U.S. Bettors Wagered $53 Billion in First 3 Years of Broad Legalization

U.S. Bettors Wagered $53 Billion in First 3 Years of Broad Legalization article feature image

DOMINICK REUTER/AFP via Getty Images. Pictured: A bettor hands cash to a teller on the first day of legal sports betting in New Jersey.

Fifty-three billion dollars.

That’s how much money has been bet on sports in the United States in the past three years.

On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court made it possible for each state to make their own decisions regarding sports betting by repealing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 and the floodgates opened. Twenty states, plus Washington D.C., have taken bets since then.

In June 2018, Delaware beat New Jersey, whose original lawsuit created the momentum for the change, and took the first bets, but it was the Garden State that became king.

Bolstered by an open system with more than 20 mobile sports books and the fact that New York still hasn’t figured out mobile betting, New Jersey operators took in $14.4 billion worth of bets in three years.

That’s just short of Nevada, which took in $14.5 billion, but obviously had a 90-year advantage. In 2020, New Jersey beat Nevada every month, became the first state to take in $6 billion worth of bets and almost had $1 billion in a single month ($996 million in December).

Pennsylvania took a while to get up and running, but hit its first $600 million handle in January 2021. Illinois has generated huge numbers, thanks in part to a temporary hold on in-person mobile registration during Covid.

Mobile registration has proven to be so important to growth. It’s how Colorado pulled in $1.2 billion worth of bets in the first eight months and how Tennessee hit the billion dollar mark in a record six months despite the unique restriction of requiring sports books to have a hold percentage above 10%.

So what’s ahead? Most eyes are on activity in five states — New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Texas and California.

If those states at some point are legal and have fully open mobile sports betting availability, projections have yearly U.S. sports betting handle approaching $25 billion.

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