The Sports Gambling Gold Rush Is Absolutely Off the Charts

Lebron James dunks a basketball with streamgraph of bets placed on sports over time
Photographer: Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images; Illustration: Jessica Karl

Legal sports betting in the U.S. — once confined to Nevada — has gone mainstream. Since the Supreme Court in 2018 ended federal bans on the industry’s expansion, dozens of states have legalized it, and a multibillion-dollar betting boom is afoot. More money is now wagered on sports in New Jersey than in Nevada. California, which may become the biggest market of all, will vote on legalization next year.

As betting expands, the boundaries that once separated gambling from sports media and professional sports leagues are disappearing. Digital apps make sports betting possible on mobile devices, which gives it a foothold across America and threatens the business of brick-and-mortar casinos. And this is only the beginning; the industry is poised for explosive growth.

The graphics below provide a snapshot of today’s sports betting landscape — the money and locations involved and some of the partnerships recently forged among gambling companies, sports leagues and media outlets.

Bets Placed on Sports

In June 2018, sports gamblers wagered $310 million for the month. In October 2021, they wagered $7 billion for the month — a more than 20-fold increase.

October

$7.1B

$6B

June 2018

Sports gambling

legalized in May

March

Pandemic

start

4

2

0

2019

2020

2021

October

$7.1B

$6B

June 2018

Sports gambling

legalized in May

March

Pandemic

start

4

2

0

2019

2020

2021

October

$7.1B

$6B

June 2018

Sports gambling

legalized in May

March

Pandemic

start

4

2

0

2019

2020

2021

0

$1B

June 2018

Sports gambling

legalized in May

2019

2020

March

Pandemic start

2021

October

$7.1B

$6B

0

4

2

Source: Sportshandle.com
Note: Wyoming data are through September; Nevada’s April and May 2020 figures were redacted; Michigan’s March 2020 figures represented a limited number of days.

For decades, sports betting was an add-on at most casinos. It added to the flavor of the place, but the real action (and revenue) was at slot machines, keno, roulette and other table games. Now, sports betting is surging. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicts the online market could reach $39 billion in annual revenue by 2033 — up from less than $1 billion today. Digital betting has been behind this surge. Like many online activities, it got a huge boost from the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Bets Placed by Platform

Mobile wagering has become the preferred method of sports gamblers (gambling revenue at the corporate level represents total wagers minus payouts to winning bettors).

October

Retail: 16%

Mobile: 84%

$6B

June 2018

Retail: 100%

Mobile: 0%

4

2

0

2019

2020

2021

October

Retail: 16%

Mobile: 84%

$6B

June 2018

Retail: 100%

Mobile: 0%

4

2

0

2019

2020

2021

October

Retail: 16%

Mobile: 84%

$6B

June 2018

Retail: 100%

Mobile: 0%

4

2

0

2019

2020

2021

0

$1B

June 2018

Retail: 100%

Mobile: 0%

2019

2020

2021

October

Retail: 16%

Mobile: 84%

4

0

2

$6B

Source: Sportshandle.com
Note: Mobile and retail wagers don’t add up to total wagers because only data for which mobile and retail breakdowns are available are shown.
In states where sports betting is popular, mobile has quickly overtaken on-site sports betting.

Mobile bets

Retail bets

Illinois

Indiana

Michigan

$1.2M

0

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

Nevada

New Jersey

Pennsylvania

$1.2M

0

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

Mobile bets

Retail bets

Illinois

Indiana

Michigan

$1.2M

0

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

Nevada

New Jersey

Pennsylvania

$1.2M

0

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

Mobile bets

Retail bets

Illinois

Indiana

Michigan

$1.2M

0

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

Nevada

New Jersey

Pennsylvania

$1.2M

0

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

’19

’20

’21

Source: Sportshandle.com

The Puritans believed gambling was sinful. And for much of U.S. history, that cultural disdain prevailed — however hypocritical or puritanical it might seem. But the expansion of state lotteries and legalized casino gambling over the past several decades, along with greater cultural permissiveness toward many activities once seen as vices, has made gambling ubiquitous today. As the graphic below illustrates, sports betting is taking root everywhere and showing no signs of abating.

Sportsbook Gross Revenue

Sports gambling companies are on pace to make about $4 billion this year; if California legalizes it next year, the market could grow exponentially.

Annual estimate

2021 annualized revenue

Legal; figures not available

Pending or likely

Not legal

AK

ME

VT

NH

MA

ID

MT

ND

MN

WI

MI

NY

CT

RI

WA

$978M

OR

NV

WY

SD

IA

IL

IN

OH

PA

NJ

$429M

$494M

$771M

CA

UT

CO

NE

MO

KY

WV

MD

DC

DE

$3B

AZ

NM

KS

AR

MS

TN

VA

NC

$8M

OK

LA

AL

GA

SC

HI

TX

FL

Annual estimate

2021 annualized revenue

Legal; figures not available

Pending or likely

Not legal

AK

ME

VT

NH

MA

ID

MT

ND

MN

WI

MI

NY

CT

RI

WA

$978M

OR

NV

WY

SD

IA

IL

IN

OH

PA

NJ

$429M

$494M

$771M

CA

UT

CO

NE

MO

KY

WV

MD

DC

DE

$3B

AZ

NM

KS

AR

MS

TN

VA

NC

$8M

OK

LA

AL

GA

SC

HI

TX

FL

Annual estimate

2021 annualized revenue

Legal; figures not available

Pending or likely

Not legal

AK

ME

VT

NH

MA

ID

MT

ND

MN

WI

MI

NY

CT

RI

WA

$978M

OR

NV

WY

SD

IA

IL

IN

OH

PA

NJ

$429M

$494M

$771M

CA

UT

CO

NE

MO

KY

WV

MD

DC

DE

$3B

AZ

NM

KS

AR

MS

TN

VA

NC

$8M

OK

LA

AL

GA

SC

HI

TX

FL

2021 annualized revenue

Annual estimate

Legal; figures not available

Pending or likely

Not legal

AK

ME

VT

NH

MA

ID

MT

ND

MN

WI

MI

NY

CT

RI

WA

OR

NV

WY

SD

IA

IL

IN

OH

PA

NJ

$429M

$771M

CA

UT

CO

NE

MO

KY

WV

MD

DC

DE

$3B

AZ

NM

KS

AR

MS

TN

VA

NC

$8M

OK

LA

AL

GA

SC

HI

TX

FL

Sources: Sportshandle.com; Eilers & Krejcik (California); Spectrum Gaming Group (New York)
Note: New York has offered sports betting since 2019, but only in four upstate casinos, so annual revenue has been relatively small. But statewide online betting is expected to be available in time for the Super Bowl in February.

Betting lines now roll across TV screens during sports broadcasts. Professional teams and leagues have established direct partnerships with gambling companies. Media and entertainment companies — including such family-friendly giants as the Walt Disney Co. — have pursued similar partnerships or opened the door to them. The visualization below shows many of the recent joint ventures that four leading sports betting companies have secured.

SPORTS

BetMGM

Entertainment,

hospitality

Media

companies

Celebrities

Gambling

SPORTs

Caesars

Entertainment

Media

companies

Celebrities

Entertainment,

hospitality

Gambling

Harrah’s

Eldorado

Resorts

SPORTS

Jordan is special adviser to DraftKings’s board as well as a co-owner of NASCAR team 23XI

DraftKings

Entertainment,

hospitality

Tech

companies

Celebrities

Media

Gambling

Hollywood

Casino

SPORTS

Tech

FanDuel

companies

Celebrities

Twin

River

Media

Gambling

Boyd

Gaming

SPORTS

BetMGM

Entertainment,

hospitality

Media

companies

Celebrities

Gambling

SPORTs

Caesars

Entertainment

Entertainment,

hospitality

Media

companies

Celebrities

Gambling

Eldorado

Resorts

Harrah’s

SPORTS

Jordan is special adviser to DraftKings’s board as well as a co-owner of NASCAR team 23XI

DraftKings

Entertainment,

hospitality

Celebrities

companies

Media

Tech

Gambling

Hollywood

Casino

SPORTS

FanDuel

Celebrities

companies

Media

Tech

Twin

River

Boyd

Gaming

Gambling

SPORTS

BetMGM

Entertainment,

hospitality

Media

companies

Celebrities

Gambling

SPORTs

Caesars

Entertainment

Entertainment,

hospitality

Media

Celebrities

companies

Gambling

Eldorado

Resorts

Harrah’s

SPORTS

Jordan is special adviser to DraftKings’s board as well as a co-owner of NASCAR team 23XI

DraftKings

Entertainment,

hospitality

Celebrities

companies

Media

Tech

Gambling

Hollywood

Casino

SPORTS

FanDuel

companies

Media

Tech

Celebrities

Twin

River

Boyd

Gaming

Gambling

Sources: Company and news reports
Note: Deals, announcements shown are not exhaustive.