A $154 Billion Question: Should Sports Betting Be Legalized In The United States?

Written By Martin Derbyshire on March 27, 2017 - Last Updated on February 25, 2021

[toc]A Downtown Las Vegas casino owner’s March Madness bet didn’t turn out to be the $1 million slam dunk he’d hoped it would be.

The D Las Vegas and Golden Gate Casino owner Derek Stevens stood to win more than $1 million if Michigan won this year’s NCAA mens’ basketball tournament.

Stevens, a University of Michigan alumnus, bet $12,500 on the Wolverines to win the National Championship. He made the bet at the Golden Nugget Las Vegas up the street from his properties.

Golden Nugget was offering 80-to-1 odds and the bet would have paid out $1,012,500.

Unfortunately for Stevens, the Oregon Ducks beat the Wolverines 69-68 on Thursday night.

Americans are betting billions on sports

News of the bet went viral prior to the game.

However, the publicity did more than just promote the downtown Vegas casinos. It highlighted just how much Americans are betting on major sports events like the NCAA tournament.

In fact, the American Gaming Association has predicted Americans will bet as much as $10.4 billion on March Madness games in 2017. Last year the organization said wagering would reach about $9.2 billion.

Interestingly, the AGA also says only $300 million of that money bet will be done so legally. This essentially means betting at Nevada sports books the same way Stevens did it.

Thus, more than 95 percent of the more than $10 billion bet on the tournament will be done illegally.

$154 billion in sports bets

The same kind of thing goes on at the Super Bowl. In January, the AGA said Americans were expected to bet $4.7 billion on Super Bowl 51. It also said 97 percent of it would be done illegally.

In fact, the AGA claims Americans bet $154 billion across the board on all sports last year. It also said nearly all of it was wagered through bookies and offshore websites.

In 1992, the federal government passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. This essentially made Nevada the only state allowed to offer legal sports betting.

Legalize it, tax it

AGA president and CEO Geoff Freeman calls it a failed law.

In fact, he’s been pushing for Washington to get out of the way. Freeman says the feds should lift the ban on sports gambling, and open up a legal and regulated market it can tax.

That’s the kind of idea it’s easy to get behind. Americans are gambling on sports whether the feds like it or not. It’s a billion-dollar industry and Washington should be actively seeking its piece of the pie.

In fact, a higher percentage of Americans are for the idea than against.

According to the Seton Hall Sports Poll, 46 percent of Americans claim support for allowing betting on sporting events. Just 42 percent think it’s a bad idea.

The question posed by the poll was this:

“It’s been said a lot of people bet on sporting events anyway, so government should allow it and tax it. It’s also been said legal betting on sporting events is a bad idea because it promotes too much gambling and damages the integrity of sports. Which comes closer to your view?”

I think the answer is clear.

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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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