ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Legal sports betting could be offered in 32 states within five years if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey's quest to offer such gambling, according to a new report.
Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, which tracks state-by-state gambling legislation, said a new market would be worth more than $6 billion. If all 50 states got on board, legal sports betting could be worth $7.1 billion to $15.8 billion, they estimate.
Americans are already betting up to $60 billion annually using offshore sites and bookies, said Chris Grove, managing director for the firm. It's an industry that generates some $3 billion in revenue each year from U.S. customers.
"We estimate that a properly regulated market could be worth nearly five times that amount, resulting in a financial windfall for sports betting operators, sports leagues and media and state governments alike," Grove said.
His estimate of the illegal market does not include office pools and "social" or "casual" bets among friends that are included in some other estimates of illegal gambling that peg the market two or three times higher.
Grove said the exact size of the opportunity hinges on how many states decide to offer sports betting and how willing they are to offer a product that can compete with the sizable, well-established black market for sports betting.
Responding to the report, David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, estimated a smaller potential market of about $1.4 billion, assuming each state that currently has casino gambling opts to offer sports betting as well. He also said he does not see all 50 states offering sports betting, at least anytime soon due to entrenched opposition to gambling in a handful of states.
Assuming the high court rules in New Jersey's favor, Grove's firm predicted 14 states would offer sports betting within two years: Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Indiana; Massachusetts; Michigan; Mississippi; Montana; New Jersey; Ohio; Nevada; Pennsylvania; Virginia; and West Virginia.
Within five years, it predicted 18 more would join: Arizona; California; Idaho; Illinois; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Missouri; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Oklahoma; Vermont; Washington and Wyoming.
And within seven years, another dozen could offer it as well: Alabama; Arkansas; Florida; Georgia; Minnesota; Nebraska; New Hampshire; New Mexico; Oregon; Rhode Island; South Dakota and Wisconsin. The remaining states might never offer sports betting, the Eilers & Krejcik Gaming report predicted.
The company's estimates of when particular states might offer sports betting were determined by weighing questions including whether a state already has pending legislation, if there are Constitutional obstacles to expanding gambling, whether their gambling industry is united or divided, the general legislative attitude toward gambling as it exists now in a particular state and how badly a state needs extra money.
Major professional and collegiate sports leagues oppose New Jersey's effort to legalize sports betting, saying it would threaten the perceived integrity of the games.
New Jersey is taking aim at a law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that forbids state-authorized sports gambling in all but four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon. Nevada is the only state to allow single-game wagering.