Mobile sports betting is booming in some states while others are shunned

The stakes are higher in Ohio this year for March Madness — and not just because it’s the regional host of the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

For the first time, Ohio sports fans can click on a mobile app or touch kiosks in bars, restaurants or grocery stores and legally bet on the famous tournament.

KansasMassachusetts and Maryland are also new additions to the world of online sports betting following the latest NCAA tournament announcement. A total of 33 states and the District of Columbia now offer at least some form of sports betting — each vying for a stake in a multibillion-dollar enterprise that has grown rapidly since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to nearly five years ago.

Ohio started a boom when it launched sports betting in January. In the first month, Ohio bettors wagered more than $1.1 billion, generating more than $20 million in state tax revenue. That nearly tripled the amount of revenue that legislative analysts had predicted for the entire first six months of operation. But no one blames them for missing the mark.

“They had no way of knowing how big of a market we were going to have on day one,” said Jessica Franks, director of communications for the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

While some states started with limited in-person sports betting and gradually added mobile apps, Ohio started more aggressively — simultaneously launching multiple mobile options and retail locations. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is now proposing doubling the tax rate on sports betting.

New York has begun to allow sports betting in 2019, but only in person at four upstate casinos, limiting the market. Betting boomed when the state began allowing people to place sports bets via mobile phones and computers in January 2022. More than $1.6 billion was wagered in the first month through online sports betting, compared to just $15 million through in-person sports betting in casinos.

New York levies a 51% tax on mobile sports betting revenue — a much higher rate than other states — with most of the revenue going to education. Budget officials originally projected that mobile sports betting would generate $357 million in state tax revenue for fiscal year 2023, which ends March 31. Punters have overlooked this. Through February, mobile sports betting generated $661 million in tax revenue for education.

State Sen. Joseph Adabo Jr., who championed sports betting as chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Betting Committee, said even he was surprised by the results.

“There’s certainly a desire to do sports betting with a mobile device,” Adabo said.

New York and Ohio have large populations and numerous professional sports teams that help drive interest in sports betting.

Arkansas, a much smaller state with no major league sports teams, started in-person sports betting at casinos in July 2019. Things really took off last year when it launched mobile sports betting. State figures show that almost $3 million was wagered on this year’s Super Bowl — more than triple the annual amount before mobile betting was allowed.

State officials expect people from neighboring states to cross into Arkansas to bet on March Madness.

“We’d be surprised if March didn’t set a new monthly record for sports betting in the state,” said Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Other countries have also exceeded expectations for sports betting revenue.

Indiana sports betting taxes topped $31 million in fiscal year 2022 — well above the $12 million forecast when lawmakers authorized it in 2019. New Hampshire’s nearly $24 million in sports betting tax receipts easily doubled its original projection for the 2022 fiscal year.

But not every state makes as much money as expected from sports betting.

Legislative analysts in Montana, which only allows online sports betting in bars and casinos, expected $79 million in wagers last fiscal year, generating $4.8 million in state tax revenue. Actual results were about half that, $2.4 million in state tax revenue from about $45 million in sports betting.

Connecticut received less than $20 million in sports betting taxes in the first 16 months since wagering began in October 2021. Legislative analysts projected $21 million in its first full fiscal year.

Nationally, legal sports betting has generated more than $3 billion in state and federal taxes since a 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowing it, according to the American Gaming Association, the industry’s largest lobbying organization. It produces about three-quarters of what a fully mature market can ultimately expect.

The debate over sports betting has shifted from “Is this something we should consider?” to, “How do we do this in a way that best serves our constituents?” said Casey Clark, the association’s senior vice president.

The prospects for sports betting expanding into more countries this year look mixed.

The bill to legalize sports betting was passed by the Kentucky House and advanced Wednesday in the Senate but still faces a high hurdle. Similar bills have died in the Senate in the past, and this year’s version will need three-fifths of the vote to pass.

Supporters are also trying to push Minnesota’s sports betting bill again and various other conditions.

In Missouri, efforts to allow sports betting stalled in the Senate over whether to combine it with regulations for slot machine-style games that appear in stores.

In Georgia, sports betting accounts are at a standstill amid debate over whether a constitutional amendment is needed, how to spend potential tax revenue and whether to combine sports betting with the legalization of casinos and horse racing tracks.

The three most populous states – California, Texas and Florida – currently have no online sports betting. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which received exclusive state rights to conduct sports betting, has closed its online application in December 2021 after federal courts ruled they violated a rule requiring people to be physically present on tribal land when gambling.

After the costliest ballot battle in US history, California voters last November rejected two competing sports betting initiatives backed by Indian tribes and the gambling industry. Backers will likely try again, though it’s unclear when that might happen.


Lib reported from Jefferson City, Missouri. Associated Press writers Jeff Amy in Atlanta; Tom Davis in Indianapolis; Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas; Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida; Susan Hay in Hartford, Connecticut; Amy Beth Hanson in Helena, Montana; Steve Karnowski in St. Paul, Minnesota; Maysoon Khan in Albany, New York; Holly Ramer in Concord, New York; Bruce Schreiner in Frankfort, Kentucky; and Julie Carr Smith in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.


This story has been adjusted to reflect that sports betting produces about three-quarters of what would ultimately be expected from a fully mature market.

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