Legal Sports Betting in the US: Will Vegas Lose Visitors Because Of It?
In the last few years, the US gambling industry has undergone a serious change. If at the beginning of the decade, the closest US residents could come to online casinos was reading reviews for Canadian online casinos over the internet. Now, several states have already decided to regulate online casinos and poker rooms, and there are many others planning to do the same. And another major change has come this year, with the Supreme Court overthrowing PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992) that effectively outlawed sports betting in almost the entire country, with the exception of sports lotteries in Delaware, Montana, and Oregon, and the sports pools in Nevada. Today, any state in the US has the right to decide whether it wants to regulate betting on sports or ban it. And many of them - including Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Mississippi - are planning to regulate the business as soon as possible.
Punters have wagered almost $5 billion in Las Vegas alone in 2017, with the Nevada Gaming Control Board reporting total revenues by the state's bookmakers almost reaching $250 million. These figures are a record for the state. The widespread regulation of sports betting in the US (specialists speak of 32 US states considering the regulation of the industry in the near future) makes one wonder: will the betting revenues of the bookmakers in Las Vegas and the state of Nevada decrease as a result?
The answer is most likely "no", according to specialists in the field. "When casino gambling opened across the country, the reaction has always been, 'We’re afraid it will take business away from Nevada'", Chris Andrews, sports book director at the South Point told the Review-Journal this May. "But it’s just grown the market, more than anything else. I think this will do the same thing for sports betting." And there are others who think that nationwide sports wagering not only won't hurt the Las Vegas market but revigorate it instead. "The prognosis for the Nevada gaming industry was strong, is strong and will always be strong", Florida-based sports and gaming legal expert Daniel Wallach told the Review-Journal. "Las Vegas will always be the desired destination for sports betting for major events. Nobody is going to take a junket to Rhode Island to watch the first two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament".
Betting on sports is a high-volume, low-margin business, and there are many things that legislators can do to hurt it - a tax burden too high, for example, can deter businesses of choosing this path. Thus, there is no way to know how profitable the business will prove for individual states in the future. But one thing is for sure: it will bring at least a part of the underground sports betting market, estimated to be worth up to $150 billion, to the surface.