It has been a sensational couple of years for the US sports betting industry since the May, 2018 Supreme Court decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. Despite a grim couple of months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the industry in America just hit the $22 billion mark in terms of bets taken in, both at retail facilities and online. And with the sports world moving closer toward "normality" every day, optimism that new heights can be reached is once again creeping back.
Obviously, there is nowhere to go but "up" in terms of the sports betting industry. It shouldn't be hard considering the world has just endured the better part of two months without casinos or live sports. The appetite for sports betting was rabid pre-COVID and hopes are that it picks up where it left off as our world continues on a path toward normal.
If the few sports that have been aired the last few weeks are any indication of the pent-up demand for live competition and betting, the US legal wagering industry is set to soar once again toward a projected $25 billion by the end of this year.
Thankful for sports
The few marketable, bankable, live sporting events that have taken place the last month has allowed all of us to enjoy some of our favorite athletes and made us all realize just how much we took the constant barrage of live sports for granted.
German soccer has returned, UFC has staged three successful events with more on the schedule, NASCAR has run a number of successful fan-less races, the NHL is in talks to return to an abbreviated schedule, the NBA has shown a willingness to return to action and MLB looks closer to throwing out their first pitch.
Viewership and betting numbers for the few events
It hasn't gone unnoticed just how much attention that the few sporting events that have taken place have enjoyed. The NFL Draft in April served to remind us just how intensely popular North American sports is, both on TV and with sportsbooks across the country.
The Draft generated five-times the amount of betting traffic it usually sees, the first UFC event (UFC 249) contributed the equivalent of a full weekend of NBA games to sportsbooks, and even "the Match" which saw Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning squaring off against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady drew huge viewership numbers. According to TNT, 5.8 million viewers (with a peak of 6.3 million viewers) tuned in to the charity match which comes in as the most-watched golf event in cable TV history.
NASCAR has also enjoyed a mini-resurgence after viewership numbers for the sport had been slipping in recent years.
Sportsbooks are still being forced to take just futures bets on its major North American sports such as basketball, baseball, football and hockey but indications are that real-life action is headed our way.
Bettors will no longer have to rely on Professional Korean Baseball, table tennis or any one of the other obscure sporting leagues around the world.
Football (both professional and college) is still up-in-the-air with regards to its return. Playing out their seasons has never been more important for sportsbooks. Pigskin contributes an estimated one-third of dollars taken in annually by North American sports betting providers. Of the two, college ball seems to be more at risk – the NFL plans to forge ahead although anything is possible with the coronavirus pandemic.
States now relying on tax revenue
22 states (including Washington DC) now have legislation in place for their own legal sports betting platform – four of those haven’t quite launched but are close. That means that nearly half of US states are now relying on the industry to generate tax revenue.
With the coronavirus shutdowns, books in the US saw 60%-80% drops in their overall handles which obviously affects state and local coffers. But with the optimism surrounding the re-opening of sports around the globe, states now relying on tax revenue from sports betting should start to see some necessary funds flowing in once again.
It is hard to imaging a tougher few months for any industry than we have just seen with sports betting during the spring. With the light appearing at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, sportsbooks are starting to reveal just what a strong industry they captain. It takes a resilient industry to navigate such uncertain times.