Football Bets to Top $90 Billion for Second Straight Season

98% of wagers illegal; federal government ban a complete failure

Press Release | 09.07.2016
 Football Bets to Top $90 Billion for Second Straight Season

Washington, DC – Ahead of the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers kicking off the 2016 NFL season tomorrow, the American Gaming Association (AGA) is estimating that fans across the country will bet $90 billion on NFL and college football games this season. However, $88 billion – or 98 percent – of all bets will be made illegally thanks to a federal government ban.  

INFOGRAPHIC: Football Bets to Top $90B

Illegal betting reached $4.1 billion on Super Bowl 50 earlier this year. In 2015, fans bet at least $150 billion on all sports. In a sign of how serious the problem of illegal gambling has become, more than 30 law enforcement leaders from across the country gathered in June for the first-ever Law Enforcement Summit in Washington, D.C. to better understand the massive illegal sports betting market in the U.S and what steps can be taken to address it. 

“The American appetite for sports betting has never been greater,” said Geoff Freeman, AGA president and CEO. “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.”

Momentum continues to grow for a new approach to sports betting law. 

Research released before last season’s big game found that 80 percent of Super Bowl viewers want to change current sports betting law, and two-thirds (66 percent) believe states should decide whether or not to legalize sports betting.

Further, 41 percent of Super Bowl viewers – 47 million people – have bet on the Super Bowl at some point, according to research conducted by The Mellman Group. An equal number say they have placed some type of sports bet in the past year. That’s nearly three times the number of people who attended every NFL game last season (17.3 million).

In addition to fans, support for a new approach to sports betting continues to gain support from key stakeholders. The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) this summer took a major step in support of rooting out the thriving illegal market by unanimously passing a resolution making clear their desire to address illegal sports betting through regulation. The USCM pledged to work with AGA to lead national discussions on the potential benefits of the regulated market and help identify platforms to protect city revenues.

Additionally, the National Conference of State Legislatures last month passed a policy directive saying, “the federal government must recognize the sovereignty of states to allow or to prohibit sports gambling by its residents… The federal ban instituted under the PASPA has not prevented the conduct of illegal sports gambling, but has in effect restricted the ability of all but a few states to regulate and collect revenue from sport gambling wagers estimated to be in the billions of dollars each year, to the detriment of state economies.”

Pennsylvania lawmakers also passed a resolution recently calling on Congress to repeal, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which is responsible for the federal ban. New York has expressed a desire to take similar action. 

In recognition of growing interest in sports betting, experts in sports, gaming, law enforcement and integrity will convene in Las Vegas at Global Gaming Expo (G2E), presented by AGA, September 26-29. Highlighted by a conversation with NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern, a newfound proponent of legalized sports betting, the approximately 25,000 attendees will learn more about the latest on this issue through insightful new research and panel discussions with leaders from across the globe. Media interested in covering the trade show can register here.

Methodology: In coming up with its illegal gambling estimates on football, the AGA took a conservative estimate of illegal sports betting activity from the National Gambling Impact Study Commission's Final Report. It applied GDP growth as reported by the Census Bureau to make these dollar figures current to 2016. Finally, the AGA assumed that the proportion of legal gambling activity on football at Nevada sports books is the best available indicator of what proportion it might make up in the illegal market, and applied this ratio to the larger illegal gambling figure.

About AGA: The American Gaming Association is the premier national trade group representing the $240 billion U.S. casino industry, which supports 1.7 million jobs in 40 states. AGA members include commercial and tribal casino operators, suppliers and other entities affiliated with the gaming industry. It is the mission of the AGA to be the single most effective champion of the industry, relentlessly protecting against harmful and often misinformed public policies, and paving a path for growth, innovation and reinvestment.