If sports betting was legalized in the United States it would be the largest betting market in the world, with Americans betting up to $200 billion annually, according to a research report released Wednesday.
Calling the U.S. sports betting market “a sleeping giant,” global gaming research firm GamblingCompliance projects that a legal sports betting market would produce $12.4 billion in annual revenue.
That’s roughly 5.6 times the size of the sports wagering market in the United Kingdom, and more than 11 times the gambling revenue generated annually in Italy.
While, U.S. sports-betting expansion faces a fundamental obstacle in the form of the 1992 federal prohibition that limits sports betting to Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. James Kilsby, managing director, Americas, at GamblingCompliance, says recent developments have generated optimism that legal sports betting is closer to becoming a reality.
“Ongoing court cases to overturn the federal prohibition, increased interest among state governments and Congress in sports betting regulation, and calls from key figures in sport … for a federal sports betting framework demonstrate that the U.S. sports wagering legal landscape is slowly beginning to shift,” Kilsby said.
Kilsby is also the author of the study “U.S. Sports Betting: The Final Frontier for American Gaming,” which was published by GamblingCompliance.
While Kilsby projects the value of a legal industry, the gaming industry’s trade group estimates sports fans will wager $95 billion on NFL and college football games. The American Gaming Association issued a release Wednesday estimating the vast majority - $93 billion – of wagers will be placed illegally.
“Illegal sports betting is reaching new heights of popularity in America,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, in the release. “It’s clear the federal ban on traditional sports betting outside of Nevada is failing.”
Currently, Nevada is the only state allowed under federal law to offer a full menu of sports betting. Last year, Nevada sportsbooks won $227.04 million, an all-time record, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Meanwhile, betting on NFL games in Delaware is booming. Delaware is only allowed to offer NFL “parlays,” which means gamblers must wager on the outcomes of at least three games per betting card and win them all.
The sports betting question has been muddled lately by the rise of fantasy league sports.
In the past, fantasy leagues were just people in the office competing against each other for a pot of money, and bragging rights, at the end of the season.
Now, it is a growing industry where people put together teams online daily to compete and win a lot of money.
“How that’s legal and sports betting isn’t is beyond me,” Mitch Moss, a host for ESPN Radio, told KNPR's State of Nevada.
The idea has become so popular that Station Casinos is launching a parlay card this season similar to fantasy teams, explained sportsbook operations vice president Art Manteris.
“It gives people the ability to bet on scoring performance by players in a parlay card format," he said. "So that’s a new wrinkle we are trying.”
Manteris said despite the controversy surrounding sports betting and the seemingly endless back and forth about so-called deflategate, he's expecting a strong betting season for the NFL.
“Year after year, we see growth in the sports betting business in Nevada, and I’m expecting that to happen this year as well,” he said.
As for who we should expect to see in the Super Bowl, Manteris said the sports books will be hoping for "one of the short-priced teams," meaning the teams that are not long shots, like the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks or the New England Patriots.
As for Moss, he's going with the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks in the big game.
Mitch Moss, host, ESPN Radio, Art Manteris, vice president of sportsbook operations, Station Casinos
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