Sports Betting and Casinos Win Big in 2020 US Election

Sports Betting and Casinos Win Big in 2020 US Election

It was a memorable day. Record turnout in most states and nail-biting races at all levels of the US government made November 3 a day for the history books.

While ballot counters continue to tally the final votes in several states, and some election campaigns turn their efforts to lawsuits, the gambling industry in America can rest easy. It did extraordinarily well, with sports betting emerging as a clear winner, but casinos did well, too.

AGA Prefaced Election with Positive Outlook

The American Gaming Association has to walk a thin line in turbulent times, such as in 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic. The gambling industry advocacy organization must express the dire needs of land-based casinos and gambling operators across the United States while also touting a positive outlook for the future.

AGA President and CEO Bill Miller did that several weeks ago. He delivered his State of the Industry address at the virtual 2020 Global Gaming Expo (G2E).

He began his speech by acknowledging Covid-19, especially the two weeks in March that prompted government-mandated shutdowns across America.

–989 casinos closed

–1.8 million jobs impacted

–More than $2 billion lost in gaming tax revenue for states in first 4 months of shutdowns

However, Miller noted that more than 90% of America’s casinos had reopened by the end of October, albeit at reduced capacity in most parts of the country. Much of the factors necessary to bring the casino industry back to former profit points rely on safety protocols and, ultimately, a Covid-19 vaccine.

On the optimistic side, Miller provided some positive takeaways:

–September AGA survey shows more Americans with positive views of gaming than ever before at 50%.

–Gaming available in 44 states.

–Significant responsible gaming and coronavirus safety protocols ensure industry recovery.

–Gaming received federal relief for first time in 2020 via CARES Act, overcoming discriminatory treatment.

–Congressional Gaming Caucus revived last year offers bipartisan federal support.

–Progress in digital payment alternatives for land-based gaming.

Finally, Miller discussed the ever-expanding legal sports betting market in the US. As of October 2020 – before the election – he provided these stats:

–Sports betting legal in 22 states and Washington, D.C.

–Nearly $26 billion wagered on sporting events since May 2018

–Nearly $231 million generated in taxes since May 2018

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AGA Hails Success in 2020 Election

Numerous states put various types of betting and gambling initiatives on their ballots for the November 3 election, leaving decisions with the voters. The results were overwhelmingly positive.

–Three states legalized sports betting: Louisiana, Maryland, and South Dakota.

–Three states expanded casino gaming: Colorado, Nebraska, and Virginia.

That brought the totals for US gaming to new highs:

–Some form of gaming is legal in 44 states.

–More than 45% of American adults (115 million people) live in states with legal sports betting.

On behalf of the AGA, Miller stated, “As a result of successful ballot measures in six gaming states, more Americans will have access to much needed job opportunities, dedicated tax revenue, and safe, regulated entertainment options closer to home.”

Positive Sports Betting Election Results

As mentioned, three more states legalized sports betting per ballot measures last week. Let’s look at exactly what voters approved.


Louisiana voters needed to decide if sports wagering activities and operations should be permitted on a parish-by-parish basis. The Louisiana Senate approved S.130 earlier in 2020 to put the question on the ballot for each of the 64 parishes.

The vast majority of parishes approved the measure with 55 positive votes.


Voters in Maryland had the opportunity to legalize betting on sports and other events to raise revenue for education. While public support would still necessitate a legislative bill with specifics like tax rates and operator limitations, the first step was finding out where the public stood on the issue.

The bill passed with 66.63% approving the referendum.

South Dakota

Deadwood is the city in South Dakota that diverges from the rest of the state with regard to gambling. Lawmakers and residents of the state long ago decided that gambling would be restricted to one city and Native American tribal lands. The question for voters pertained to adding sports betting to the list of legal forms of gambling that currently includes table games and slot machines.

Voters approved sports betting with 58.47% checking the “yes” box.

More Casino Gambling in Three States

Sports betting may be the hot type of gambling at the moment – well, of the past 2.5 years – but states also garner revenue from traditional forms of gambling. And it is land-based gambling that is usually required to set the stage for gambling revenue. Sports betting is usually an add-on later.

Three states chose various forms of gambling expansion last week.


Prior to the election, Colorado allowed casino gambling in only a few select cities. Each city has a select few casinos but maintained a mandatory betting limit of $100. In addition, the cities were at the mercy of the state legislature for their overall gambling parameters. The bill before the voters provided the opportunity to allow the individual cities with casinos to hold their own referendums for increase betting limits – or remove limits altogether – and add new games to their repertoires.

Voters in Colorado approved the measure with 60.33% in favor.


Earlier this year, Nebraska State Senator Justin Wayne introduced a bill to declare poker and sports betting as games of skill. His goal was to exempt them from current anti-gambling laws in the state. That bill failed to move through the legislature.

Those Nebraskans that wanted more gambling options than just horse race betting took it to the ballot box. The initiative pertained to games of chance, however, but wanted them legalized at horse racing venues. A series of three initiatives linked together asked voters to approve games of chance – creating racinos – to be licensed by a newly-established gambling regulator.

Voters strongly supported this constitutional amendment and approved it with 64.98% of the vote.


Many cities in Virginia have been pushing for casino gambling for years. In March 2019, lawmakers for the Commonwealth of Virginia passed a bill with several components. The primary language of the bill authorized casino gambling via regulations set by the Virginia Lottery Board. The kicker was that only certain cities (Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Norfolk – could consider casinos, and those cities must offer referendums for its residents to approve.

Technically, the language of the bill left open the possibility of those cities also authorizing online casino games, including poker. That is likely to wait at least one year before asking people to vote on it.

For the November 2020 election, four of those cities did put the issue of land-based casino gambling on their respective ballots for the voters: Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. A positive vote would move the process forward.

Voters in all four cities said yes. Norfolk voters chose yes with 65% of the vote, Portsmouth with 67%, Danville with 69%, and Bristol by 71% of the vote.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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