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You Can’t Handle Nevada’s Record Sports Betting Handle

Written By Katie Callahan | Updated:
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The Nevada Gaming Control Board reported that Nevada sports books achieved a record $247.8 million in 2017.

Along with that comes a record-breaking handle of $4.8 billion and a take of 5.1 percent, the board reported in its year-end report.

Records continue to break across the years

The amount wagered increased for the eighth year in a row, reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal. This year’s record is an upset of almost $17 million from the prior year.

Here’s how some of the other years fared:

  • 2009: $2.5 billion
  • 2012: $3.4 billion
  • 2015: $4.2 billion
  • 2017: $4.8 billion

Mobile made all the difference

Sunset Station Sports Book Director Chuck Esposito said that overall books adjusted to account for the contagious atmosphere of college/pro basketball and football. But that’s largely come from this change.

“The mobile app has really brought the sports book to the palm of your hand,” he said to the Review-Journal. “That’s really helped contribute to the increase in handle across the board.”

In these realms, sports bettors wagered record numbers:

  • $1.7 billion on football
  • $1.4 billion on basketball
  • $1.1 billion on baseball
  • $280.3 million on races

That tapered out to $76.8 million on football and $87.4 million on basketball in revenue for the sports books. The books won $36.8 million for baseball. The only loser here was the race books, which dropped handle for the fourth year in a row. The books still won $44.1 million though.

Overall, winnings continued to be up in December. This will stand as the 53rd month straight for the books to turn a profit. This overall number stood at $34.5 million.

Looking at the sports betting landscape

The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimated that the licensed sports books in Nevada would only take home about three percent of the total rake from the game, or $138.5 million.

That’s of the $4.76 billion bet on the game. This brings into focus the greater debates across the U.S. to legalize sports betting in order to cash in (via taxes) and provide more consumer protection over an enterprise that would occur with or without oversight.

The hope is that industry leaders, the government, and sports organizations will try to end the massive illegal sports betting market with the help of the Supreme Court.

Already, SCOTUS heard arguments in Christie v. NCAA in December. New Jersey challenged the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 in order to reverse the status quo. Nevada is the only locale where sports betting is legal; limited parlay sports betting occurs in Delaware and the same goes for game square wagering in Montana (exempt pastimes).

Currently, 15 states are considering legalizing sports betting. A Washington Post survey showed that the majority of Americans support the idea.

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States need to get on the same page

Three more states came to the table with sports betting legislation in January:

  1. Illinois sports betting
  2. Iowa sports betting
  3. Missouri

However, given that these states are new to the frontier, the bills were not without astonishing mistakes. Sen. Don Harmon re-reported an overblown estimate of Americans wagering $400 billion. That amounts to roughly $1,000 a year on sports per man, woman, child, and licensed dog in the U.S.

The translation of that is $175 billion to $225 billion in revenue, which does not match or come close to Nevada’s five percent of total handle. That amounts to 50 percent of handle, an unrealistic number.

Sports legislators need to use the two separate metrics of handle and revenue wisely in order to come up with realistic projections once sports betting is legalized so that it can meet expectations. In this case, that’s closer to $17.5 billion to $22.5 billion (still high, but more reasonable).

In the meantime, Indiana tries to rake in a quarterly integrity fee of 1 percent of handle, while West Virginia awaits the green light from New Jersey with a bill it essentially provided last year.

Other states in the pipeline

Eilers and Krejcik Gaming, a gambling legislation tracker, reported that as many as 18 states could introduce bills to regulate sports betting in 2018. That includes 11 favorites to pass legislation if New Jersey wins the SCOTUS challenge and the sports betting ban is removed.

“Assuming a Supreme Court decision or action by Congress permits it, we could see the largest simultaneous expansion of regulated gambling in U.S. history with sports betting in 2018,” Eilers & Krejcik Gaming Managing Director Chris Grove told the New York Times.

Nevada up and up

The market’s growth could also potentially be correlated with the addition of virtual sports contests. Patrons can currently enjoy Inspired Gaming virtual contests pursuits in SugarHouse Casino’s website or mobile application in New Jersey.

Alternatively, in Nevada, William Hill US added virtual horse racing to two of its Nevada sportsbooks in July 2016. That number increased and is now up to nine.

While Nevada continues to show growth across the board for sports betting, online or otherwise, this could prove to be a complementary product. New Jersey would be the showcase to help roll out this product into the U.S., if successful.

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Katie Callahan

Katie Callahan is a freelance journalist, blogger and copywriter who covers everything from poker, business, education and politics to construction, startups and cybersecurity.

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