Thanks to a new wave of legalization, sports betting is the hot new ticket for gambling operators and gamblers alike. When professional leagues are hopping aboard the sports betting bandwagon by partnering up with heavy hitters like MGM Resorts, the writing is on the wall.
Whether you’re a beginner trying to figure out your parlays from your prop bets, or a seasoned sharp who has been beating the books for years, these last few years have sparked a legitimate sports betting renaissance.
From casual bets between friends while you watch the night’s big game, to organized office betting pools, back alley “bookies,” and March Madness tournament brackets, betting on sports has truly hit the big time.
Throw in the rise of daily fantasy sports (DFS) platforms like FanDuel and DraftKings, and massive multimillion dollar prize pools offered by season-long handicapping contests, and bettors today have more tools at their disposal than ever before.
To help you make sense of this brave new world in sports betting’s history, check out the six fun facts below.
1 – More Than a Dozen States Have Legalized Single-Game Sports Betting
Up until May 14 of 2018, sports bettors living in every state except for Nevada had to keep their hobby a secret.
That’s because a federal law known as the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) prohibited bookmaking operations everywhere except for the Silver State. Nevada was “grandfathered” in based on its longstanding legal sports betting industry, but 49 other states were out of luck.
PASPA was ostensibly passed to protect the integrity of sports, but point-shaving scandals persisted well after a federal ban was put in place. Recognizing that the law prevented New Jersey from capitalizing on legal casinos in Atlantic City by adding sportsbooks, leaders in the Garden State passed a series of Sports Wagering Acts between 2012 and 2014.
Voters also signed off on the issue via ballot measure, but at the last minute, the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL banded together to sue and block the law from taking effect.
The leagues alleged that New Jersey was violating PASPA, while the state countered that the 10th Amendment’s anti-commandeering doctrine granted states the right to regulate their own affairs. The resulting court case, Murphy v. NCAA, eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court and fortunately sided with New Jersey.
In a landmark 6-3 ruling, the Court found PASPA to be unconstitutional, striking the law down altogether and officially allowing states to set their own sports betting laws.
Since that historic ruling, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have followed up by legalizing and launching local sportsbooks. And new laws are already on the books in Iowa, Indiana, Montana, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
These betting shops come in all varieties, from glitzy Las Vegas-style sportsbooks operated by casino heavies like MGM and Caesars, to more intimate venues housed in racetracks and tribal casinos.
The new era of legal sports betting in America has also connected players to top-rated online sportsbooks like FanDuel in New Jersey, so you can place bets directly from a computer or smartphone.
2 – The Largest Sportsbook in the World Is the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
World-famous Las Vegas, Nevada, is the world’s undisputed gambling capital, so it’s no surprise to learn Sin City is home to the largest sportsbook of them all.
When you visit the aptly named SuperBook at the Westgate Resort & Casino (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton), you’re stepping foot inside the biggest bet shop on the planet. The venue spans more than 30,000 square feet, with dozens of betting windows where ticket writers await, a modern food court, two bars, and a separate lounge for cigarette smokers.
In fact, that video wall is also a record-holder, taking the title of “world’s largest LED video wall” at 20 feet high and a whopping 240 feet wide. Overall, the state of the art video screen contains 1,640 LED tiles made of Christie Velvet material capable of displaying 65 million pixels.
And bettors definitely soak in their favorite sports bet sweats in style, thanks to a seating area with more than 400 leather “relaxation loungers” spread across the expansive floor.
Be sure to pay a pilgrimage to the SuperBook soon though, because by late 2020, the Circa casino resort under construction in Downtown Las Vegas is set to supplant Westgate’s centerpiece as the world’s largest sportsbook.
Circa owner and casino mogul Derek Stevens is betting big on his new venture, but as he told the Las Vegas Sun, it wouldn’t be possible if not for the SuperBook’s inspiration:
“We want to create something that people don’t forget. For me, I’ll never forget that moment I walked into the Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate) SuperBook. I looked around, and I thought to myself, ‘my god, this is the greatest place on Earth right here.’”
Stevens, no stranger to splashing around on spectacular sports bets himself, also promised avid bettors a one-of-a-kind experience a la the SuperBook when the Circa opens to the public.
3 – Anybody Can Turn $1,500 Into $1 Million Picking NFL Spreads
Speaking of the SuperBook, the Westgate’s pride and joy has been minting new millionaires for the last two years via the NFL SuperContest.
Since 2004, any gambler with $1,500 to burn can sign up at the SuperBook and enter the world’s largest football handicapping pool. Dubbed the SuperContest for obvious reasons, the crux of this tournament style sports betting competition is deceptively simple.
Pick five NFL games per week, using a point spread, throughout the regular season. Correct picks for a “cover” are worth 1 point, losses are worth no points, and a point spread push is good for 0.5 points.
Whichever bettor or team (players can band together to reduce their financial risk) amasses the most points by season’s end claims the lion’s share of a seven-figure prize pool.
Last year’s champion Eric Kahane took down the largest SuperContest grand prize to date, winning $1.4 million by besting the 3,123-entry field.
As you can see in the table below, the money up for grabs in the SuperContest grows by leaps and bounds every year:
NFL SuperContest History
You don’t have win the whole shebang though, as the top 100 finishers in the field earn prizes that increase on an escalating scale, a la tournament poker.
4 – Online Sportsbooks Today Are Safe, Secure, and Reliable
In the rough and tumble days, before regulation became prevalent, a few unscrupulous online sportsbook operators gave the whole industry a bad name.
Thankfully, the market tends to weed out bad actors, so bettors can simply visit a respected resource to read reviews .
With more players interested in betting online, licensing regulations are becoming more strict and the competition has online books striving to become the best possible options for potential gamblers.
5 – Majority of Americans Support Legalized Sports Betting
For the longest time, lawmakers and politicians claimed that the public had no appetite for sports betting outside of the city of Las Vegas.
But with the veil pulled back, thanks to the Supreme Court’s PASPA repeal, Americans are embracing a new way to wager on the level. Per the latest polling by the American Gaming Association (AGA), 63% of respondents agree with the Court’s decision to overturn PASPA.
Even better, 8 out of 10 Americans would like to see their home state make like New Jersey and launch legal bet shops on land and online.
6 – You Don’t Have to Bet Big to Win Big
Most recreational bettors relish the opportunity to turn a few bucks into big money, and there’s no better place to make a serious splash like that than the sportsbook.
Just ask Tayla Polia, who turned a paltry $5 parlay bet into $100,000 back in 2015 via the William Hill online sportsbook app. Of course, that 15-team ticket on NFL point spreads required beating long odds of 20,000 to 1, so don’t expect to become a parlay master overnight.
The sportsbook almost seems like a separate world set apart from the slots and table games, but it’s as pure a form of gambling as you’ll ever find. Now that you know a little more about the industry, it’s easier to appreciate everything sports betting has to offer.