Americans don’t seem to let the law come in the way of their love for sports betting. As a matter of fact, Americans will bet an astounding $95 billion this year, all of it illegally, on football. According to figures obtained from the American Gaming Association, the quantum of legal betting during the same period is $2.9 billion. That this is just a tiny fraction of the total amount bet represents a huge problem for the sports gambling industry. Americans placed approximately $3.8 billion worth of illegal wagers during last year’s Super Bowl, whereas the legal bets for the same event barely crossed $100 million.
The Federal Government made sports betting illegal in 1992, but four states are permitted to allow gambling on sports. Therefore, while Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon earn considerable revenues from sports gambling, other states are not able to get a piece of the action, even though a few of them have initiated legal proceedings to reverse the ban. Not surprisingly, a major proportion of the legal bets placed on sports in the United States originated in Nevada.
The ostensible reason for the official ban on sports betting is that it will lead to a degradation of the sport. However, this seems to be an irrelevant point given that Americans are already betting huge amounts of money through illegal channels. In fact, while this ban does very little to prevent the abuses it is meant to correct, what it actually does is deprive the exchequer of much needed tax revenues while keeping sports betting out of the purview of regulatory bodies. As a result, very little is being done to control illegal activities such as match-fixing.
Interestingly, the major sports leagues in the United States are firmly against the legalisation of sports betting, even though they have all had links to other forms of betting in the past, and some of them do so in the present. Furthermore, the presence of a fantasy football league on which betting is legally permitted, smacks of hypocrisy to many people.
There have been many calls of late to legalise sports betting in the United States. New Jersey made the most aggressive bid to legalise wagering on sports, but it was not able to push the legislation through. Other states that have made determined efforts to change the situation legally are Texas and New York.
Most other countries with developed economies do not share the United State’s antipathy towards sports betting. In fact, gamblers in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Australia can place bets on sports events legally and with a great deal of convenience. Since the industry is legal, there is a great deal of transparency involved.
The governments of countries that have legal sports wagering earn a great deal of money in taxes. However, if the United States were to legalise this practice, then it will eclipse all other countries with the size of its sports gambling industry, which is expected to earn $12.4 billion in revenues annually, almost twice the annual revenues of the NFL. This is definitely fodder for more debates on the subject!