Worrisome: Americans Have Legally Bet $125 Billion On Sports

By Mark Gruber | Wednesday, 18 May 2022 20:30
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In the four years since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports gambling outlets, Americans have bet more than $125 billion in total.

On Saturday's anniversary of the ruling, in a case brought by New Jersey, two-thirds of the states in the country have legalized sports betting.

In merely four years, the industry has slid itself into the daily lives of millions of Americans — from those who dish out the money wishing for a certain outcome to those who watch TV broadcasts with odds calculations to those struggling with gambling problems.

The effects, however, have reached not only gamblers or even sports fans; The industry tsunami of advertising is virtually impossible to avoid, especially on TV and radio but in other media as well. For example, FanDuel is the official odds provider for The Associated Press.

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On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled on a case that had begun 10 years earlier in New Jersey as the longest of long shots: a bid to overturn a federal law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, that restricted sports betting to just four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it.

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Now-retired state senator Ray Lesniak, who filed the first lawsuit against the federal government over the issue, insisted he acted to provide money for states, protection for consumers, and to attract experienced European betting companies to expand to the U.S. — all of which he said have come to pass.

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“I made a good bet for New Jersey and for America,” he stated, speaking metaphorically. (Lesniak also placed the first winning legal sports bet in his state, correctly picking France to win soccer's World Cup, winning $400 on a $50 bet at 8-to-1 odds.)

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“When PASPA was repealed, I don't think any of us would have expected how big the (industry) would be just four short years later,” exclaimed Karol Corcoran, general manager of FanDuel's online sportsbook.

DraftKings president and co-founder Matt Kalish commented on the matter: “I got into this industry because I was always the kind of kid who liked to predict things, to compete with my friends and make predictions. For people that like to do that, sports betting has become far and away from the No. 1 thing.”

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To comprehend just how much $125 billion amounts to, consider the following: It lands just north of the amount that was spent on pet food, supplies, and veterinary care in the entire country last year and more than the net income for America's farmers last year.

Of course, large portions of that money were paid out to people who won bets. After expenses, the sportsbooks generally keep less than 10% of the total amount of bets they handle. According to the American Gaming Association, the gambling industry's national trade group, over the first four years of legal betting, their revenue figure is $8.8 billion.

A major rationale for the push to legalize sports betting was to protect customers from being victimized by unlicensed bookmakers, many operating as part of organized crime. State regulations include robust consumer protections, with watchdog regulators ready to pounce when they see violations.

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