How Big Is The Betting Market?

The Philly Voice published an article from The Conversation written by Jay Zagorsky, an economist from Ohio State. He argues that the ostensible $150 billion market in America for sports gambling is not nearly that large:

The U.K.’s Gambling Commission tracks betting statistics and issues an annual report. The one released in January shows that Brits placed about 10 billion pounds in bets in the latest fiscal year.

To get a comparable estimate for the U.S., that figure needs to be adjusted by population and currency. The U.K. has only about 66 million people, compared with 327 million in the U.S. And the pound was worth $1.36 on May 14.

After making both adjustments, this suggests that if people in the U.S. are allowed to make bets at the same rate as in the U.K., the size of the industry would be about $67 billion a year. While enormous, that’s a far cry from $150 billion.

One problem with his conclusion: at the same rate. Britain has one major, large-scale consumer sport in soccer along with a bunch of also-rans that don’t approach the combined popularity, and volume, of the four major American sports. Never mind the amount of coverage, from multiple cable networks, sports talk radio stations, and websites, we dedicate to them. Britain has nothing of the sort on this scale.

These are big numbers either way, but I don’t think it’s as easy as just converting the betting market in Britain to get an estimate for the potential here. We’re different.

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