Sports Betting Features in The Us
place bets, bettors deposit money in an account with Churchill Downs, the sponsoring racetrack, and place wagers after providing a user name and confidential PIN number. Although currently operating only in Kentucky, TVG has broadcasting agreements with a number of other racetracks in anticipation of offering a wider scale of racing to its patrons.74 Many in the horse-racing industry see this system as an integral step toward expanding the base of the pari-mutuel clientele.75
Despite its popularity, sports wagering in America is illegal in all but two states. Nevada has 142 legal sports books that allow wagering on professional and amateur sports.76 Oregon runs a game called “Sports Action” that is associated with the Oregon Lottery and allows wagering on the outcome of pro football games. Outside of these two states, wagering on sports is illegal in the United States.
According to Russell Guindon, Senior research analyst for Nevada’s Gaming Control Board, sports wagering reached $2.3 billion in Nevada’s legalized sports books in fiscal 1998.77 Nevada sports books took in $77.4 million in revenue on college and professional sports wagering. According to one major strip resort, betting on amateur events accounted for 33 percent of revenue.78 Estimates of the scope of illegal sports betting in the United States range anywhere from $80 billion to $380 billion annually, making sports betting the most widespread and popular form of gambling in America.79
Many Americans are unaware of the risks and impacts of sports wagering and about the potential for legal consequences. Even when Americans understand the illegality of sports wagering, it is easy to participate in, widely accepted, very popular, and, at present, not likely to be prosecuted. One reason Americans may not be aware of the illegality of sports wagering is that the Las Vegas “line,” or point spread, is published in most of the 48 states where sports wagering is illegal. Some have argued that the point spread is nothing more than a device that appeals to those who make or solicit bets. Critics claim that the point spread does not contribute to the popularity of sports, only to the popularity of sports wagering.
Because sports wagering is illegal in most states, it does not provide many of the positive impacts that other forms of gambling offer. In particular, sports wagering does not contribute to local economies and produces few jobs. Unlike casinos or other destination resorts, sports wagering does not create other economic sectors.
This Commission heard testimony that sports wagering is a serious problem that has devastated families and careers.80 Sports wagering threatens the integrity of sports, it puts student athletes in a vulnerable position, it can put adolescent gamblers at risk for gambling problems, and it can devastate individuals and careers. There is considerable evidence that sports wagering is widespread on America’s college campuses. Cedric Dempsey, executive director of the NCAA, asserts that “every campus has student bookies. We are also seeing an increase