TMCnet Feature
November 06, 2020

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Online Casino Legislation in the US

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the US economy, from Washington and Wall Street to Hollywood and the Silicon Valley. Millions of people lost jobs, closed their businesses or suffered as a result of the pandemic.

Amid all these problems, online casinos are emerging as a much needed revenue source for the country. Not every state is interested in permitting the state. Some tried to legalize gambling but disruptions caused by COVID-19 made their efforts futile.

Still, some states have pushed back and forth until they passed legislations related to online gambling. With that in mind, here’s how COVID-19 impacted casino legislations in various states across the US.

The Current State of USA Online Casinos

Online casinos in the US can be divided into two: State-licensed and offshore casinos. So far, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are the only states that license online casinos.

Most states permit online sports betting but not online casinos. Or they allow land-based casinos but not Internet-based websites. has a comprehensive guide for the best online casinos for US players.  Legal casinos licensed in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

With that in mind, some states allow their residents to gamble at offshore casinos. These jurisdictions don’t out rightly authorize online casinos in their laws. But they don’t prohibit Internet-based gambling, which is why some operators from the UK and Malta accept American players.

Illinois Postpones License Issuance

Earlier this year, Illinois took a step in the right direction when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill to legalize online casinos. According to the new bill, Illinois would start by establishing land-based casinos before setting up gaming websites at a later date.

More than six months later, the Land of Lincoln is yet to issue licenses to prospective casino operators. And guess what? COVID-19 had something to do with it. Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Frutcher says Illinois has already selected five regions to launch new casinos. But it’s not yet clear when it will issue out licenses.

 That said, Illinois’ gambling bill stipulates that officials must provide new licenses within one year of the bill’s passing, which is April. Frutcher says the state is committed to expand casino gaming and that his board members are disappointed casino construction hasn’t started yet.

South Dakota Delayed Betting Campaigns

South Dakota plans to let residents decide on the future of online gambling through ballot voting this November. However, casino advocate Mike Rodman thinks not enough is being done to educate South Dakotans on the benefits of legalizing gambling.

Earlier in June, Deadwood Gaming Association member launched a campaign to persuade people to vote ‘Yes’ on gambling legalization. However, he was forced to cancel all his plans after COVID-19 worsened.

Although there’s hope South Dakotans will help pass gambling, legislators will have the final say on what will be included. Precisely, the will draft the rules on authorizing online casinos and sports betting sites and what games can be played.

Indiana Pushed for Legalization

Indiana started its journey to permit online gambling mid-2019. But after months of back and forth between legislators and the governor, the plans were pushed to 2020. Unfortunately, COVID-19 disrupted online sports betting legislation for roughly two months.

But after many states started to open their economies in May, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an online betting bill into law. Like many states, the explanation behind legalizing online gambling in the Hoosier State was inspired by a need to increase revenue sources.

Colorado Pushed Ahead

In Denver, not even a pandemic was going to get in the way of sports betting legalization. The state of Colorado had planned to legalize the industry on May 1 for nearly one year. So, when the time came, they had to choose between pushing ahead with plans or pushing back due to COVID-19.

Colorado chose the former. New sportsbooks opened doors as planned but there were no guests or sports to bet on. With time, though, sports came back and the state recorded $38.1M in betting handle by June.

 Washington DC Waited on Sports

The District of Washington DC started 2020 with plans to legalize online gambling by March 31. Then COVID-19 hit and sports leagues around the country cancelled games. As a response, Washington chose to wait on sports instead of authorizing a new betting app sans sports.

After a month of no sports action, DC launched Gambet DC in May to let residents bet on international sports. American sports league finally resumed in June and July. But DC’s only betting app was yet to record decent figures.

In fact, Gambet DC earned Washington just $263,000 in the months of May, June and July. That was a lot less than the projected $17M DC hoped to collect from betting by October.

Tennessee’s Delayed Law Finally Passed

Like Indiana, legislators in Tennessee began their bid to legalize online gaming in 2019. Their plan was to launch online-only sportsbook. And they fought to pass a legislation bill until they succeeded.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 got in their way of licensing sportsbooks and the process was postponed to November. Now, the Volunteer State won’t postpone the plans any further and will make online sports betting official on Nov 1.

According to one of the legislators, Rick Staples (News - Alert), TE will receive 20% of revenue from sportsbooks—an amount projected to be $1B per year. If sports gambling turns into a success, there are reports the Volunteer State will seek to permit online casinos too.

Virginia Pushed Ahead

Virginia seems to have learned a lesson from neighboring state West Virginia. Online gambling holds a lot of potential in developing an economy. And as a result, it was keen to authorize sports betting by April.

When COVID-19 became a problem, legislators disagreed on whether to go ahead with the plans or not. Some lawmakers also wanted to scrap the bill altogether, mainly due to differences with Gov. Ralph Northam.

However, they settled their differences and chose to implement the bill in April despite COVID-19 disruptions. The bill permits online betting but it prohibits wagering on college sports.

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