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Recapping Legal Sports Betting Expansion in 2021




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New Year’s Day marked the start of 2022 in the rapidly expanding US legal sports betting industry. The previous year was one of the biggest and best for the industry as a whole. Yet, the upcoming year might have the biggest potential.

New Jersey sportsbooks led the way with the largest sports betting handle in 2021. The Garden State topped the $1 billion mark in betting volume in multiple months. However, a number of new entries in the marketplace grabbed some industry headlines of their own.

All told, 11 different states went live with some form of legal sports betting in 2021.

States Going Live in Early 2021

The state of Virginia got the ball rolling in late January when Virginia sportsbooks were launched. This is one of the few states that only offers legal sports betting through mobile sportsbook apps.

Michigan expanded its industry with the launch of mobile sports betting in January of 2021. Retail sports betting made its debut in March of 2020. This state expanded quickly to become one of the biggest legal sports betting markets in the US with various Michigan sportsbooks.

North Carolina offers limited gaming options at a few tribal casinos. Sports betting at retail books in tribal casinos became legal in March of last year. However, there has been little movement towards mobile betting.

September Launches

Just about every state that legalized sports betting in 2020 or early 2021 targeted September as their startup timeframe. They were all looking to capitalize on the new football season. Only four states among that group were able to work through the regulatory process to meet that goal.

At the top of the list were Arizona sportsbooks with a full complement of legal sports betting options. The state worked through the process in just five months to go live on Sept. 9. This launch included both retail and mobile sports betting.

Two states going live in September with legal retail sports betting only were South Dakota and Washington.

Wyoming put legal sports betting on the fast track for an early September launch after the proper legislation was signed into law in April. This is another state that only offers Wyoming sportsbooks through a mobile platform in the absence of land-based casinos.

States Beating the Dec. 31 Deadline

There was a flurry of activity late in the year with four more states joining the list before the end of 2021.

The most successful fall launch was in Connecticut. The state’s two casinos went live on Sept. 30 with retail Connecticut sportsbooks. DraftKings, FanDuel and the Connecticut Lottery had their mobile betting platforms up and running in mid-October.

Wisconsin got into the game with a retail sportsbook at Oneida Casino. This tribal casino is located near the Green Bay airport and a major attraction for diehard Packers’ fans.

Both Maryland and Louisiana have the potential to become major sports betting markets. Each state was able to get its retail sector up and running in 2021 through existing land-based casinos.

They continue to work through the process to go live with legal online betting to broaden the mix. Hopefully, that should take place before this year’s NFL Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 13.