In Sunday's newspaper and on on our web site, I wrote about the shifting sports betting landscape in the United States. More than half the states in the country now have some form of legal sports betting, the offshoot of a Supreme Court ruling in 2018. Leagues are forming official partnerships with sportsbooks. It's a near-180 from where things were even five years ago in terms of mainstream acceptance and attitudes.
In any story, there things that get left on the cutting room floor, so to speak, and things to add later. I talked about some of those on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast, and here are some further thoughts and personal experiences:
*How much money is at stake? This question leads directly to some reader feedback. While the amount legally wagered in the United States reached $21 billion in 2020, the amount that reaches states in the form of tax revenue is much less and might be a source of confusion.
Rochelle writes: I feel strongly that Minnesota should allow sports betting. Numerous other states allow it at this time. Minnesota needs to start the legislative process. Sports betting could be regulated and the taxes would be used for important projects in our state of Minnesota.
John writes: I would encourage you all to do a lot of homework before you start publishing dollar amounts. What people wager is an almost useless statistic. It fools people into believing that this is profit or that you tax that amount. What is taxed is only profit, which is only a fraction of revenue.
Indeed, there is a significant disparity. New Jersey, with the largest sports betting market, brought in close to $50 million in tax revenue in 2020. But in Iowa, perhaps the best comparison to what things might look like in Minnesota, the total was less than $2 million in 2020. That's not a big number, though one would imagine it would increase as time goes on.
It's the teams, the individuals who wager and the sports books that want this more than anything else.
Teams and leagues know that a gambling audience is a more dedicated one. In states where sports wagering is legal, local TV contracts for teams will likely be more valuable than in those where it is not legal, create haves and have-nots.
*And individuals want freedom.
Rick writes: I live just north of the Twin Cities and make the near 2-hour trek to Diamond Jo a couple times a month. I don't trust my money in offshore accounts, so don't mind taking the drive down to Iowa to place my wagers. I am hoping MN passes it in the next year or two, as there are many Minnesotans who either wager online or are taking the drive to a casino in a bordering state to make their wagers.
Rick is not alone. I've heard numerous stories of Minnesotans placing wagers in Iowa or even hopping flights to play in other states. Why? Well, in some cases its a matter of trust and the most convenient nearby option.
Or ... it's because a lot of them are offering one-time "risk-free" wagers (in some cases up to $5,000). How it typically works: If you win the bet, you keep the money. If you lose the bet, you retain the amount in sports book credit.
So in states (like Iowa) with multiple books running promotions like that, savvy players are placing a big bet on, say, Vikings -1 over Carolina at one book and Carolina + 1 over the Vikings at another book, then pocketing the win and repeating the process with the credit at a third book.
*Of course, others are going straight for the convenience of the offshore books that Rick referenced. Douglas Farmer of Minneapolis, who was quoted in the story I wrote in Sunday's paper, said everyone he knows who wants to gamble on those apps is doing so.
So to research this story, I joined a couple of them — with the most popular probably being Bovada. It takes a little doing and a comfort with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but pretty much anyone in Minnesota could make a bet from their couch tonight regardless of the status of sports betting in the legislature.
I placed a number of small bets to see how it impacted my viewing habits. Not surprisingly, it made me MUCH more interested in games I didn't care about otherwise — sort of a turbo-charged effect that fantasy football has on NFL viewership.
What's rather staggering and intoxicating is the sheer volume of bets available, particularly in-game. I developed a theory about in-game NBA betting (so-so results). I placed a $1 in-game wager on whether a Russian table tennis match would finish with an odd or even score (lost, didn't feel great).
You can place 297 different bets on the Eagles vs. Bucs NFL Thursday night game on Bovada — everything from Individual player performances to alternate spreads to special parlays to specific margins of victory.
Maybe none of this is a surprise to some of you, and it wasn't exactly a shock to me. But it did make me think about the pace of it all and realize that when something seems to be moving faster than expected, hitting pause for a bit isn't a bad idea.