The growth of sports betting in the United States

In the first half of 2022, it is estimated that the amount of money spent on sports betting in the USA will exceed all previous records. 

And some experts estimate, that by 2026, the amount bet annually in mainland USA could exceed US $10 billion, 

Those figures could even be conservative since it is forecast that more than 20 million Americans will be placing bets on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, that could exceed US $1.8 billion.

This growth in large part is due to a landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court in 2018. That overcame an old law that had been in place since 2018 which restricted sports betting, at both professional and collegiate level, to the state of Nevada, which is world famous for its Casinos like Caesar’s Palace and Planet Hollywood).

(Nowadays, of course, thanks to the internet there is no need to travel to the Western United States to experience all the thrills of casino gaming. There are numerous online casinos, whilst sites like Bet365 mirror links provides reams of useful information as to what is legally permitted in various countries around the word).

Since that historic judgement, sports betting has become legal in 31 States in all, with more to follow. Ohio, for example, will allow it from January 1st, 2023. 

Of course, it would be naïve to claim that sports betting was not common practice before 2018 in America.

The practice dates back almost to the dawn of time. Whenever one man raced against each other, fought or wrestled in the street, or raced horses or chariots against each other, there were always bookmakers ready to offer odds on the outcome, and no shortage of those willing to place their bets.

The issue is that the vast majority of these American bookmakers were unlicensed and, not always subject to the moral codes and rules of society. The internet abounds with stories of people who had placed what they were thought were winning bets on live sport and other events, only to find that the bookmaker had disappeared along with their money.

Part of the motivation for legalising sports betting is that the various sports houses and online bookmakers can now be regulated and subject to the same provisions and rules as state lotteries and bookmakers.

It also offers, from the perspective of the individual States, a very useful; way of boosting State coffers with a  new form of tax revenue, at a time when finances are stretched due to the credit crunch.

New York, for example, currently taxes mobile sports betting at 51%, which is far higher than any other category of expenditure in the State.

Not that legalising the practice has killed off unlicensed bookmakers. They still exist, ready to take advantage of the unwary.

One by-product of the new environment is that there has been a vast amount in the money that the online bookmakers spent on advertising.

It is hard for the average American now to watch any TV programme or absorb any content on social media without being subject to a barrage of adverts promoting sports betting tips or offering links to betting pages.

For some this growth cannot be sustained, and there have been suggestions that the environment is akin to the California Gold Rush of 1848. 

That was when the discovery of gold in California saw more than 300,000 from the rest of the country flock there in the hope of making their fortune. Very few struck it lucky, the remainder ending up poor and destitute). 

And there are also those who worry that unfettered advertising by online bookmakers could be having an unhealthy influence on children, and encourage them from an early age to take up gambling.

Perhaps they may want to take a leaf our of the book of Spain, which has recently passed a new law on gambling.

It had already cracked down considerably and licensed Spanish bookmakers ate only able to advertise on television and radio between the hours of 1 am and 5 am, and the lucrative sports sponsorship deals with bookmakers which Spanish football and other sports teams had previously enjoyed were banned.

The new legislation goes much further, and has made advertisers consider social responsibility when advertising. Bookmakers are not allowed to promote their products suggesting they are in any way beneficial to mental or physical well-being or economic status,.

Nor are they allowed to depict money or luxury goods, or imply, in any way, that family or friendships should take second place to gambling.

For American online bookmakers they can operate with relative impunity at the moment. Knowing that as long as they stay within the rules, they are unlikely to face sanction.

It does, though, behove them to act responsibly, because there could well be a public backlash if, for example, there is an increase in the number of problem gamblers.

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