The Most Important Detail Of The New State Sports Betting Milestone

Written By Martin Derbyshire on March 14, 2019 - Last Updated on March 7, 2022

Recently, the American Gaming Association (AGA) took a moment to recognize a new, important milestone.

In January, the six states that launched legal sports betting over the past year accepted more bets combined than the state of Nevada for the first time.

The January tally ended up with Nevada at $497.5 million. The six states that have legalized sports betting since the federal ban was overturned in May 2018 combined to hit $503.1 million.

The sports betting state numbers

Add it up and Americans are now betting close to a whopping $1 billion ($998.8 million) a month at legal US sportsbooks. This rather impressive number breaks down the following way:

AGA Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Sara Slane made a few bold-sounding proclamations surrounding the figures:

“For the first time in the history of US gaming, Nevada’s sports betting handle has been eclipsed by the rest of the country. The demand for legal sports betting is abundantly clear, with the majority of legal wagers now being placed in markets that didn’t even exist a year ago.

What’s more, this strong consumer appetite for legal sports betting is matched by action from state legislatures and sovereign tribal nations. Two thirds of jurisdictions have now taken steps to legalize sports betting, marking an unprecedented amount of growth for this new sector in just ten months.”

However, the AGA seems to be ignoring a couple of interesting storylines that can be extrapolated from the January numbers.

Times are changing for sports betting states

The first is that it’s about time sportsbooks around the rest of the country took in more bets than Nevada. After all, the six states in question have a combined population of approximately 28 million compared to Nevada’s sparse 3 million.

Of course, legal sports betting is still new in all these states. But by the time the markets mature, both New Jersey and Pennsylvania should probably both be bringing in more bets than Nevada on their own.

In fact, the head start New Jersey has had on the others may have it supplanting Nevada as the top sports betting state in the US as soon as the weekend of the Final Four. After all, even the AGA will tell you March Madness has surpassed the Super Bowl as the largest betting event in the country.

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Nevada sportsbooks are still breaking records

That said, the second and perhaps even more interesting storyline the AGA missed here is that the $497.5 million in handle Nevada sportsbooks posted was actually an all-time high for that month.

The thought was the spread of legal sports betting across the US would ultimately hurt Nevada sportsbooks. Surely fewer people would be traveling to the Silver State to place a bet. In the first year of legal sports betting outside Nevada, these claims are simply not holding true.

Nevada sportsbook revenue actually dropped more than 40 percent from January 2018. This was due to savvy betting, too many NBA favorites winning, and punters cashing in old MLB bets.

However, the record handle numbers suggest two things, the first being that sports betting is alive and well in Nevada. The second is that the action in emerging legal markets is entirely new. Or at least it’s not moving from Nevada to these other states.

Really, this is more of an “everyone wins” scenario rather than about a head-to-head battle — one state or another doesn’t necessarily “take away” revenue from another, but rather more people are actually physically betting than ever before. The sheer volume and numbers are higher all around, so everyone gets a piece of the pie.

This all adds up to legal sports betting being an already big and quickly-growing US industry.

A fact lawmakers now considering some of the approximately 120 sports betting bills on file across the US may want to consider. That’s in addition to what the AGA is taking the time to point out of course.

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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