Betting on Sports? You May Owe the IRS

Prepare to pay taxes on winnings.
(Image credit: Andrew Kirby. All Rights Reserved. 2014.)

Depending on where you live, betting on your favorite teams may no longer require an account with a bookie or a plane ticket to Las Vegas. But in your zeal to play the odds, don't forget that gambling winnings are subject to federal taxes. Your state may want a piece of the action, too.

In May, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that largely prohibited sports betting outside of Nevada casinos. New Jersey (the state that brought the suit that challenged the law) and Delaware aimed to have sports books up and running mere weeks after the court's ruling, while 20 other states have enacted legislation to kick-start the process.

Legal or not, the IRS expects gamblers to report any winnings as “other income.” The new tax law preserves the rule that allows itemizers to deduct gambling losses to the extent that they offset winnings, but because the law doubled the standard deduction, itemizing makes sense for fewer taxpayers.

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Once up and running, states with regulated sports gambling will offer bettors guaranteed payouts, stable odds and peace of mind, which can be harder to come by when gambling through underground avenues, says John Maloney, a lawyer who specializes in gaming regulation.

Ryan Ermey
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Ryan joined Kiplinger in the fall of 2013. He writes and fact-checks stories that appear in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and on He previously interned for the CBS Evening News investigative team and worked as a copy editor and features columnist at the GW Hatchet. He holds a BA in English and creative writing from George Washington University.