The betting industry in America is on the verge of a major breakthrough. It is already past flirting with betting in the form of paid fantasy leagues, an inescapable fact if you are fan of any of the major sports leagues like the National Football League or the National Basketball Association where they air a constant flow of commercials. It is clear that there is an incredible amount of money to be made from this kind of enterprise alone, not to mention the piles of money that could be made from outright betting on games.
As it stands, sports betting is only legal in the state of Nevada. Consequently, only a fraction of the money that is spent on professional gambling – less than 4% according to the American Gaming Association (AGA), to be exact – is done legally. The estimated $95 billion that is projected to be gambled on professional football as well as college football is not going to be taxed, and dwarfs over the figure of the $7.2 billion that teams in the NFL shared in league revenue in the fiscal year of 2014. What this means is that the federal government’s ban on traditional sports betting is, in no uncertain terms, “failing,” according to experts like Geoff Freeman, President and CEO of the AGA.
What is at Stake
Clearly, a big player in all of this will be the role of online gambling. Currently, if someone wants to place a bet, they will have to do it while physically in Nevada through a casino. However, if what the international gaming research company known as GamblingCompliance calls the “sleeping giant” of the US market actually ever wakes up to the mountains of revenue it is sitting on – and most believe it is not a matter of if, but when – that will all change very quickly.
Already, influential figures like NBA commissioner Adam Silver has overtly signalled a desire to shift the thinking about gambling. In writing an op-ed piece in the New York Times, he argues that the time has arrived for gambling to be legalized since it is already happening, but in an unmonitored and unregulated environment. When bettors are allowed to gamble with different types of online payments system, not only is this more convenient for the gamblers, but it is easier to control – to ensure that nothing improper is going on like the throwing of games – and easier to monetize for the government as well, which ultimately (theoretically) leads to money for the improvement of public services.
While many worry about the integrity of the sports being bet upon, what is really the driving force is the amount of cold, hard cash money at stake here. A fully developed, legal avenue for betting in the US would produce an estimated $12.4 billion each year, or the equivalent of five times and eleven times the size of the UK’s and Italy’s sports gambling markets, respectively. This is a situation that needs to change, and needs to change fast, and the US is in a position to control this market as well as its destiny.