.

The pandemic caused an experience no one wanted, but one that added more proof to the value of legalized online gambling.

Land-based casinos take a big hit

Consider Michigan and Illinois, two states that unfortunately went live with legalized retail sports betting just before the coronavirus pandemic — and two states that legalized but have yet to launch online platforms.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board announced revenue numbers for the first four months of 2020, and they were not pretty: reflecting a 39.2% drop compared with the same timeframe of 2019. Similarly, the state pocketed $24.2 million in taxes from its three commercial casinos — nearly $16 million less than the first four months of last year.

Land-based casinos that were closed hurt Michigan. And the same went for Illinois, where the state’s Casino Gaming Association estimated that casinos lost $100 million during the shutdown since mid-March.

Certainly, states in similar situations felt the same blow.

Online gambling shoulders the load elsewhere

While online sports betting provided just a drop in the bucket compared with previous months, what with sports being sidelined, other verticals have picked up the slack.

Only three states offer legalized online casinos and four have online poker. Those areas have seen massive spikes in recent weeks.

In April, New Jersey watched as monthly online sports betting revenue dropped nearly 90% year over year. Again, a byproduct of few sports on which to wager.

The state’s online casinos, though, saw their numbers skyrocket. In March, for example, New Jersey operators collected a whopping $64.8 million to set a state record. Online poker also peaked, coming in at $5.1 million in April. Nearby Pennsylvania experienced a similar trend.

Sports betting handle in the Keystone State plummeted 65% from March to April. And while land-based casino revenue dropped 51% from February to March, online operators combined for a state-record $43.1 million in April. Of note, online poker drew $5.3 million to set a US record for single-month revenue — beating New Jersey’s April total.

Of course, these totals will not make up for the massive losses properties have taken in recent months, but obviously they ease the blow.

Experts weigh in on the need for online gambling expansion

For years, stakeholders and some lawmakers have advocated for online expansion. The common argument against this move has long been the fear of cannibalizing land-based casinos; the fear that a mobile product would prevent potential customers from visiting brick-and-mortars.

Really, though, digital platforms will create more footfall.

“If you produce a good online experience, they’re going to be much more associated to your brand … than if not,” Max Meltzer, COO of Kambi, said during a recent teleconference. “I just think there’s more of an educational piece, and I think COVID’s done a bit more of a kick-start to that.”

Yaniv Sherman, head of commercial development for the online gambling company 888 Holdings, told the Associated Press that the coronavirus pandemic “has highlighted the need for revenue diversification. “The future is around online growth, and it’s right now, not in 5 or 10 years. We hope to get additional states on board.”

Matt King, CEO of FanDuel, agreed with that sentiment and even went further with it.

“When legislatures return in earnest, we firmly believe the number of states ready to consider accelerating mobile sports betting and online gaming legislation to drive tax revenue will expand substantially,” King told ESPN. “And we also see the industry recognizing this is a unique moment in time, and working more collaboratively to set aside minor differences and get bills across the finish line. Across the board, it’s a time for pragmatism, and we see that producing a real opportunity for significantly expanding the map.”

More states could consider expanding online

Over the next two years, online expansion will accelerate, as estimated by Chris Krafcik, a managing director with Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. “Both activities provide states, whose economies have been massively disrupted by the outbreak, the opportunity to capture new revenue immediately in the form of upfront license fees, and over time through taxes.”

While sports betting and other forms of online gambling reflect a minute percentage of most states’ budgets, that small portion — as well as other forms of online gambling — is much preferred to nothing.

The perception of online gambling has shifted, assured Meltzer during a recent teleconference. The “real trailblazers” have shown an understanding that moving online will generate more revenue and even attract more foot traffic at land-based casinos.

“I think people should be grasping onto the fact that, either way, however you want to run it, there’s a huge opportunity to generate revenues,” Meltzer said. “If I was having a strong coffee with someone … I’d certainly recommend to consider the revenues, just to consider what it can do in terms of retaining staff and growing an environment to attract more customers into your casino. That’s regardless of size. Regardless of size, there’s a model out there that can work for you. That’s my strong belief.”

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A Look Back On How US Sports Betting Became Legal, Two Years Later

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Editor’s note: The federal ban on sports betting in the United States was struck down on May 14, 2018. This is a look back at how that day arrived in the US from a member of the sports betting industry.

Over the lifetime of the American republic, the Supreme Court of the United States, the court of last resort, has issued landmark rulings that have altered the course of US history.

The court makes fewer than 100 decisions every year that have sweeping effects on American life. Over generations, the court’s decisions have changed race relations for the better, empowered women, given the press freedom to operate, guaranteed a person’s right to expression, or reiterated that the president is not above the law.

So on a bright December morning in 2017, as I trotted up the steps of the Supreme Court, I couldn’t help but cast a wry smile as a herd of people I’d got to know over the previous three years joined me in line.

Sports betting gets its day in court

As we waited patiently to hear the verdict that was to change the sports and betting industries forever a familiar member of sports betting panelists anonymous called out to me “Hey Chris, where’s your tie…this is the Supreme Court of the United States of America you know…show some respect.”

His words of encouragement epitomized the welcome that I had received from fellow “industry stakeholders” when I started work at Betgenius back in late summer 2014. Back then, he agreed to meet me at his lavish law office on K Street and, as I sipped my bottled water, he chided “Why are you here? You guys must be seriously deluded if you think sports betting will be made legal here in the US. You ever heard of Sheldon Adelson?”

As I left the building, I recalled how Churchill once said that lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.

As the gates opened, we filed past the Corinthian columns through the Great Hall before taking a seat at the back of the courtroom. I remember looking around and seeing faces that had become familiar to me drawn from the sports leagues, the casinos, daily
fantasy sports, the American Gaming Association, New Jersey regulators, DC insiders as NCAA vs. Christie was about to play out the final act in front the nine Supreme Court justices.

The sports betting case: against the odds

For most of us, the stage had been set back in October 2017, when seemingly out of nowhere and against the Solicitor General’s recommendations, SCOTUS had granted New Jersey’s petition to hear the case – an act rarely taken by the Supreme Court.

The crux of the petition hinged upon whether the now 1992 federal law called the Professional and Amatuer Sports Protection Act (PASPA) — which had effectively outlawed sports betting in the US outside of Nevada — was unconstitutional.

So after a select number of attorneys were sworn into the Supreme Court Bar, the state of New Jersey’s attorney, Ted Olson, eventually stepped up to the plate to argue that PASPA violated the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution, which reserves to the states all rights not explicitly granted to the federal government such as gambling regulation.

Not being member of the legal profession myself, I watched the body language of the justices and line of questioning for any
signs as to how the court my rule on this and reflected on three years of my working life that led up to this moment.

Living with a federal ban

Up until that point the US leagues held the view that it was unlikely that PASPA would ever be overturned, a move that would that could clear the way for legalized sports betting in the United States.

Those were heady days when the UK and European operators, armed with colorful presentations, welcomed these visiting ambassadors with open arms. I will never forget the buttoned-up league representatives jaws drop as they watched a bet placed on their sport from a phone in the pub.

That said, in private the UK operators still remained skeptical that the US would ever be open for business and that the AGA’s estimated $150 billion black market was fantastical. Oftentimes we would be a lone voice in the UK industry telling the operators that “there be gold in that them thar hills” in the hopes that cynicism, that is often a trademark British trait, might begin to lift.

The cynicism extended to my work colleagues in the London who frequently asked “what does that bloke do” whilst jabbing a finger in my direction before muttering “oh he’s getting sports betting legalized in the US.”

Ready for a change

Caution prevailed as the leagues went quietly about their business to minimize any unwanted scrutiny from the US sports media in the run-up to the hearing. The leagues immersed themselves in a crash course in sports betting and trans-Atlantic fact-finding missions to gain a better understanding how the lucrative relationship between the teams and leagues and the sports betting industry functioned.

Equally on the other side of the pond, there were concerns that US sports might been seen to be acting in a hypocritical manner given their historic public opposition to sports wagering.

This initial phase of irrational exuberance or “shuttle diplomacy” was not unlike how countries often seek to strengthen political ties by building up trade deals. In the run-up to the December 2017 oral arguments, both the leagues and the operators amicably discussed areas of mutual commercial interest (such as lucrative sponsorship deals) while both sides agreed upon the rigorous enforcement of sports integrity measures.

The ban falls

However, on May 14, 2018, everything changed. The Supreme Court struck down PASPA as unconstitutional and the value of companies behind sportsbooks, casinos and daily fantasy sports soared within seconds of the verdict being handed down. The largest sports betting market in the world was now open for business and the gold rush had begun.

Today, we live in a very different world and both sports and betting face a hard six months to get back on track.

The next round in the sports betting battle has only just begun, and as we reflect on a transformational two years, the stakes are now higher than ever.

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Virginia Sports Betting Is Officially Legal After Delays

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Legalized Virginia sports betting is ready to colonize.

Lawmakers enacted into law a pair of bills, HB 896 and SB 384, that take effect July 1, thus legalizing regulated wagering in Old Dominion.

This comes after both the state House and Senate approved the bill in early March and then had the proposal sent back by Gov. Ralph Northam in mid-April.

Though a timeline remains unknown for an official launch, the Virginia Lottery Board must complete regulations by Sept. 15.

Virginia joins Washington as the first two states to enact legislation in 2020.

Virginia bill just beats the buzzer

Just to get the bill in front of the governor is something of a miracle.

Legislators were up against the clock and appeared at odds when it came to Virginia sports betting. Days waned to hours, which waned to minutes. The Senate and House discussed two main sports betting bills. However, neither chamber could agree on which to put forward.

Hence an 11th-hour conference between the two groups.

The House discarded a bill proposal during the final day of the session. A day later, however, essentially in extra innings, the two sides came to an agreement and in the final vote pushed the bill forward to the governor’s desk.

Northam then threw something of a curveball, developing several recommendations to be included in the bill. Lawmakers approved of those suggestions with little (or even any) disagreement, which one bill’s sponsor described as “largely administrative.”

Once legislators approved of the amended version, it became law.

What Virginia sports betting will look like

While regulators will still need to create a regulatory framework for Virginia sports betting, we know of some details of the future industry.

First, it appears that lawmakers will prohibit wagering on Virginia college sports. Any game involving an institution from Virginia or staged in the state will be off-limits.

Additionally, operators will not accept wagers on college prop bets.

That said, there will potentially be no shortage of Virginia sports betting options.

The Virginia Lottery, which will regulate the industry, will determine how many licenses to award operators based on what would best benefit the state. However, the lottery could potentially award up to 12 online-only licenses to bookmakers.

The state’s five casinos would receive preferred consideration for an online sports betting license, as would any professional sports team that relocates its facilities to Virginia. That last bit could be the state’s attempt to lure the Washington Redskins.

$250,000 check would provide a three-year license to an operator, which would have revenue taxed at a 15% clip.

Governor’s recommendations agreed upon by legislators

Among Northam’s suggestions in the bill was the inclusion of NASCAR facilities under the definition of a “major sports franchise.” As it stands, teams from pro leagues such as MLBNBA and NFL can offer legalized retail and online sports betting if they are located in the state.

The result is the authorization of Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway to accept regulated bets.

Additionally, while wagering on in-state colleges is prohibited, Northam recommended that operators be allowed to take bets on tournaments involving those colleges.

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In A Post-Pandemic World, Future Of Legal Sports Betting Is Bright

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The future of legal sports betting is bright – and mobile – in spite of society’s struggles, according to Daniel Kustelski, CEO and co-founder Chalkline Sports.

US betting and gaming will re-surface from the current COVID-19 crisis stronger than ever, and with a ‘hard shift’ towards mobile and online betting, according to Kustelski.

The industry faces an unprecedented challenge. Land-based casinos are closed and the country’s nascent online sportsbooks are betting on emergency rations, having been starved of live sports.

And yet Kustelski is backing his fellow operators and suppliers to weather the storm and use it to their advantage when it comes to betting legislation progress.

Changes for the legal betting industry

Kustelski also believes it will power a renewed drive towards online and mobile-based wagering which will have far-reaching implications for all concerned.

He said: “I know that we are in for some rough days ahead, but we will emerge stronger than before. I believe that there will be a material change to the gaming industry, with a hard shift to towards online and mobile.

“With much of our team having come from a land-based casino group, we’re acutely aware of the challenges that lay ahead. But I’d suggest that online and mobile options will be table stakes for any gaming bill in any state that has not yet regulated, and states with regulated gaming options will face pressure to open up mobile quickly.

“There will undoubtedly be small delays in legislative sessions, but overall, this will drive the industry forward. States will need revenues, the industry can provide jobs, and sports fans are going to find ways to engage with their favorite sports, teams and players.”

Chalkline Sports offers mobile and personalized live-odds competitions that engage sports bettors of all experience levels. In the absence of most live sports in recent weeks, they have run a series of free play games, including horse racing, Tom Brady’s free agency, and NBA 2K Players’ tournament.

Kustelski, who was general manager of sports betting at Sun International in South Africa before joining WatchandWager.com as chief operations officer, is now set to speak at the forthcoming ICE North America Digital, which takes place virtually on May 11-15.

Connecting with customers

He is also convinced that now is not the time for operators to quit their marketing efforts, despite sensitivities around the impact of the global pandemic.

He said: “The opportunity for you and your customers is different from what it was even one month ago, but sports fans crave distractions now more than ever, and when you work in sports betting, your job is to provide people with the engagement they love.

“We’ve always loved the Jeff Bezos quote about engaging with the end user: ‘The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Companies that have built a strong and authentic relationship with customers will find ways to communicate with them.

“Today is your company’s opportunity to tap into the seeds you’ve planted in the past and have an authentic conversation with your customers, even in the worst times.”

Kustelski believes those times will be made a whole lot better with the help of one of the industry’s leading bodies. He added: “One thing cannot be overstated: the strength of the American Gaming Association, and what they can do to help the industry. From the days of Frank Fahrenkopf and Jim Murren, to Tim Wilmott, Trevor Croker and Bill Miller — the AGA will get us back on track.”

For more information on ICE North America and to register for free, click here.

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In A Post-Pandemic World, Future Of Legal Sports Betting Is Bright

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The future of legal sports betting is bright – and mobile – in spite of society’s struggles, according to Daniel Kustelski, CEO and co-founder Chalkline Sports.

US betting and gaming will re-surface from the current COVID-19 crisis stronger than ever, and with a ‘hard shift’ towards mobile and online betting, according to Kustelski.

The industry faces an unprecedented challenge. Land-based casinos are closed and the country’s nascent online sportsbooks are betting on emergency rations, having been starved of live sports.

And yet Kustelski is backing his fellow operators and suppliers to weather the storm and use it to their advantage when it comes to betting legislation progress.

Changes for the legal betting industry

Kustelski also believes it will power a renewed drive towards online and mobile-based wagering which will have far-reaching implications for all concerned.

He said: “I know that we are in for some rough days ahead, but we will emerge stronger than before. I believe that there will be a material change to the gaming industry, with a hard shift to towards online and mobile.

“With much of our team having come from a land-based casino group, we’re acutely aware of the challenges that lay ahead. But I’d suggest that online and mobile options will be table stakes for any gaming bill in any state that has not yet regulated, and states with regulated gaming options will face pressure to open up mobile quickly.

“There will undoubtedly be small delays in legislative sessions, but overall, this will drive the industry forward. States will need revenues, the industry can provide jobs, and sports fans are going to find ways to engage with their favorite sports, teams and players.”

Chalkline Sports offers mobile and personalized live-odds competitions that engage sports bettors of all experience levels. In the absence of most live sports in recent weeks, they have run a series of free play games, including horse racing, Tom Brady’s free agency, and NBA 2K Players’ tournament.

Kustelski, who was general manager of sports betting at Sun International in South Africa before joining WatchandWager.com as chief operations officer, is now set to speak at the forthcoming ICE North America Digital, which takes place virtually on May 11-15.

Connecting with customers

He is also convinced that now is not the time for operators to quit their marketing efforts, despite sensitivities around the impact of the global pandemic.

He said: “The opportunity for you and your customers is different from what it was even one month ago, but sports fans crave distractions now more than ever, and when you work in sports betting, your job is to provide people with the engagement they love.

“We’ve always loved the Jeff Bezos quote about engaging with the end user: ‘The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Companies that have built a strong and authentic relationship with customers will find ways to communicate with them.

“Today is your company’s opportunity to tap into the seeds you’ve planted in the past and have an authentic conversation with your customers, even in the worst times.”

Kustelski believes those times will be made a whole lot better with the help of one of the industry’s leading bodies. He added: “One thing cannot be overstated: the strength of the American Gaming Association, and what they can do to help the industry. From the days of Frank Fahrenkopf and Jim Murren, to Tim Wilmott, Trevor Croker and Bill Miller — the AGA will get us back on track.”

For more information on ICE North America and to register for free, click here.

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Are New Lounges Proof The NFL Is Warming Up To Legal Betting?

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The saying goes that it is better to have the devil you know in your corner rather than the devil you don’t.

For professional sports leagues in North America, at least from their perspective, that means embracing the idea of legalized and state-sanction sports betting.

For decades, these leagues spoke against the idea of regulated wagering. Now, that industry is spreading like wildfire and these leagues are seemingly lowering their guards.

And now, one of the most anti-betting leagues in the country appears ready to accept legal wagering.

On to the Rewind:

Betting lounges coming to NFL stadiums

Could a league that has long opposed state-sanctioned sports betting be considering the integration of legalized sports betting in its stadiums?

Time will tell, but the NFL has given the OK for its franchises to house “betting lounges.”

Starting with the 2020 season, professional football stadiums can accept sponsorships from legal sports betting operators as well as transform areas of their venues into betting lounges.

While actual retail sportsbooks remain banned from stadiums, those bookmakers will have the opportunity to sponsor betting lounges, which will showcase legalized online betting options. This particular spot will represent “an adult, discreet area,” as NFL spokesman Chris Halpin told ESPN, complete with “a betting setup, but we’re not going to have betting windows.”

While bookmakers can sponsor franchises, advertising in the lower bowls of stadiums remains prohibited.

As NFL betting is hugely popular, it would make sense for the league to warm to the idea of legalized sports betting–and it looks like they are.

NJ online gambling power expands iGaming partnership

No online gambling operator in New Jersey has performed like Golden Nugget. It seems every month the license holder is setting state industry revenue records, including a whopping $21.2 million showing in January.

Golden Nugget is looking to get more out of its iGaming partner, as the operator announced an agreement to expand its deal with Scientific Games.

Specifically, the new agreement will help bolster Golden Nugget’s sports betting and iGaming markets.

Scientific Games will provide its “OpenGaming” system to assist with Golden Nugget’s online gambling presence. On top of that, Golden Nugget will leverage the “OpenSports” sports betting management serves from Don Best Sports.

While FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook continue to dominate the NJ sports betting world, this expanded agreement with Scientific Games could help Golden Nugget become more prominent. Since launching a year ago, Golden Nugget’s betting app has enjoyed a sports betting revenue increase of more than 1900%.

And the app has certainly helped: Some 79% of Golden Nugget’s wagering revenue came via online betting.

Ex-FanDuel employees going after Paddy Power

Nearly two years after Paddy Power Betfair completed its acquisition of FanDuel Sportsbook, former FanDuel employees have filed a lawsuit against private equity investors.

Filed in New York, the employees allege that investors bilked them out of their rightful stake in the company after FanDuel sold to Paddy Power.

FanDuel co-founder and former CEO Nigel Eccles is among over 100 former employees backing the lawsuit, which echoes a prior lawsuit that claimed private equity firms lowered the price of FanDuel to benefit themselves.

As detailed by Legal Sports Report, preferred shareholders with FanDuel, such as these private equity firms, were afforded the first $559 million in proceeds from the sale. Whatever was left would go to common shareholders, such as FanDuel founders and former employees. It also included a 40% share of the newly created FanDuel Group.

However, the lawsuit alleges that private equity firms kept FanDuel’s valuation to less than $559 million to guarantee they would receive all of that 40% stake.

Per the suit, when FanDuel and DraftKings reportedly entertained a merger proposal, the same investors valued FanDuel at $1.2 billion.

While no specific monetary damages are requested in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs should be entitled “hundreds of millions of dollars” that were taken from them during the sale.

That’s some payday.

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Best Legal US Online Gambling 2019 – Online Casino & Sports Betting

Sports betting is currently legal in these states: Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New York, Iowa, Arkansas, Indiana, Oregon, Colorado and Rhode Island. Currently, several other states have active bills and 2019 legislation in progress to create additional land-based and mobile sports betting options throughout the US. Here is a complete guide on where to bet. Plus, find out which states are in the process of legalization.