We’re only a few weeks into the football season and football betting numbers are through the roof. In fact, between college football and the NFL, more than $95 billion is expected to be wagered this season alone. What do these staggering numbers mean and how is it impacting the sports we love?
Current State of Betting
The problem, from an outsider’s perspective, is that the large majority of that $95 billion is illegally wagered. If totally legalized, the US sports betting market has the potential to generate as much annual revenue as the entire NFL. ESPN staff writer David Purdum cites a study that claims a legal market would produce $12.4 billion in annual revenue. That would be five times bigger than the UK’s regulated market and 11 times bigger than Italy’s.
With 97 percent of the estimated $95 billion,or $93 billion, to be wagered illegally, Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association recently released a statement targeted at the legalization of gambling in the United States.
“Illegal sports betting is reaching new heights of popularity in America,” Freeman said. “It’s clear that a federal ban on traditional sports betting outside of Nevada is failing.”
League Stances on the Legalization of Sports Betting
But where do the various professional leagues and amateur organizations, such as the NFL, MLB, NBA and NCAA stand on the issue? After all, any mass legalization of sports betting will likely be influenced by their cooperation, or lack thereof.
Recently, the NFL, NBA and MLB have all opposed New Jersey and Governor Chris Christie’s motions to legalize gambling in the state. This is of course an “official” stance. If you were to speak with league officials behind closed doors, the odds are pretty good they’d actually express their support of legalization. In fact, NBA commissioner Adam Silver is on the record as saying the legalization of sports betting in the US is “inevitable” and has called on Congress to take action in support of legal betting.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass recently made a conservative statement regarding the issue, saying the league is in favor of a “federal legislative solution that would protect the integrity of the game while allowing those who engage in sports betting to do so in a legal manner.” Officially, the NFL, MLB and NCAA remain opposed.
Legalization Means More Profitability for Leagues
Ultimately, the legalization of sports betting in the US means larger profits for all sports leagues. The leagues could align themselves with handicapping services, create innovative in-stadium experiences and eventually attract new fans who are enticed by the opportunity to win money.
If you want to see a taste of the future, just look at what the “daily fantasy sports” industry has been able to do in recent months. All of the leagues now have sponsorship deals with companies like DraftKings and FanDuel, and the relationships are mutually beneficial.
The NCAA, for obvious reasons, remains adamantly opposed to the legalization of sports betting, but it’s entirely likely that all of the professional leagues will band together in the coming years to push for nationwide legalization. Just this year alone, six states – New York, South Carolina, Texas, Minnesota, Indiana, and Mississippi – are considering bills that would legalize all, or certain aspects of sports betting. How these bills are dealt with will likely dictate how the industry moves forward in the future.
popularity, Pressure and Eventual Legalization
The popularity of illegal betting and the pressure from billion-dollar professional leagues will ultimately lead to the legalization of sports betting in the United States. The only question is, how long will it take? Daily fantasy sports – albeit through a legal loophole – has paved the way. Will traditional sports betting follow?