Can I Legally Bet on March Madness?
March 12, 2012 10:43 PM   Subscribe

Sports betting in the USA, specifically March Madness, is it legal?

I was looking over 538's March Madness picks and thought it might be fun to place a dollar on each one according to his recommendations and see how the simulation plays.

Where I come from originally sports betting is unquestionably legal and licensed by the state. However this doesn't appear to be the case in the US? Or is it legal to bet on sports in Nevada? Can a resident of California bet online on sports via a Nevada casino if sports betting is legal in Nevada? Would I have to go for a pilgrimage up to Tahoe for each round?

Advice out there in Google land appears to be murky at best so Californian residents with experience in sports betting I'd appreciate your wisdom.
posted by Talez to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can do this in Vegas legally.
posted by dfriedman at 10:59 PM on March 12, 2012

Or Tahoe. Doesn't matter if you're a California resident or a Florida resident or even if you're a non-citizen.
posted by dfriedman at 11:00 PM on March 12, 2012

If by "legal" you mean a DA will be unlikely to prosecute you, then I'd say its legal* to have Duke to be your 2012 champ.

*Unless, of course, your local DA is a Wildcat or Tar Heel.
posted by karathrace at 11:04 PM on March 12, 2012

I don't think so. Specifically inter-state sports betting appears to be illegal. Cross the border and you're fine though.
posted by Garm at 11:05 PM on March 12, 2012

More info:
posted by dfriedman at 11:12 PM on March 12, 2012

Can a resident of California bet online on sports via a Nevada casino if sports betting is legal in Nevada?

That's interstate commerce, which means that federal law applies, and federal law isn't big on gambling. (One reading is that while it's probably technically legal to make bets online, it's very much illegal to run a business that accepts those bets, or facilitate the transfer of money for those bets, or even be an ISP providing bandwidth for those bets to be placed.)

There are five casinos in Stateline, NV, all within spitting distance of the, um, state line.
posted by holgate at 11:12 PM on March 12, 2012

You can not legally bet on sports in California. You can in Nevada. You may find that sportsbooks in Nevada will have a minimum bet that is greater than $1 per game. You should also be aware that betting on sports may not work the way you think it does. Let's say you want to bet on Duke to beat Lehigh. If you bet on the spread Duke will have to win by 13 points or more in order for you to win. You get paid at -110, which means you bet $110 to win $100 (you get paid less than you wager when you win, in other words). If you don't want to consider the point spread and just pick the winning team, you have to bet on the moneyline where the different strengths of the teams are represented by the payoff odds. In that case Duke pays roughly -1200, which means that if you bet $120, you would win $10 if you are right and lose $120 if you are wrong. On the other hand, if you liked Lehigh, you'd get +800, which means if you bet $10, you'd win $80 if Lehigh should somehow pull off the upset.

As an aside, office pools are generally illegal in most states (including California). Fortunately, I don't think anyone has ever been prosecuted for it.
posted by Lame_username at 12:37 AM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Thanks very much guys. Looks like I'd have to go across state lines to bet.

Vegas odds are all very confusing too so thanks for explaining that, lame_username.
posted by Talez at 7:54 AM on March 13, 2012

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