A Guide to Gambling in the South for 2024
These are changing times for the United States and gambling. Many visitors to the country in the past have found themselves blindsided by just how strict the prohibitions were on both online and offline gambling.
It was a federal matter and a blanket ban existed across the U.S., with very minor exceptions. That all started to change following a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2018 that this was unconstitutional and that individual states should be able to pass their own preferred gambling laws.
Legalization in 38 of the 50 states has resulted, along with a lot of additional tax revenues for those states where it is lawful. There has always been a bit of a split between the Southern and Northern parts of the country in terms of their attitudes to the subject, though.
We might expect that to be reflected more clearly now that the choice belongs to the states.
High Stakes in the South
The work to overturn the federal legislation was driven by New Jersey, which is home to the gambling center of Atlantic City. Many of the states that followed in their wake were also Northern ones, including New York, Illinois, Iowa and Maine. That seems to fit with the conservative image of the Deep South, but the reality is that many Southern states are also now permitting gambling. Let’s take a look at some of these states individually.
Alabama is one of the Southern states holding out against the tide of legalization. There is very limited gambling here, including horse and dog racing. It should be noted that broader legalization is currently under discussion though, so this situation may change soon.
There are multiple forms of gambling permitted in this Southern state, ranging from land-based casinos to all forms of sports betting. ESPN Bet, available in Louisiana, is offering a bonus of $150 that people in the Bayou State can access via a code, as part of a statewide linkup with the sports broadcaster. This is an example of the ways in which states are reaping economic benefits from passing their own legislation.
Florida has always been regarded as one of the more liberal states in the South, so the continued restrictions on gambling there are somewhat surprising. Online sports betting is legal, but there is a monopoly in favor of one betting app, while online casino gaming is still illegal. There are lawful tribal casinos that people can play at in the Sunshine State, though.
Arkansas has already made the move to legalize sports betting and casino gaming, both on and offline. This happened through a series of ballots approved by local voters that started in 2018 and culminated in 2022. The state is now home to four casinos and also boasts both online and offline sports betting outlets.
Kentucky has legalized betting on sports but, as of this year, casino gaming for real money remains against the law here. It is possible to bet on sports either online or offline within the state, but there is no current sign of casino gambling restrictions being lifted.
Last year, North Carolina voted to make online sports betting legal, and the legislation is now law. It has not yet come into effect, but it is only a matter of time before people can place bets over the internet as well as at land-based sportsbooks.
South Carolina continues to prohibit both online and in-person gambling for now. Legislation for the legalization of sports betting has been put forward unsuccessfully, but social casinos where no real money is involved are permitted.
Gambling laws in Texas are very strict and do not allow for any real money sports betting or casino gaming. All bids to change that have failed so far, with Texas being an example of why people view the South as more religious and less permissive than the North.
The Lone Star State is rivaled by Georgia in its puritan resistance to gambling. Casinos and sportsbooks—in both their real-world and online forms—are completely illegal across the state. The only gambling allowed is lotteries managed by the state.
Mississippi conjures up images of rakish riverboat gamblers, so visitors may be disappointed to learn that most betting is banned. Online casino games like slots are illegal, but there are some land-based casinos. Betting on sport is also prohibited, although the passing of a bill addressing guidelines for this indicates that the legal situation may change before long.
The reality of placing a bet in the South is that it varies by state, much like its neighbors to the North.