AGA Continues To Hammer Federal Sports Betting Ban As Ineffectual
Legal Sports Report

About $88 Billion In Illegal Football Bets Will Be Placed In US This Season, Casino Group Says

NFL Illegal Betting
The American Gaming Association continues to hammer away at the idea that the federal “prohibition” on US sports betting is one of the more ineffectual laws on the books in the US.

Lots of football bets, but most are illegal

There will be about $90 billion dollars wagered on NFL and NCAA football games over the next several months according to an estimate from the AGA, which represents the casino industry in the US. About 98 precent of all those wagers — or $88 billion — will be placed illegally, at offshore sportsbooks, per the AGA.

Only about $2 billion will be placed legally, mostly in Nevada, the only state where single-sport betting is currently allowed in the US.

The figures from the AGA came as the NFL season began on Thursday night, when the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers. (The Panthers were three-point favorites to win the game on the road.)

The AGA also reported that more than $4 billion was bet on Super Bowl 50 earlier this year; only about $130 million of that was wagered legally in Nevada.

Illegal bets not likely to change with PASPA on the books

The problem for sports betting in the US remains PASPA, the federal that law that bans sports betting in almost all jurisdictions. The idea that that law does anything to stop sports betting by Americans has consistently come under fire from the AGA, which is pushing for a repeal of PASPA, in the past year. The AGA has indicated it will start lobbying Congress to that end as soon as early next year.

“The American appetite for sports betting has never been greater,” said Geoff Freeman, AGA president and CEO, in a press release. “Unfortunately, a failing federal ban drives this national pastime into the illegal market and threatens the integrity of the games we love. As law enforcement’s deep concern with the thriving illegal gambling market demonstrates, it is time to address this problem and bring sports betting out of the shadows.”

The AGA also pointed to a poll earlier this year in which two-thirds of respondents said that sports betting should be legal.

The market size if US sports betting is legalized

The start of NFL season and the AGA push come on the heels of a new report from GamblingCompliance that estimates the size of the US sports betting market (paywall), should wagering be legalized.

According to that report, the revenue generated if sports betting were available nationwide would be nearly $12 billion, in a best-case scenario.

Obviously, that’s a lot of revenue that’s not currently going into the pockets of American gaming interests. So far, the will to bring that money — and sports betting activity — under a legal and regulated umbrella has been minimal.

But the AGA hopes that continued education efforts — pointing out how much money is continually being wagered illegally — will catch politicians’ eyes eventually.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.