California, Texas and Florida Having Huge Impact on United States Sports Betting Access

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jan 26, 2023 07:00 PM
California, Texas and Florida Having Huge Impact on United States Sports Betting Access

Back in 2018, the United States overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a law from 1992 that essentially prohibited sports betting across the country. This opened the door for every state to decide, on its own, whether to legalize wagers on sporting events. Since then, United States sports betting access has increased tenfold.

Heading into February 2023, more than half of the country has legalized some form of sports betting—in-person wagering, online gambling or both. To be more exact, 32 states now allow on-site wagering, with a vast many of them also permitting online sports betting. What's more, this number is on the verge of increasing to 35. Massachusetts, Nebraska and Maine all have approved legal sports betting and are waiting on official rollout dates.

And yet, while 70 percent of the USA's states have legal sports betting, less than half of the total country's population has access to it. How is that possible? Because there is no sports betting in California...and no sports betting in Texas...and no longer sports betting in Florida, either.

Can three states really have that much of an impact on sports betting access throughout the United States? Absolutely. California, Texas and Florida represent three of the four biggest sports betting markets in the United States. (New York is the fourth and final one and has already legalized sports betting.) "According to Gaming Today, although 44 percent of the American population now has access to legal mobile sports betting, these three very big prizes comprise 28 percent of Americans alone." 

That explains why less than half of the USA's population actually has the ability to bet on sports online. And while many believe this will shift in time, the question remains: When? And why hasn't legal sports betting come to Florida, California and Texas just yet? And above all, which state will change their tune first: Texas, Florida or California?

Why California, Florida and Texas Have All Rebuffed Legal Sports Betting

Let's go through the primary holdups facing each of these would-be Goliath sports betting markets, shall we?

California sports betting died at the polls in November 2022 when both of the state's sports betting bills failed to garner voter support. It was initially considered a formality that one of them would pass. As multiple outlets reported, though, voter sentiment shifted due to an over-saturation from advertising. It didn't help the future of sports betting that officials from both political sports parties were most outspoken against the online wagering bill (known as Proposition 27).

The Sunshine State finds itself in a different situation altogether. Florida sports betting was actually legalized and implemented in 2021. Before the year closed out, however, a District Court judge ruled the exclusive gaming compact agreed upon between the state and the Seminole Tribe violated the Indiana Regulatory Gaming Act. The matter is now being deliberated by the U.S. Court of Appeals, and while the federal government has thrown their support behind the original gaming compact, no one's quite sure whether the 2021 ruling will be overturned.

Texas sports betting, meanwhile, has never really come close to legalization. Every year, we get a steady stream of reporting that says an increasing number of officials want to push sports betting toward the finish line. Then, inevitably, any sports betting bill on the table gets rejected. Texas is so far following the same cycle in 2023. There's optimism that sports betting in Texas will be legalized this year, but we've heard that refrain before.

United States Sports Betting Access Hinges on California, Florida and Texas Shifting Their Stances, But Who Will Cave First?

For United States sports betting access to reach more than half of the total population, at least one of California, Florida and Texas must join the legal wagering ranks. The good news? Most consider their eventual entry into legal sports betting a formality. The bad news? There is no timeline for any of these states to do so.

That makes it difficult to decide who will legalize sports betting first. That, in turn, has to be frustrating for residents in each state. On the bright side, they are not without alternatives. Many of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks allow people from California, Florida and Texas to set up and service accounts. Still, it would be nice to know which state will be the first to follow the rest of the country's lead.

Right now, it does not seem like it'll be California. Both of their competing sports betting bills just suffered major losses, and the opposing sides of the argument (tribes and corporate sportsbooks) have so far been unwilling to entertain compromises that would create some semblance of uniformity. Even if they do come together, the earliest California can vote on another sports betting bill is November 2024.

Texas is in the same boat. If this is the year their sports betting bill makes it through the House of Representatives and Senate, it must still be put to vote on the November 2024 ballot.

This renders Florida the answer by default. The U.S. Court of Appeals simply needs to uphold the Seminole Tribe's gaming compact and then sports betting is free to resume almost immediately. So, at this moment, Florida is the only one of these three that can have sports betting up and running before 2024 and increase United States sports betting access past the 50 percent-of-the-population threshold.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that meets all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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