Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl, with hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States thought to have been wagered on them to clinch it in their hotly fought contest against the New England Patriots.
Throughout the long NFL season, experts suggest that billions are staked on who's going to make it to the Super Bowl, win regional divisions and take each game. The legality of NFL betting in the United States is open to debate, with some industry analysts claiming that a large percentage of the money bet may be technically illegal.
Before the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles took to the field for the Super Bowl on 4 February 2018, some amazing betting numbers were released, revealing just how much money was expected to be bet on the Super Bowl with online bookmakers.
Analysts predicted that around $4.6 billion would be wagered on the outcome of the game. What's even more incredible is the fact that around 97% of those bets are thought to be technically illegal under American law. To be official, Super Bowl bets have to be placed with a fully licensed sportsbook in Nevada – like those found along the Las Vegas strip. Those who didn't happen to be in Vegas or legally able to use a Nevada sportsbook placed their bets with 'illegal' vendors – including offshore sports betting websites, unregulated bookies and office pools.
These NFL betting options are theoretically illegal, but the American authorities might have a tough time trying to prosecute anyone. The truth is, Americans are realistically free to bet on the NFL with offshore bookmakers and sportsbooks and have been doing so for years. The real cost is to the American economy.
Many leading names and organisations in the industry have expressed dismay or changed their stance on the contentious sports betting issue. Indeed, most hold the view that the ban on sports betting in the USA has become a joke, goes against the concept of the 'Land of the Free' and ultimately cheats the American economy out of billions of dollars. However some organisations, such as the MLB, remain skeptical. Indeed, given the fact that billions were bet illegally on the Super Bowl, without any real chance of prosecution against those who took the bets or placed a wager, the situation is becoming hard to maintain.
It's certainly a view held by Geoff Freeman, the President and CEO of the American Gaming Association, whose comments convey the betting industry's general consensus following the release of Super Bowl betting figures:
“Thanks to the failed federal ban on sports betting, Americans are sending billions of their hard-earned dollars to corner bookies, shady offshore operators and other criminal enterprises.”
The gambling supremo also raised hopes that 2018 would finally be the year in which the American authorities stopped lining the pockets of offshore bookmakers and black market fraudsters:
“The big question we’re asking is: will 2018 finally the year when governments, sporting bodies and the gaming industry work together to put the illegal sports betting market out of business?”
This time around, the Super Bowl came at the end of a very interesting year in sports betting across America. Firstly, New Jersey took its case to the Supreme Court, seeking legalisation in the state, with a view to granting betting freedom across the nation. While the Court considers the case, many other organisations have started to strongly push for the freedom to bet on all forms of professional sport in America. This includes the National Basketball Association, who have been vocal about their conditional support of the legalisation of sports betting.
Freeman revealed his thoughts and concerns on the NBA adding its weight:
“The NBA is an important stakeholder and we are pleased to see their active engagement. Unfortunately, their proposal would replace a failed federal law with bad state policy, robbing law enforcement, regulators and state taxpayers of additional resources. Eliminating the illegal market is in the public interest – and it is incumbent on each stakeholder to prove how their proposals achieve that critical objective.”
This year's Super Bowl again raised the question of the USA's relationship with sports betting. According to Freeman and others, what the nation needs is fully regulated legal sports betting in all states. It's doubtful that the law will change in time for everyone to place technically legal bets on the NFL and Super Bowl next season, but that day creeps closer to being a reality.