COVID-19 Suspended Sports, but Betting Is Back In the U.S. and Bigger Than Ever

The betting boom is alive and well in the United States, where gambling has exploded since sports returned to some normality following the initial hit caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some sports are still getting back to a place of equilibrium (Major League Baseball, for example, which will open its 2021 MLB season on April 1), but one trend rings true in all states—where betting is legal, there is money to be made.

According to research conducted by the American Gaming Association, Super Bowl LV was estimated to attract around $4.3 billion in wagers from 23.2 million Americans, the single biggest betting handle on a legal event in history. Of that number, a record 7.6 million bettors were estimated to have placed their wagers through online platforms, 63 percent more than the previous year, reported Gamblers Post.

The United States is coming upon the third anniversary since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (or PASPA) was repealed, a significant moment in the country’s history regarding betting legality. Many states have since put legislation into effect permitting sports betting in some form, while the number could double in the near future, with plans already underway in many others with plans to join in.

Colorado is one state in which the revenue opportunities from betting have been recognised in full effect. CBS recently spoke with Russ Sands, senior program manager for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, who expanded upon gambling as just another revenue-generating arm the state now has some control over, just like alcohol or marijuana:

Long gone are the days when Nevada and Delaware were considered the rare betting havens in the United States. CNBC counted 14 states where mobile betting sites such as BetMGM Sports is already legal (plus the District of Columbia), while 19 others are considering legislature to add to that number in 2021.

In a post-pandemic world where positives must be counted that much more, advancing online betting options to so many portions of the country has raised awareness of just how profitable the industry can be for state coffers. New York is one prominent state progressing towards legalising sports betting in some form after years of resistance, a change estimated to be worth an initial $200 million per year, though that number is expected to rise in the years to come.

DraftKings’ chief executive officer, Jason Robins, judged 2021 as “a big year” for the gambling industry due to the momentum shift, seemingly helped on by COVID-19:

“We’ve got about 20 states set to vote on legalization. What percentage of those decide yes — that’ll swing things either in a positive or negative direction for us.” 

Even after PASPA was repealed in 2018, it was clear the movement to legalise sports betting across the United States would not take effect overnight. The coronavirus temporarily put a halt on effectively all mainstream sports for much of 2020, but industry analysts are now seeing that short-term pain has accelerated the means for long-term gain in the U.S. market.

Sports gambling is the first step towards a potentially broader spectrum of legal betting markets, which could come to include U.S. election wagers or Oscars betting in future.

Developed infrastructures for mobile platforms and an increase in people working from home are two major factors in the online gambling spike over the past year, but more and more legislation across the United States means we may not yet have seen the tip of the betting iceberg.

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