The Washington Post

The amount of money gambled illegally on football will blow your mind


(Associated Press)

If there’s one reason why the federal ban on sports betting is silly — besides the somehow-constitutional fact that the government allows the practice in some states but not most of the others — it is this: Of the $95 billion wagered on NFL and college football games this season, $93 billion of it will be wagered illegally. So estimates the American Gaming Association in a news release issued Wednesday.

Think about that for a moment: The amount of money wagered illegally on football games in the United States is roughly equivalent to the revenue generated by each of the following major corporations in fiscal year 2015: Boeing, Siemens, Nestle, IBM, Hitachi and BMW. All this despite a federal law designed to prevent illegal gambling from happening.

So yeah, it isn’t working. But imagine, for a second, if there was some sort of mechanism for legal sports gambling in the United States, as there is in many other countries. According to projections from the gaming research firm GamblingCompliance, a fully developed sports gambling market would generate $12.4 billion annual revenue.

As noted by ESPN’s David Purdum, that would be roughly the same as the revenue generated by the entire NFL (team revenue plus league revenue). No wonder NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants in on the sports-gambling ground floor.

In Nevada, one of the few places where sports gambling is legal in the United States and the only place where full-scale sports gambling takes place, casinos won about $227 million on the $3.9 billion wagered legally on sports in the state in 2014. And that revenue is funneled back to the state: In fiscal year 2014, Nevada’s casinos generated $718 million in gaming taxes overall and, when you add in all the other ways in which casinos are taxed, they contributed 47.3 percent of the state’s tax revenue.

But nah, we’d rather see that money go almost completely unchecked in this country rather than establish an entirely doable framework for the legalization and monitoring of sports gambling. Seems logical.

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