Americans will bet $4.7 billion on Super Bowl 51between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, according to an estimate released today by the American Gaming Association (AGA), marking an 11 percent rise from last year’s Super Bowl. Yet 97 percent of bets – approximately $4.5 billion – will be placed illegally due to a failed federal ban signed into law in 1992.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, dictates that Nevada is the only state permitted to offer traditional sports betting, where about $132 million will be wagered through sports books by kickoff. Despite this ban, sports betting has only grown more prevalent. In fact, in 2016 alone, Americans wagered an estimated $154 billion on all sports, nearly all of it through bookies and offshore, illicit web sites.
“As we mark the 25th anniversary of a failed law, it’s time for Washington to get out of the way and lift the federal prohibition that pushes sports fans to a rapidly growing illegal betting market,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA. “A regulated marketplace would generate tax revenue and jobs, protect consumers and leverage cutting-edge technology to strengthen the integrity of the games we all love.”
The ability to protect the integrity of games through rigorous data analysis and complex, real-time algorithms – something not fathomable in 1992 – is only possible in markets where sports wagering is effectively regulated. A 2016 report advocated for a legal, regulated sports betting market that’s transparent and capable of detecting suspicious betting activities. The report concluded that, “[r]ather than setting the standard, the United States is on par with Russia and China, having forced a groundswell of black-market gambling by prohibiting the popular pastime of sports betting.”
Further, the United States Supreme Court is considering hearing a sports betting case that could dramatically alter the country’s sports betting landscape. Earlier this month, the Court asked the U.S. Solicitor General to submit a brief in the New Jersey-led sports betting petition. AGA previously submitted an amicus brief urging the Court to consider the failed, unconstitutional sports betting ban.
In yet another 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.
Beyond the beltway, a growing chorus of federalism advocates are voicing their displeasure with the ban. The National Conference of State Legislatures and U.S. Conference of Mayors have strongly urged regulation of sports betting. Pennsylvania passed a resolution last year opposing PASPA. New York is working on similar legislation. Several other states filed amicus briefs in New Jersey’s appeal to the Supreme Court, echoing the Garden State’s desire to offer sports betting within their borders. In addition, the NBA and PGA Tour have signaled a willingness to take a fresh approach to sports betting.
Fans who want to help lift the federal ban can join the grassroots campaign at SportsBettingInAmerica.com.