Sports Betting Projected to Reach $95 Billion on NFL and College Football This Season

on September 10, 2015
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Tom Brady and his defending NFL champion Patriots are worth roughly $2.7 billion, but the sports betting industry surrounding football is valued at more than 35 times that figure. (Image: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Sports betting is illegal in all but Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon, but Americans are still expected to wager a staggering $95 billion on NFL and NCAA college football games during the fall and winter, $93 billion of that total being placed illegally.

In fact, betting on football is actually a bigger revenue generator than the NFL itself, and it’s not even close as the league produces around $12 billion annually.

The Professional & Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 mandates on the federal level that betting on professional and collegiate athletic competitions is illegal, with the four aforementioned states being given special privilege due to pre-PASPA laws.

But citizens in all 50 states continue placing unlawful bets on contests, and with the emergence of daily fantasy sports (DFS) becoming a multimillion-dollar marketplace, gambling on football is richer than ever.

Gambling Addicts

With revenues forecasted to reach $95 billion this season, one can argue that Americans are addicted to sports betting.

Taking into account that the sale of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine is estimated to be a $100 billion per year, sports betting is nearly as profitable as the illegal drug trade, albeit the practice has a much larger population to pool from than narcotics.

According to the American Gaming Association (AGA), decriminalizing sports betting would create a safer industry for all involved and stop customers from having to rely on illegal gambling networks that often “fund violent crimes and drug and human trafficking,” per the AGA’s press release.

“Illegal sports betting is reaching new heights of popularity in America,” said Geoff Freeman, AGA president. “It’s clear that a federal ban on traditional sports betting outside of Nevada is failing.”

Over $3.8 billion was wagered on last year’s Super Bowl alone, with just $100 million bet legally on the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks showdown.

ESPN and several other networks have gone so far as to cover sports betting spreads and lines, updating games as they relate to covers.

“Sports betting has been carefully considered over a long period of time,” ESPN recently said in a statement. “We recognize that fans are increasingly interested in this conversation… Our mission is to serve fans and we believe this is consistent with that.”

Daily Fantasy Review

It’s downright impossible to watch a televised sporting event without seeing an advertisement for FanDuel, DraftKings, or other DFS network.

Through a loophole in the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIEGA), the federal mandate that bans online gambling, DFS networks are escaping current policies by claiming its users require skill to win.

45 states currently allow daily fantasy betting, and nearly four million paying customers are playing on DraftKings and FanDuel, the two leading platforms that control some 95 percent of the North American DFS market. The fall football season has been deemed critical for DFS operators who’ve invested heavily in marketing campaigns.

“With all this money and marketing, if they can’t show accelerated growth this year maybe this industry will never become mainstream,” Adam Krejcik, an Eilers Research analyst told the Wall Street Journal.

For now, sports betting might not be an accepted activity legally, but at $95 billion for football alone, it’s irrefutably mainstream.