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How Much Money Do Americans Bet On Sports?

If you’re a sports bettor, chances are good that you want to know how big the US betting industry actually is. But when it comes to finding out how much money Americans bet on sports each year, you won’t really get a solid or accurate picture by doing a quick Internet search. After all, only legal land-based and domestic online sports wagering is actually tracked and tabulated. The vast majority of betting, of course, is handled by black market vendors and legal offshore sportsbooks (neither of whom are compelled to divulge their numbers). Considering that there are only a limited number of legal sports betting options in the US, their reported numbers – while enormous – are at best a tiny fraction of the true handle turned by US sports bettors each year.

Over 60% of US residents identify as sports fans, but not all of them wager on sports. The closest metric we have to go on about how many people bet on sports – and thus how much money Americans bet on sports – is to use as a baseline the only long-running sports wagering mecca: Las Vegas (or Nevada, more generally). With PASPA gone, of course, NV is merely the best baseline, not the only one. However, given its more mature commercial sports betting market, it’s the easiest state from which to divine out some workable figures (though we will also discuss other states’ sports wagering markets below).

Each year, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) puts out its report of exactly how much handle and revenue sportsbooks in the state account for. If we take the total sports wagering handle in NV and divide it by the total NV casino traffic, that should give us – at the very least – a picture of how much money each gambler wagers on sports (or would wager on sports, given reasonable proximity to a sportsbook). This per capita method is an inexact exercise, and the margin of error is obviously going to be huge. But at least it gives us something to work off of.

How Much Money Do Americans Bet On The Super Bowl?

The sports betting market is a billion-dollar a year industry and a game like the Super Bowl is the biggest day for wagers for the entire year at sportsbooks. Millions of dollars are wagered in each state monthly, but for this day, millions can be spent betting on the most coveted game of the season. The Super Bowl marks the end of football season, and like the athletes themselves, sports bettors have to go big or go home. After the game, they have to wait almost a whole year to be able to bet on football again. Super Bowl LIV begins on Sunday, February 2, at 6:30 p.m. EST.

How Much Money Is Bet On Sports In Nevada?

As the gambling capital of the United States and the first (and for a long time, only) state with single-game wagering, sports betting is big business in the Silver State. Even with the betting variety in Nevada, there are definite trends in how bettors spend their cash in Vegas. The Super Bowl tends to break single-game handle records every year, while March Madness also boasts huge betting numbers. But these are extremes, and the yearly average here is what we’re after, as sports betting is more or less a 24/7 proposition.

While it’s difficult to peg down the total NV gambling tourism rates, we can go with Las Vegas’ numbers here, knowing that these figures will trend conservative. Over the last few years, Las Vegas is averaging nearly 40 million visitors annually. In 2018, 42.12 million gamblers visited Sin City. Among those visitors, the NGCB indicates that NV sportsbooks cleared at least $300 million in revenue at an average 6% house take. This equates to roughly $5 billion in annual handle. Divided by the number of visitors (42.12 million), you get $118.71 of handle for each gambler in NV.

How Much Money Is Bet On Sports In Other States?

As stated, Nevada isn’t the only game in town when it comes to sports betting anymore, as several other states have started offering sports betting products since the PASPA overturn. While it’s impossible to know exactly how much money is bet on sports in all other states, the legal states have all started releasing their monthly numbers. Acting immediately after PASPA was eliminated, eight states (NV, DE, NJ, MS, WV, PA, RI, and NM) offered legal sports betting at land-based venues before the end of 2018, which was a very impressive turnaround indeed. By mid-2019, Arkansas opened its first sportsbook, as well. For these states, the total handle – or how much money Americans bet on sports in each state – is shown below.

Note: As yearly figures are not yet available in many cases, we have taken the monthly averages for all states with legal sports betting which have reported their wagering statistics. Yearly extrapolations thereof are informative, but they should be taken with a big grain of salt, as the sports betting handle is projected to increase month-to-month and year-to-year in all the states with legal sports betting, particularly as more betting lounges open in each region (and as online wagering rolls out on a state-by-state basis).

How Is So Much Money Bet On Sports?

sports-betting-revenueSports betting is a popular hobby throughout the country but as each state moves forward with its legalization and launch, it becomes clearer just exactly how many Americans bet on sports. Sports betting is seen to be a $150 billion industry and this is assumed to be a conservative estimate. Once PASPA was overturned and state sports betting laws were passed, the industry was brought out of the black market and into the limelight. Roughly 50% of US residents are projected to live in a state that has launched legal sports betting by the year 2024. As of now, over a quarter of US residents live in a legal sports betting state and this number is expected to rapidly jump if and when one or all of the three most-populated states (California, Texas, Florida) legalize their industry.

Is Nevada Or New Jersey The Sports Betting Leader?

This is a battle many people thought would never happen, as Nevada has had an established gambling industry for over 50 years! However, once New Jersey legalized sports betting, their betting handle and revenue became on par with that of Nevada’s. The betting handle in Nevada has commonly exceeded $500 million a month during the NFL season but New Jersey has yet to reach this mark. While the east coast state beat out the handle of Nevada a handful of times during the 2019 summer, the nod is still given to Nevada.

As for sports betting revenue, Nevada still holds the upper hand. While New Jersey has collected more sports betting revenue than Nevada for a few months, Nevada still regularly breaks the $20 million monthly revenue mark – something that New Jersey has done only just over a half-dozen times. New Jersey’s claim to fame though is their July 2019 sports betting numbers, which saw a betting handle of over $15 million more than Nevada while also keeping over $7 million more in revenue for the month.

How Much Money Is Bet On The NFL & College Football?

Football is no doubt the most popular betting sport in the United States. American football comprises nearly $100 billion in total money wagered at offshore sportsbooks. While the country is still legalizing across many states, we are already seeing football become well over two-thirds of some state’s entire industry. As the NFL is the most popular sport in the country, it is no surprise that it is also the most wagered on sport as well, however wagering on college football is no slouch either especially since the advent of the college football playoff system. The NBA, MLB, and NHL are believed to bring in between around $75 billion, which shows just how much of the sports betting pie that football is responsible for.

Which Sportsbook Takes In The Most Sports Betting Money?

fanduel-sportsbookWhen it comes to the real money betting sites, the offshore books rarely release their information regarding their betting handle and revenue. However, when looking at state-licensed sportsbooks, it seems that FanDuel Sportsbook is the strong leader amongst the country’s sportsbooks. In New Jersey, their betting handle and revenue is nearly half of the entire market through both their retail and online sports betting platform. Similar betting handle and revenue numbers are represented for FanDuel in Pennsylvania, as their online platform took off instantly after the launch. William Hill is also another top-dog, as their presence extends to a heavy majority of the legal sports betting states.

 

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State Sports Betting Revenues Current As Of Q4 2019​

Please note that depending on the reporting standards of each state’s gaming commission, these figures may be incomplete or up to a month behind. The most current numbers as published by each state’s linked gaming commission have been used in each case and are accurate as of the end of November. The numbers for states with vendor fees paid out by the state (as in DE) are listed minus those vendor fees. Also, note that projected fiscal years are based on average quarters and do not consider different sports seasons and their summary book volume changes. All this means that the following numbers will trend lower than they are likely to be in reality. In other words, these are conservative estimates.

Nevada

September: $546.4 million handle, $52.1 million revenue (9.53%)
YTD: $3.59 billion handle, $213.8 million revenue (5.96%)
Projected: $5.25 billion handle, $260 million

New Jersey

October: $487.9 million handle, $46.4 million revenue (9.51%)
YTD: $3.46 billion handle, $237.0 million revenue (6.85%)
Projected: $4 billion, $200 million

West Virginia

October: $37.0 million handle, $3.2 million revenue (8.53%)
YTD: $162.7 million handle, $14.0 million revenue (8.57%)
Projected: $200 million handle, $10 million revenue

Rhode Island

September: $22.2 million handle, $2.5 million revenue (11.34%)
YTD: $154.4 million handle, $10.0 million revenue (6.5%)
Projected: $200 million handle, $10 million revenue

Arkansas

October: N/A
Year-to-date: N/A
Projected fiscal year: N/A

Iowa

October: $46.5 million handle, $5.7 million revenue (12.17%)
YTD: $93.6 million handle, $12.8 million revenue (13.65%)
Projected: $500 million handle, $25 million revenue

Indiana

October: $91.7 million handle, $11.5 million revenue (12.58%)
YTD: $127.0 million handle, $20.1 million revenue (15.84%)
Projected: $600 million handle, $30 million revenue

Delaware

October: $9.6 million handle, $1.7 million revenue (18.05%)
YTD: $79.0 million handle, $9.5 revenue (12.02%)
Projected: $110 million, $5.5 million revenue

Mississippi

October: $48.0 million handle, $12.3 million revenue (25.6%)
YTD: $263.7 million handle, $37.2 million revenue (14.1%)
Projected: $350 million handle, $17.5 million revenue

Pennsylvania

October: $241.2 million handle, $14.9 million revenue (6.2%)
YTD: $831.1 million handle, $65.1 million revenue (7.84%)
Projected: $1 billion handle, $50 million revenue

New Mexico

October: N/A
Year-to-date: N/A
Projected fiscal year: N/A

New York

October: n/a handle, $2.2 million Rev
YTD: n/a handle, $5.7 million revenue
Projected: n/a handle, $25 million revenue

Oregon

October: N/A
Year-to-date: N/A
Projected fiscal year: N/A

* New Mexico sports wagering is only available at a pair of tribal venues, and they are not bound to report earnings to the state on a monthly basis. As such, there is no official data describing the sports betting numbers in the state to date.

** Arkansas took its first sports bets on July 1, 2019. The first batch of revenue data will be included when it is released by the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Money Spent On Sports Betting By Americas Via Offshore Sportsbooks

If we extrapolate the above NV numbers and apply them to the entire country, they’re actually not that high. Given that 80% or so of US adults – or about 198,000,000 people – actively gamble (including playing lotteries, which complicates things less than one might think, given the ease of access to legal offshore sportsbooks), we can plug in the sports-betting-handle-per-person figure from before ($118.71), giving us $23.5 billion as a total.

But there’s a snag. Everyone – even the top Vegas bookmakers and casino CEOs – admit sports betting in Sin City is not particularly representative of sports betting in the rest of the country. Indeed, it costs quite a lot of money to get to Las Vegas to place your wagers in the first place, dramatically limiting the number of people who opt to place wagers this way. So that $23.5 billion number? If you’re really curious to find out how much money is spent on sports betting by Americans via offshore sportsbooks (and local underground means), the American Gaming Association says to multiply it by about 6.7.

That’s right: Las Vegas, even in processing astronomical handles like the above, only accounts for about 3% of the total US sports betting handle. Thus, we multiply Vegas’ yearly handle of $5 billion by 33, giving us $165 billion. Of course, there are reputable analysts that claim this figure, too, is too low, doubling or even tripling it when answering the question of how much money the US spends on sports wagering. It’s kind of a moot point, though, as it doesn’t really matter if the US spends $165 billion or $495 billion on sports betting. The only thing that matters from a social economics perspective is that most of that money is being sent underground or overseas, where it isn’t taxed as it would be in the legal sports betting states. By any measure, over the last 25 years or so (from PASPA’s advent to its ultimate demise), the federal and state governments have lost out on trillions of dollars in taxable expenditures. Trillions. With a “T”.

Where Does The Sports Betting Money Go

Once you know the answer to the amount of money wagered on sports in the U.S., the natural follow-up question is, “where does the sports betting money go?” Most of this, naturally, goes back to bettors in the form of winnings. After paying the winners, the remaining cash – i.e. the house take or vigorish – goes to several different places.

With a legal land-based sportsbook, the house will get its take (between 4% and 6% of the handle, typically), which is then taxed at various rates depending on the state where the sportsbook operates. Gaming taxes are then used to fund state and local programs (usually something to do with “roads” or “education”), which is why many proponents of sports betting view gaming as a way to improve local infrastructure.

At many of the leading legal online sportsbooks that operate outside of US jurisdiction, the distribution is similar, with books retaining about 4%-6% of the handles they process. Bettors get the rest as winnings. However, because that money is sent offshore and often claimed as cryptocurrency, there is no way for the government to comprehensively tax those winnings. It is incumbent on sports bettors to claim their winnings each year as part of their income taxes, but there’s no telling how many do or don’t follow through. Additionally, if you collect your monies in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, you might not convert any of your winnings back to US dollars within any specific taxable timeframe. In this way, tons of cash falls through the cracks. Also, all the vig that these offshore sportsbooks collect stays offshore, never returning to the US economy in any form, as taxes or otherwise.

Money Spent By Americans On Unregulated Sports Betting

Though there is a negative connotation behind the term “black market sports betting”, it does not deter millions of Americans from betting on their favorite sports. The bottom line is that most of what the US gambling industry describes as unlawful is, in fact, 100% legal. There are no laws in any state against using offshore sportsbooks, and the sites are so big and so popular that most people already forego engaging with unlicensed local bookies and black-market sharks to use these trusted, legitimate sports betting sites.

Honestly, while analyzing how much money Americans bet on sports is interesting from a mathematical and observational standpoint, the real question is: How much money can you win at a legal online sportsbook? And the answer… a lot!