It’s pretty much two years since the US Supreme Court overturned an age-old piece of regulation that outlawed sports betting in most states of America.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), backed by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, essentially made it illegal to wager on sports outside of Nevada, but a campaign to overturn the legislation – headed largely by New Jersey governor Chris Christie – eventually proved successful in 2018.
The Supreme Court’s decision divested power to each state on whether they would legalise sports betting, and while some have so far refused to lift restrictions the last two years have also seen a number of states get in on the act.
As of April 10, 2020, you can legally place a bet in the following states:
- Arkansas – legalised in July 2019
- Colorado – will be legal in May 2020
- Delaware – expanded betting rules as of June 2018
- Illinois – approved, not yet implemented
- Indiana – legalised in September 2019
- Iowa – legalised in August 2019
- Mississippi – legalised in August 2018
- Montana – approved, not yet implemented
- New Hampshire – legalised in July 2019
- New Jersey – legalised in June 2019
- New York – legalised in July 2019
- North Carolina – approved, not yet implemented
- Oregon – betting expanded in September 2019
- New York – legalised in July 2019
- Pennsylvania – legalised in November 2018
- Tennessee – approved, not yet implemented
- West Virginia – legalised in August 2018
As you can see, the uptake in sports betting has been considerable, and yet there is scope for further enhancements with a number of big states yet to sign up to gambling.
The potential market size is enormous, but how has that translated in terms of the quantity of bets placed and the revenue made by the industry?
An Eight Billion Dollar Concern
After overcoming the legal obstacles of widespread sports betting, the industry’s next challenge was to overcome some of the moral concerns that have dogged the sector.
Gambling in America is inextricably linked to the ‘dark arts’, dating back to when the mobs and gangs fought bloody wars to operate casinos on their and their enemies’ turf.
And prior to PASPA, there was a grave concern that match fixing was rife in American sport – especially in the popular college sports, where young athletes could make good money from obeying orders from nefarious individuals.
That mistrust still runs deep to this day in some states, and explains why areas particularly dominated by religion – Texas, as one example – are likely to resist sports wagering for as long as economically possible.
When PASPA was introduced, punters in the US only had three available options to them: head to a sportsbook venue in Las Vegas, find an offshore bookmaker willing to take their bets, or instead use the illegal gambling black market – estimated to be worth a staggering $150 billion.
If a hefty slice of that tally goes ‘legal’ and is pushed through legitimate sportsbooks, you get an idea of how much the industry could subsequently be worth.
And to offer just one example, for the 2020 Super Bowl a whopping $6.8 billion was bet across the country at official betting sites.
While a number of big-name bookmakers familiar to European punters have already made their way into the US market, it is actually two American firms that have enjoyed a major upturn in interest.
DraftKings and FanDuel started life as daily fantasy gaming sites, but after moving into sports betting they have taken over in many states – in New Jersey, for example, they account for around 75% of all wagers taken each month.
Getting accurate, up-to-date figures is hard in the wake of the live sporting blackout around the world, but for the period January-August 2019 the revenue for sports betting in New Jersey alone was some $140 million.
Estimates for the future tend to vary wildly, as you might expect, but both Morgan Stanley and Gambling Compliance believe the US sports betting industry could be worth as much as $8 billion within the next five years.
Which US States Will Be Next to Legalise Sports Betting?
It is thought that 2020 will be a huge year for sports betting in the US.
More states will legalise wagering on their soil, it is inevitable, and you wonder if the next major breakthrough will come if, or when, the likes of California and Florida get on board.
Among those likely to take the plunge next are Ohio, where it is believed a betting bill will pass through the House during the next session, and Connecticut, where gambling has been dominated by Indian tribes. However, talks between their chiefs and Governor Ned Lamont are thought to have been positive.
Other contenders include Maryland, Missouri and, in something of a surprise, Kentucky, which would open the door to sports betting in the Deep South.
The Kentuckian Governor, Andy Beshear, is a known advocate of sports wagering and a bill is likely to be approved by the House – then the Senate vote would be all that separates them from adoption.