Report: Two-Thirds Of U.S. Super Bowl Bets Were Placed Illegally

Last year, the American Gaming Association claimed that 77% of all online sports bets were placed legally in the United States. But a new Guardian report calls that statistic, and the effectiveness of efforts to extinguish the offshore market, into question.

Citing research from the gambling analysis firm Yield Sec, The Guardian reported that while Americans bet $5.37 billion on the Super Bowl, only $1.4 billion of that figure was bet legally. That works out to roughly two-thirds of all U.S. Super Bowl bets being placed on the black market.

On the one hand, it appears as though the legal market has a long way to go in its quest to snuff out its offshore rivals. But John Holden, an associate professor at Oklahoma State University, told The Guardian that had he known that, six years after PASPA's repeal, the legal U.S. betting market would have put a 33% dent in illegal operators' bottom lines, “that would be wonderful.”

A haven for underage gamblers

There are a handful of reasons why an American gambler might still choose to wager in an unregulated market, chief among them that they may not be of legal betting age.

“It's much easier for people who are underage to gamble on offshore sites,” Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University, told The Guardian.

“Many of the kids we talk to don't distinguish between the legal and the illegal market. They don't even know,” added Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. “It's absolutely crazy to expect any consumer, much less a young consumer, to figure out these incredibly fine distinctions.”

As for those distinctions, Holden said that the illegal sites “look as good, if not better, than the FanDuels and DraftKings of the world,” and offered that if legal betting apps expect to really cut into the offshore market, they have to build better platforms with more competitive odds.

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A study released this week by the research outfit All About Cookies found that while 80% of Americans think sports betting should be legal in their state, a quarter of them said they weren't even sure if betting apps were legal where they live.

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