Legal Sports Betting in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago? Outlook for 25 Biggest U.S. Cities

Jul 22, 2018 10:00 AM EDT
  • Sports bettors in New York City are in luck: Legal wagering isn't that far away at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, and it's likely coming to the state in 2019.
  • California, which has four of the 13 most populous U.S. cities, faces major hurdles in legalizing sports betting due to the state's tribal gaming agreements.
  • Illinois -- home of Chicago, the third-largest U.S. city -- has been one of the most active states in introducing sports betting legislation.

It’s been nearly two months since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey, putting sports betting legalization in the hands of state lawmakers for the first time since 1992. Ever since the floodgates opened, we’ve been inundated with one question more than any other: When will I be able to legally bet in my city?

We’re here to help. Below is a list of the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and the nearest legal sportsbook for residents. We’ve also broken down the timeline for legalization in each city into five categories:

  • Legal now
  • Fewer than 6 months
  • 6 months to 2 years
  • 2-10 years
  • Never (we only foresee this for Utah)

The categories are a rough estimate for when we reasonably believe that state lawmakers will make it possible for bettors to place a legal wager.

As additional states legalize sports betting, this tracker will be updated with new distances and ETAs on legal sports betting.

All data current as of July 21.


1. New York City, N.Y.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 6 months to 2 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J. (Opening July 14, online betting coming in September of 2018)

Distance: 11.5 miles (45-minute drive)

More info: In 2013, the state’s constituents voted in favor of adding four casinos in the upstate New York area. New York’s legislature debated six bills related to sports betting in 2018, but those efforts stalled in June.

There’s a strong likelihood additional bills will be put forward in 2019. While the Meadowlands in New Jersey remains a viable option for New York City bettors, once a bill officially gets passed in New York state, fans will presumably be able to bet via a mobile device or at any of the multiple off-track-betting locations that would pop up in and surrounding the city.


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: The Meadowlands


2. Los Angeles, Calif.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: William Hill Race & Sports Book at Primm Valley Resort and Casino in Primm, Nev.

Distance: 227 miles (3-hour, 45-minute drive)

More info: In 2017, California legislators introduced a bill that would amend the state constitution to allow sports wagering if the federal prohibition was lifted, but progress on the bill has stalled.

Legal sports betting in California faces meaningful challenges because of the years it would likely take to renegotiate tribal gaming agreements, as well as the need to amend the state’s constitution.

If sports betting is viewed like online poker in California, it will likely take several years for lawmakers to generate the support necessary to operationalize sports wagering.


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3. Chicago, Ill.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 6 months to 2 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Horseshoe Tunica Casino in Robinsonville, Miss.

Distance: 561 miles (8-hour, 24-minute drive)

More info: Illinois has been one of the most active states in terms of introducing sports-betting legislation in recent years. Representatives of some sports leagues have even voiced support for one bill in particular, which was introduced by former NFL player Napoleon Harris. (Not surprisingly the bill included integrity fees for sports leagues.)

Despite the comparatively large number of bills being introduced, there were wide discrepancies in what each one would authorize. Some bills would limit wagering to casinos, while others included mobile wagering. The Chicago area does have casinos within driving distance, but bettors would almost certainly prefer the ability to wager from their phones.


4. Houston, Texas

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Harrah’s in Biloxi, Miss.

Distance: 416 miles (6-hour, 23-minute drive)

More info: Sports betting in Texas is a long way from reality. State legislators have not introduced a bill to legalize it in recent years, and it is unclear if there is anything that will change that in the near future.

Sports bettors in Texas are likely better off hoping for movement in Louisiana or Oklahoma, which would significantly cut down the drive to the nearest legal destination. While Texas does have horse and dog racing, which would be a logical site for sports betting, wagering expansion in Texas has not been popular historically.


Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports


5. Philadelphia, Pa.

Legal yet? Yes, but nowhere to place a bet

ETA on being able to bet in state: Less than 6 months

Closest legal U.S. location: Delaware Park Horse Racing and Slots in Wilmington, Del.

Distance: 41.4 miles (49-minute drive)

More info: Back in 2017, Pennsylvania legalized sports betting in the event that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was invalidated. In the time since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, the state Gaming Control Board has begun to accept licenses from applicants. In addition to the ability for licensees to offer online wagering, casino applicants will also be able to apply to open a physical sportsbook.

Philadelphia is already home to the SugarHouse Casino, and construction is underway on a second Philly casino, both of which would be prime locations for sportsbooks. Until regulators begin issuing licenses, bettors will need to cross over into Delaware or New Jersey to wager legally.


6. Phoenix, Ariz.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Tropicana Laughlin Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nev.

Distance: 227 miles (3-hour, 36-minute drive)

More info: Legal sports betting in the Phoenix area appears to be a distant dream at the moment, as state legislators have not introduced a bill in recent terms.

While some Arizona lawmakers have cited sports betting’s revenue potential, one major obstacle would be for the state to negotiate with the Native American tribes, which operate Arizona’s 23 casinos, and determine how sports betting fits within existing tribal compacts. The Phoenix area is also home to an established horse-racing industry, which would serve as another possible site for sportsbooks.


Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Deandre Ayton.


7. San Antonio, Texas

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Harrah’s in Biloxi, Miss.

Distance: 612 miles (8-hour, 57-minute drive)

More info: See above.


8. San Diego, Calif.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2 -10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Avi Resort and Casino in Laughlin, Nev.

Distance: 328 miles (4-hour, 56-minute drive)

More info: See above.


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9. Dallas, Texas

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Horseshoe Tunica Casino in Robinsonville, Miss.

Distance: 481 miles (7-hour, 21-minute drive)

More info: See above.


10. San Jose, Calif.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nev.

Distance: 223 miles (3-hour, 54-minute drive)

More info: See above.


11. Austin, Texas

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Harrah’s in Biloxi, Miss.

Distance: 577 miles (8-hour, 44-minute drive)

More info: See above.


12. Jacksonville, Fla.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Miss.

Distance: 466 miles (6-hour, 6-minute drive)

More info: Floridians are likely several years away from legally betting on sports at home. Florida’s casino infrastructure is tightly controlled by gaming compacts between tribal governments and the state; modifications often take months, sometimes years, of negotiations. As a result, it’s unlikely that a snap vote in the Florida legislature would bring betting to the Sunshine State.

The silver lining? Mississippi will begin taking legal bets soon, and Biloxi is about half the distance of Harrington, Del. (previously the closest legal destination), and there are fewer tolls.


Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Leonard Fournette.


13. San Francisco, Calif.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nev.

Distance: 190 miles (3-hour, 26-minute drive)

More info: See above.


14. Indianapolis, Ind.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location:  Mardi Gras Casino and Resort, Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Distance: 301 miles (4-hour, 47-minute drive)

More info: Indiana introduced bills in both its House and Senate during the 2018 session that would have seen the state poised for legal betting with the elimination of PASPA, but neither passed. An integrity fee for the sports leagues and a lack of mobile betting were major obstacles.

Indiana is likely to pass sports betting in the future, but there are some kinks to iron out. Hoosiers will likely be able to cross over to Michigan and bet soon or drive to West Virginia, which will launch its operation in time for football season.


15. Columbus, Ohio

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Mardi Gras Casino and Resort, Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Distance: 151 miles (2-hour, 39-minute drive)

More info: Ohio legislators have not introduced a bill in recent years to legalize sports betting, but there has been some chatter about a ballot initiative in 2019, which would propose a change to the state constitution.

Factors that may work in Ohio’s favor are that neighboring states Pennsylvania and West Virginia have voted in favor of sports betting, potentially leaving Ohio late to the party. Another potential factor would be the presence of Penn National, which operates two Ohio casinos and played a significant role in getting sports betting legalized in Pennsylvania. It may bring that experience to lobby Ohio legislators.


Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports.


16. Fort Worth, Texas

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Horseshoe Tunica Casino in Robinsonville, Miss.

Distance: 513 miles (8-hour, 13-minute drive)

More info: See above.


17. Charlotte, N.C.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: The Greenbrier, White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia

Distance: 225 miles (4-hour, 6-minute drive)

More info: North Carolina has been quiet since May 14, when the Supreme Court turned the power to legalize sports betting over to the states. That isn’t surprising: The state has typically shied away from any sort of gambling expansion.

North Carolina has one casino and a lottery for gaming operations, leaving it lagging behind other states from an infrastructure perspective. It’s unlikely it will be the first mover in the region, but legislators may feel pressure if neighboring Virginia or South Carolina takes a step toward legalization. The good news for North Carolina bettors is they will soon only have to travel to West Virginia to place a bet.


18. Seattle, Wash.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Cactus Petes Resort Casino in Jackpot, Nev.

Distance: 668 miles (10-hour, 15-minute drive)

More info: Since 1973, sports betting in Washington State has been restricted to 100-square sports pool boards. Washington has a history of enforcing some of the toughest anti-sports gambling laws in the country.

Changing those laws in Washington will require either two-thirds of the legislature voting in favor or for citizens to vote to offer sports betting in a referendum. Neither of those two things will happen quickly.

Washington does have horse racing and casinos, but it’s likely residents would not be satisfied with anything short of mobile betting.


Suchat Pederson/The News Journal via USA TODAY NETWORK.


19. Denver, Colo.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Peppermill Wendover Hotel and Casino in Wendover, Nev.

Distance: 618 miles (9-hour, 57-minute drive)

More info: Colorado lawmakers did not initiate any sports-betting legislation during the 2018 session, but considering the state has the most advanced marijuana industry in the country, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that change in coming years.

Colorado will require a piece of legislation and a referendum of state voters to expand gambling offerings. While these are formidable obstacles, Colorado has been progressive in this area since the legalization of casinos in 1991.

While there are no casinos in the state’s largest city, Denver, it does have a horse-racing track in the metro area that could service sports bettors, should voters approve expanded wagering.


20. El Paso, Texas

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Sports Betting Parlour at the Hoover Dam Lodge in Boulder City, Nev.

Distance: 669 miles (10-hour, 23-minute drive)

More info: See above.


21. Detroit, Mich.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 6 months to 2 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Mardi Gras Casino and Resort, Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Distance: 351 miles (5 hour, 52-minute drive)

More info: Michigan introduced a variety of bills in recent years that would legalize sports betting in various forms, including one that would legalize online sports betting.

The Michigan bills face opposition from some tribal interests in the state that oppose expanded gaming. There are also questions regarding whether bills moving forward will include an integrity fee or a royalty for the sports leagues. Those two factors are likely the biggest hurdles to bringing sportsbooks to Detroit’s revitalized riverfront, as well as residents’ phones.


22. Washington, D.C.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Harrington Raceway & Casino in Harrington Del.

Distance: 86.9 miles (2-hour, 9-minute drive)

More info: Washington, D.C. residents looking to hit a sportsbook for the afternoon are luckier than most in the country, with a relatively short drive over into Delaware.

If legalized sports betting is coming to the D.C. market, it is not likely to happen overnight. The capital city does not have a casino within its limits, but there’s a casino just one mile outside the District in Maryland.

Any change to D.C. laws would need congressional approval, which creates an additional obstacle for district legislators. The lack of casino infrastructure would likely mean that sportsbook-style betting is years off, but mobile or other offerings could surface first.


Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports.


23. Boston, Mass.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 6 months to 2 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J.

Distance: 218 miles (3-hour, 57-minute drive)

More info: Massachusetts introduced casino gaming in 2011 after much consultation and deliberation. Sports betting legalization is likely to follow a similar path. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission issued a white paper in 2018 with a framework for eventually legalizing sports betting in the Commonwealth.

The good news for Massachusetts residents is that the state legislature has been active in studying the issue and laying some of the groundwork. Efforts are likely to continue in coming months, but considering the relative newness of the casino industry and the regulatory framework for daily fantasy sports in the state, expect prominent discussions about online betting in the future.


24. Memphis, Tenn.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Horseshoe Tunica Casino in Robinsonville, Miss.

Distance: 32 miles (43-minute drive)

More info: Tennessee has been largely quiet on the sports betting legalization front, aside from a few state lawmakers discussing potentially introducing a bill in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision. State lawmakers face an uphill battle in this very conservative state.

Tennessee has no casinos, and has only a lottery, some charitable gaming and fantasy sports as authorized gambling offerings. With that being said, lawmakers did pass a fantasy sports law in 2016, which should give sports bettors a glimmer of hope. Expect to see other states develop their sports-betting industries further before Tennessee enters the fold.


25. Nashville, Tenn.

Legal yet? No

ETA on becoming legal: 2-10 years

Closest legal U.S. location: Horseshoe Tunica Casino in Robinsonville, Miss.

Distance: 240 miles (3-hour, 46-minute drive)

More info: See above.

John Holden is an academic.


More Sports Betting Legalization Coverage

Credit:

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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