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September 9, 2018

Online Gambling Set for Huge Growth in the US

The supreme court decision earlier this year to allow states to set their own legislative rules regarding sports betting is a landmark one in more ways than one. For one thing, it is a clear confirmation of what is, and is not, within the remit of the federal decision makers. But for another, it indicates a fundamental change of attitude to the whole concept of recreational gambling.

In other parts of the world, both sports betting and casino-style gaming are an accepted part of day to day life. Switch on the TV in the UK of an evening, and within minutes, you will see a commercial for one casino site or another. Watch a sporting event there, and the main sponsors are sports betting sites. The furor and debate over what advertisers are allowed to be involved at the forthcoming NFL game at London’s Wembley stadium shows that there is still a clash of two cultures here – but the gap is closing.

Gambling entering the mainstream

At the last count, there were 44 states in which Americans can legally place an online bet of some description. In states like Nevada and New Jersey, the sector is already booming – New Jersey, in particular, has been at the forefront of campaigning to get the rules relaxed and allow international partnerships – the thinking is that if players in mainland Europe and parts of Asia can play Fruity King roulette games from a UK provider, for example, then why shouldn’t people in New Jersey? The result of New Jersey’s tireless campaigning is an online gambling market that is worth $245 million per year.

It is little wonder that other states are looking to follow in New Jersey’s footsteps. Pennsylvania introduced new rules last year, while New York and Massachusetts have made efforts to introduce online casinos – the relaxation in sports betting is certain to be seen as a step towards making that happen.

What sectors will see the greatest expansion

Clearly there is a big difference between 44 states allowing betting “of some sort” and just four in which online casinos and poker are legal (Pennsylvania joins Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware). So what are the next probable stages?

The obvious change will be in the sports betting arena, as this is the sector that has been under the spotlight this year. In Montana and Oregon, for example, there are already sports pool systems that allow sports betting in a very restrictive way. It seems obvious that it will be a case of when, not if, the rules are relaxed to permit a wider variety of sports bets. Meanwhile, in California, Kansas, Michigan and elsewhere, there are plans in place to introduce sports betting as soon as the end of this year.

Joining the global gambling economy

Discussing state rules is important, but it ignores the most important facet to today’s online gambling industry, one that New Jersey has been desperately trying to explain to lawmakers. This is a sector that has little interest in state or national boundaries. Whether it is a game of blackjack, a spin on a slot machine or backing a sports game, this is a truly international market. And for the US businesses desperate to get started, it is there for the taking.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.

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