Sports betting is enjoyed by millions of people across the world. Whether it’s football, basketball, tennis, horse racing, or hundreds of other sports, wagering can be great fun. It can also give you the chance to win real money — although nothing is guaranteed, of course.
However, in the past, the United States has lagged behind many European countries in terms of offering sports betting to its citizens. Take the United Kingdom, for instance. In the UK betting on sports is extremely popular. Even the most casual of bettors will likely have a flutter on the Grand National each year and football accumulators are also extremely popular.
One of the reasons for the UK being betting mad is that it could not be easier to find a sportsbook. Whether people want to bet online or by heading into their local store, there is plenty of choices to suit each player’s needs.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the United States — or at least it could not until fairly recently. Over the past few years, there has been a tidal of sports betting legalization across the country. These days, more states than ever permit sports betting both in-person and online. The latest states to join the party are Connecticut and Florida.
This bodes well for the future of sports betting in the United States, but what could that future look like?
Why is sports betting being legalized in the United States?
The reasons for more states allowing sports betting are numerous. One of the main reasons is revenue.
In order to operate, sportsbooks are required to be regulated by a state-run body with the operators expected to cover any costs. In addition, once they have received approval the sportsbooks’ revenues are liable to be taxed by the state. This makes gambling a fantastic money spinner.
The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have accelerated the need for new sources of state revenue in the US too. Covid-19 enforced lockdowns have created economic dislocation on a and social security has had to expand like never before in modern times. There are also the costs of administering the vaccination programme to consider.
There has been a clear ‘domino effect’ going on in the US as well. Let us explain. As soon as a neighboring state legalizes sports betting, particularly online, it is in a state’s interest to follow suit. If they do not do this, they are in danger of ceding revenue to their neighbors as players can simply pop over the state border and place their bets there. This is why, when you look at a map, the states that have legalized tend to be clustered together.
The advantages of legalization
The most obvious advantage of states legalizing sports betting is that it guards against illegal betting rackets springing up. These types of practices are damaging to states in two ways.
Firstly, they are run by criminals and are therefore a drain on police resources. Secondly, they do not generate any tax revenue, something that is more important than ever for the reasons we outlined in the section above.
Although racketeering is nowhere near as prevalent in the US as it was in the past, legalizing sports betting is one of the best ways to guard against it springing up in an area.
Which states could legalize sports betting in the future?
The list of states in which sports betting is legal is set to increase further over the next few years. Oklahoma is a good example. They reached an agreement for a new gaming compact that would feature sports betting back in June 2020, although there is no end in sight over when the practice might begin. This is mainly due to some impassioned opposition in the legislature.
Maine also has the required structure in place for sports betting to be legalised. All the way back in 2019 they passed an act which opened the door for gambling regulation in the future. So far though, nothing has happened.
These are two examples of states that could join the sports betting community soon, however, in truth, almost every state is likely to legalize in the not-so-distant future.
Perhaps the only exceptions are Idaho and Wisconsin, who are seemingly uninterested, as well as Utah. The latter is a special case. In Utah, anti-gambling sentiment is codified in the state constitution. The document is hard to amend, meaning it would take some turnaround for the state to legalize sports betting.
Which sports have taken the most bets so far?
Increased legalization has led to significant upsurge in the number of sports bets placed in the United States. Unsurprisingly, football — both the NFL and NCAA — has dominated proceedings. In New Jersey alone, $433.3 million out of the $931.6m of total bets placed in 2020 were football.
The Super Bowl itself would have accounted for many of these bets. The 2021 game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs saw bettors in Nevada wager a staggering $136m. Remember, this was only one game!
Basketball is another extremely popular choice with US bettors. March Madness, the biggest college basketball event in the country, is always a busy time with New Jersey punters spending $106m in 2019.