Sara Slane, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at the American Gaming Association (AGA), offered industry observers a full update this week on the shape of US sports betting both currently and with a view to the year ahead.

As you no doubt saw this week, we released our annual Super Bowl research, finding that one in six Americans watching the Super Bowl will have placed a bet on the game: 52% saying they will bet on the Rams, and 48% on the Patriots. Twenty-three million Americans will wager a staggering $6bn on this year’s Super Bowl. To put that in perspective, Americans will bet around the same amount on this one event as they bet legally in all of 2018.

These findings underscore what we’ve known for a long time: wagering on the Super Bowl is embedded into the fabric of the American culture. In fact, Americans will bet 10 times more on the Super Bowl than they will spend on pizza and chicken wings the night of the game. Americans’ desire for legal sports betting is real and there is still plenty of work to do to eliminate the illegal market.

When the Supreme Court struck down PASPA in May, it didn’t just unlock new economic potential for the rest of the country – it opened the door for safe, regulated alternatives to a vast and thriving illegal sports betting market. However, legal alternatives must be able to compete with the illegal operators who don’t pay taxes or provide consumer protections. The more friction points for legal operators – high tax rates and the inability to offer mobile, for example – the less attractive their platforms become to consumers.

Shifting gears, we did want to mention the Department of Justice’s recent reinterpretation of the Wire Act. While our member companies continue to evaluate what this opinion means for their highly regulated operations, we echo our previous call for the DoJ to turn their attention and focus on investigating and shutting down illegal, unregulated gambling operators who prey on consumers. The DoJ’s opinion has not slowed the pace of states pursuing legalized sports betting across the country, and we remain committed to working with all stakeholders to preserve the ability of states and sovereign tribal nations to regulate gaming.

Even today, we’re seeing first-hand the immense popularity of legal sports betting. Across all eight states that operated safe, legal, regulated sports betting in the US, bettors legally wagered nearly $1bn in November alone, with more than four out of every 10 dollars wagered outside the well-established Nevada market. We’ve also seen remarkable numbers in New Jersey, where more than $1.24bn has been wagered since June. And if we thought 2018 was a busy year, 2019 is already making it look dull.  

The strong appetite for legalized sports betting is clear, and legislatures across the country are considering sports betting legalization with the strong support of their constituents. Since PASPA was overturned, 10 states, plus Washington DC, have legalized or authorized sports betting. All of that happened in just seven months, and the next seven look every bit as active.

So far, 15 states have either active or pre-filed legislation to legalize sports betting in their jurisdictions. These states include Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia.

More than half of the states with pending bills explicitly legalize mobile wagering. On top of that, two states that legalized sports betting last year – Mississippi and Rhode Island – have introduced bills to fully legalize mobile wagering in their states. State legislatures clearly recognize that in order to bring consumers into the legal, regulated market, they need to offer convenient access.

Now, I’d like to take a moment to go through the states that have not yet introduced legislation, but where we expect some action on sports betting in 2019, based on reports of upcoming bills and public statements from policymakers. These states include Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, and Vermont.

To put all of this activity in context: since PASPA was overturned last year, one-fifth of the states have legalized or authorized sports betting. By the end of 2019, it is likely that half of the states will have considered or begun offering legal, regulated sports betting.

AGA will continue to advocate for the inclusion of sensible gaming policies wherever it is being considered, including consumer protections and sensible tax rates that enable the legal, regulated market to compete with illegal bookies and offshore operators. We have a busy year ahead, and we’re looking forward to our work with all of you as legal, regulated sports betting continues to expand in 2019.