So the 2026 World Cup, a joint effort between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, isn’t as far off as it seems.
Eleven American venues in nine states will host games in the most popular and most lucrative sports betting event on Earth. Sports tourists will pour into the United States, competing for tickets with an increasingly interested domestic fanbase.
And they will make bets on the games. Lots and lots of bets. One way or another.
They’ll probably make some of those bets back home before they land in North America. But they’ll likely want to keep making bets as the tournament progresses.
When the licensed sports betting apps they patronize in their home countries are geo-blocked in the United States, they will have three options if they’re in a state where sports betting is legal:
- Download an app from a company licensed here and learn — barring some major regulatory changes over the next four years — that a Social Security number or other proof of citizenship will almost certainly be necessary to get an American account. An Australian PointsBet account, for example, won’t work in the United States, the company confirmed.
- Try an illegal offshore sportsbook.
- Find a retail sportsbook.
This might not be a terrible result for Europeans, who retain an affinity for sportsbooks and kiosks as Americans place in excess of 90% of their wagers on mobile devices or online.
Maybe retail sportsbooks will have found their niche in an American sports betting marketplace, by then almost a decade old.
No matter, fans and would-be bettors are going to need to hope their national team is, as of right now, placed in Boston, East Rutherford, N.J./New York City, Philadelphia, or Seattle.
- Massachusetts legalized sports betting this year and is scheduled to launch retail and online/mobile wagering in 2023. Gillette Stadium in Foxborough will host games.
- Mobile and retail sports betting are available in New Jersey, where the 2026 World Cup games will be played, and in New York, where fans are likely to spend most of their time away from MetLife Stadium.
- Sports betting is legal and available online and through mobile in Pennsylvania, with multiple retail options also available near Lincoln Financial Field.
- Retail sports betting is underway in Washington tribal casinos, which are a hefty hike from metro Seattle and Lumen Field.
Just four of the 11 American venues are in states with legal sports betting.
Most US World Cup Host States are Without Legal Sports Betting
Six 2026 World Cup venues in four states comprising 31% of the US population have not legalized sports betting.
- California: SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles; Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco Bay Area
- Georgia: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
- Florida: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami (Miami Gardens)
- Texas: AT&T Stadium, Dallas; NRG Stadium, Houston
Granted, there’s time. But legalizing and implementing sports betting takes time.
Crucially, California voters roundly rebuked two attempts at legalizing sports betting on Nov. 8. Most industry observers don’t foresee another effort being launched in a state weary of the process until 2024 at the earliest.
Pro sports teams in Georgia have lamented lost revenue streams without legal wagering but have not generated much traction and lost an ally when Democrat Stacey Abrams was defeated in her run for governor.
The compact that briefly allowed the Seminole Tribe, through its Hard Rock Digital brand, to offer sports betting in Florida is still mired in a federal appeals court, and observers tenuously see 2025 as a possibility.
Gambling-averse Texas will be an even tougher slog given that the state legislature meets only in odd-numbered years, but it has two of those coming before World Cup games arrive in Dallas and Houston.
Missouri, which will host the World Cup in Kansas City, could be the most likely of the currently fallow sports betting field to legalize next. There has been movement within the state, and Kansas City residents demonstrated an appetite for betting on NFL games in neighboring Kansas, which went live this fall.
2018 World Cup Drew Massive Global Betting Interest
Why does this matter? Money. Lots of it.
A study conducted by FIFA, the world soccer governing body, in conjunction with Sportradar concluded that the 2018 World Cup in Russia drew $143 billion in legal wagers worldwide.
As a point of context: $153 billion has been wagered legally in commercial sportsbooks in 33 American jurisdictions since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, according to data aggregated by Gaming Today.
An average of $2.2 billion was wagered on each match in 2018, and the number of games will mushroom from 64 to 80 in 2026 as the field expands from 32 to 48. Sixty of those games will be played in the United States.
And the fact that the American and Mexican squads will automatically qualify as co-hosts should greatly please domestic sportsbooks cashing in on the patriotism of existing customers.
“The World Cup is one of the premier sporting events that brings in billions of dollars of wagers, both legal and illegal,” Brendan Bussmann, managing partner of B2 Global said. “It could be a big win for those states that have legal sports betting in the United States and an even bigger win for those that have legal wagering with venues hosting the games in 2026.”