The state of Illinois first made sports betting legal in 2019, and since the first bet was placed this year, a number of other states have also begun going through the process of legalizing the practice. The overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which is more commonly known as PASPA, is the reason why so many states are now able to even consider making this move: prior to that, the issue was not one devolved to states under the doctrine of “states’ rights”.
As the Illinois legalization leads the way, though, there are plenty of other states that could well be next to make the move. While the likes of New Jersey are already streets ahead when it comes to the legalization of sports betting, others are years and years behind. This article will explore which states, both near to Illinois and far from it, are likely to be next on the list when it comes to the legalization of sports betting.
The Midwest region in which Illinois is situated has had a peculiar experience when it comes to the debate over whether to make sports betting legal or not. In some ways, Illinois is the odd one out. It is, of course, home to Chicago, which is the US’ third largest city – and the existence of which is likely to have had a significant influence on the decision to legalize sports betting, given that big cities are often a harbinger of progress and choice.
But for other states in the region, which do not have a city of this size on their doorstep, the situation is somewhat different. In the state of Missouri, for example, the local government there has made several attempts to legalize sports betting – but to no avail. The political infrastructure to achieve this, at least, is definitely there. Committees have been formed to analyze the problems facing a potential legalization, for example, and several bills have attempted to pass the local legislature.
But for various reasons, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the move has not managed to get off the ground. This is a story that has been replicated across many states that are currently grappling with the pandemic: non-essential developments such as these are being pushed off the legislative agenda indefinitely, meaning that it’s somewhat hard to predict which states will be the next to legalize sports gambling and which ones won’t. And while other Illinois neighbors such as Iowa have fared slightly better and managed to get a bill through before the pandemic hit, it’s still unclear exactly when the whole of the Midwest will be ready to tolerate sports betting.
The issue of whether to legalize sports betting is salient not just in Illinois and the Midwest but across the country. For many states, the issue is now either on the desks of governors and legislators or on the ballot papers of citizens. And with a federal election coming up in November, there is in many ways no better time for state governments to put the question of sports gambling directly to the voters.
A number of states will be in this position when November rolls around. One such state is California, which will be holding a statewide ballot alongside November’s election. There, the issue focuses in particular on whether casino or so-called “card rooms”, which filter out non-card gambling games at the moment, will benefit the most. The latter, under the proposal going to the voters, will not be permitted to operate sports betting.
Some states aren’t quite at the point where they can get the question on the ballot paper, but are still making significant progress. One such state is Florida, where the process has largely happened away from public scrutiny. As is the case in California, gambling in the state is linked to the existence of tribal communities that often provide the facilities – meaning that a lot of negotiations in the Sunshine State are going on away from public view.
Illinois’ legalization of sports betting has been a real boon for the state, especially given that it has boosted individual freedom to participate in the ever-changing landscape of online entertainment. And with states such as California potentially likely to follow suit in the coming months, it’s clearly also the case that Illinois has blazed a trail for the campaign to give sports gamblers the right to enjoy a wager or two.
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