Three New US States are on The Cusp of Legalized Sport Betting

As 2020 has progressed, fueled by the lingering losses brought on by the pandemic’s effects, more US states have taken strides towards the creation of frameworks for legalized sports wagering in their respective territories.

Chief among these states are Virginia, Tennessee, and Michigan. These three states aim to join the 11 other states that allow legal, regulated mobile sports betting, bringing the total number up to only 14.

With all that said, let’s break down the current situation in each of these three states and understand how close they are to the metaphorical finish line.

Tennessee Sets a Definitive Schedule

Punters in the volunteer state can heave a sigh of relief and set their calendars to November 1st. This is because despite having postponed the launch of the various approved mobile betting operators many times, Tennessee’s gaming regulatory body has now given that date as the target day for mobile sports betting in the state.

Importantly, Tennessee’s mobile sports betting scene will, for now, have four household sportsbooks in FanDuel, BetMGM, DraftKings, and Action 24/7. Together, these platforms form the primary way bettors will be able to see games to wager on, compare odds, and place real-money bets in the state.

Interestingly, two facts make for a fascinating watch when talking about Tennessee’s fledgling mobile betting scene. First, the state is going to be a mobile-only state, meaning that getting licenses to operate mobile sportsbooks – for the four previously mentioend operators as well as future ones – isn’t tied to having land-based locations. In being a mobile-only state, Tennessee also will have no retail sportsbooks as well as no plans for the same in the future.

Secondly, the volunteer state has, in a move that is equal parts intriguing and controversial, mandated these sportsbook operators to maintain a 10% minimum hold percentage. In simple terms, this means that these operators are to generate at least 10% of all bet amounts as revenue.

Virginia’s Accelerated Timeline

As part of a sped-up timetable towards the initiation of mobile sports betting in the state, the state of Virginia, on October 15th, opened the application window for prospective vendors, suppliers, and sportsbook operators to register and apply in order to be a part of the state’s sports betting industry. In a completely transparent process, the state’s online lottery portal serves as the location for these applications.

Weirdly, the window is only going to last 15 days, as it closes on the 31st of October 2020 (or eight days from the time of this writing). Virginia has a projected rollout timetable of January 2021. By that time, it’s expected that concerned regulators will have reviewed all of the submitted applications and granted the resulting licenses to deserving operators and that the required infrastructure required to ensure a smooth rollout will have been put in place. Of course, the state could well beat this deadline but, at the very least, legal sports betting will be available in Virginia by January of next year.

There is a quota in place, though, as regulators have been given the leeway to authorize between 11 to 14 digital sportsbooks. To boot, five of these must be tethered to physically-located casinos. Many of the usual candidates like PointsBet, DraftKing, FanDuel, and William Hill are expected to put in applications for licenses.

Michigan Takes its Time

Of all the three states, Michigan seems to be slugging along on the path towards legal sports betting. It plans to launch the program in conjunction with the online casino games from commercial and tribal casinos in the state.

Michigan notable has a less definitive timeline and action strategy for sports betting than the other two. Experts estimate that state-approved operators could begin operations anytime from November 2020 to February 2021.

Notably, Michigan was able to get retail sports betting past the line as early as March this year – in the midst of a global pandemic. The fact that mobile sports betting hasn’t enjoyed the same degree of swift execution could either mean that the state wants to cross all the I’s and dot the T’s ahead of launch, or that it simply doesn’t attach a high priority to the activity.

Either way, legal sports betting should debut in Michigan in early 2021 (at the latest).


Our in-house expert for all things regulation, Jackson covers all major recent developments across US states relating to gambling laws & legislation.