Will it be a bonanza for states and teams?

Executive Summary

Legal gambling on sports events, once allowed for all practical purposes only in Nevada, is spreading in the wake of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision giving states the right to set their own rules for betting on sports. The market for sports betting is lucrative, with estimates of the total amount wagered annually ranging from $150 billion to $400 billion. The lineup of those looking to cash in is long. It includes professional teams and leagues, casinos, online gambling sites and state governments. But there is great uncertainty over how much of this total market will be captured by legal betting. There also is concern that legalization could feed addictive gambling and increase the chances of corruption among athletes, especially college players. And it remains to be seen whether legalized sports betting increases the overall amount of legal gambling in the United States or merely takes market share away from lotteries and casinos.

Among the key takeaways:

  • Eight states and the District of Columbia currently allow legal sports gambling, and several others are considering it.

  • Professional sports leagues are signing agreements with casino companies to partner in sports gambling ventures.

  • Colleges and pro leagues are seeking “integrity fees” that would grant them a cut of gambling revenues to fund policing efforts among athletes, but are running into resistance.

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Resources for Further Study



Davies, Richard O., and Richard G. Abram, “Betting the Line: Sports Wagering in American Life,” Ohio State University Press, 2001. Two academics provide a thorough and entertaining history of American gambling, legal and illegal.

Schwartz, David G., “Cutting the Wire: Gambling Prohibition and the Internet,” University of Nevada Press, 2005. The author examines what he calls “the pell-mell history of legal gambling in the United States.”


Drape, Joe, “New Jersey Embraces Sports Gambling, and a Billion-Dollar Business Is Born,” The New York Times, Jan. 29, 2019, http://tinyurl.com/yavgbx3q. A journalist provides an early survey of the spin-off industries created by legal sports gambling.

Mushnick, Phil, “Leagues leading fans down road to hell to boost viewership,” New York Post, Feb. 2, 2019, http://tinyurl.com/y4hqvgjw. An opponent of legal gambling strongly warns of its pitfalls.

Rybaltowski, Matt, “2019 Sports Betting Preview: Will Congress Enact Federal Standard For Legalized Gambling?” Forbes, Dec. 18, 2018, http://tinyurl.com/y4oxx8xd. A journalist offers a speculative look at a rapidly changing legal landscape for sports betting.

Wolken, Dan, “Why legalized sports gambling is a win for millions of fans,” USA Today, May 14, 2018, http://tinyurl.com/yy6l6o5z. A gambling enthusiast cheers that the “veil of nonsense” has been removed from illegal gambling and predicts “it’s now a race to see who can capitalize” on the popularity of betting on sports.

Reports and Studies

“At the gate and beyond: Outlook for the sports market in North America through 2022,” pwc.com, accessed Feb. 25, 2019, http://tinyurl.com/yx9gxr4p. The consulting firm offers a look at the industry in light of the new laws regarding sports gambling.

“Economic Impact of Legalized Sports Betting,” Oxford Economics, May 2017, http://tinyurl.com/y5u7f2tp. A long and detailed report commissioned by the American Gaming Association.

The Next Step

College Sports

Bonesteel, Matt, “For the second time in three nights, a missed call has NCAA basketball gamblers in a tizzy,” The Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/y5o73g4m. The legalization of sports gambling has led to more scrutiny over calls and overall referee performance in college basketball games, says a Washington Post reporter.

Dodd, Dennis, “Standardized injury reports face hurdles as college football adapts to new sports gambling laws,” CBS Sports, Feb. 22, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/y48qjr7m. The chair of an NCAA committee is calling on schools to begin issuing weekly player injury reports to mitigate potential cheating and game fixing.

Gruber-Miller, Stephen, “Iowa Poll: Most oppose legalizing betting on pro sports; even more oppose it for colleges,” Des Moines Register, Feb. 27, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/yyu6cpkj. More than two-thirds of Iowans oppose betting on college sports, according to a recent poll.

Online Betting

Anderson, Patrick, “R.I. House Finance panel OKs mobile betting, more online sales-tax collection,” Providence Journal, March 5, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/yxlcmojf. Rhode Island lawmakers are moving toward approval of online sports betting to bring in additional tax revenue.

Jones, Zack, “TheScore To Become First Media Company To Offer Online And Mobile Sports Betting In North America,” Forbes, Dec. 18, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y6kxexds. A Toronto-based digital media company is entering the U.S. mobile and online sports betting industry in a partnership with a New Jersey racetrack.

Nirappil, Fenit, and Mike DeBonis, “D.C.’s representative to Congress spars with fellow Democrat over sports gambling contract,” The Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/y29fs86d. U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D.-Mo., is in a dispute with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton over the District of Columbia’s decision to award a sole-source contract for mobile sports betting in the city to a financially troubled Greek gaming company.


The Action Network
275 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016
A sports analysis and media company devoted to gambling.

American Gaming Association
799 9th St., N.W., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20001
Lobbyist group supporting all forms of legal gambling, including sports.

Center for Gaming Research – University of Nevada, Las Vegas
4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Box 457010, Las Vegas, NV 89154-7010
A university research center that provides scholarly studies of the gambling industry.

225 Franklin St., 26th Floor, Boston, MA 02110
Fantasy sports company that is evolving into legal sports gambling service.

Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, LLC
5 Corporate Park, Suite 110, Irvine, CA 92606
Boutique research firm that serves the global gambling industry.

MGM Resorts International
3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109
Global hotel and entertainment company that runs casinos.

National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling
5535 W. 131st St., Crestwood, IL 60445
Nonprofit group teaching about the detrimental effects of legal gambling.

Tax Policy Center
2100 M St., N.W., Washington, DC 20037
A joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution that offers experts in tax, budget and social policy who have government experience.

DOI: 10.1177/237455680509.n1