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DATA DEPENDENT: The numbers behind the online sports betting goldrush.

In recent years, the sports world has experienced significant changes on and off the field. In the NBA, you can get hit with a Flagrant Two and ejected from the game for slapping the basketball too hard. In Major League Baseball, there are ghost runners starting on second during extra innings. And in European football, having even a hangnail slightly offside can cause a goal to be negated. Craziness all around. But by far, the biggest change to hit North American sports happened a long ways from any stadium. The biggest shift actually took place in the U.S. Supreme Court when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was repealed.

In three short years, sports betting organizations have popped up all over America like pimples on a thirteen year-old’s chin. It’s been a melange of old gambling hands like MGM, Bet365 and William Hill and well-funded newbies like DraftKings and FanDuel. It’s gotten to the point that it’s hard to keep track of who’s taking bets and where.

So far, the spoils have not been distributed evenly between states who have adopted online sports betting. Now, that’s not to say that things will always stay this way. In fact, more often than not, the upside for new entries into the market can be significant. Take for example Virginia. The Commonwealth has enjoyed phenomenal success in a short amount of time since joining the online sports betting parade in late January 2021. In a short amount of time, they’ve enjoyed a goldilocks combination of uptake, enthusiastic participation, and spending. 

According to sportbettingdime.com, “Looking at the first three monthly revenue reports, Virginia sports betting is officially off to the strongest start of any state to date. Here are the highest first three-month total handles for US sports betting markets outside of Nevada:

Virginia – $628,741,115

Tennessee – $523,644,523

Indiana – $274,189,721

New Jersey – $152,725,904

In just the third month of legal sports betting, Virginia surpassed $300 million in terms of monthly betting handle. It’s the seventh state to reach this mark but by far the fastest.”

This table breaks down Virginia’s revenue and state tax revenue for the first four months. The numbers speak for themselves.

Month/YearTotal HandleRevenueHold PercentageState Tax Revenue
January 2021$58,896,564$3,586,0776.09%$39,710
February 2021$265,778,306$12,238,7804.60%$300,594
March 2021$304,066,245$26,573,8778.74%$1,183,488
April 2021$236,432,523$19,442,3168.22%$1,652,147
Total (since launch)$865,173,638$61,841,0507.15%$3,175,939

And it gets even better. According to the Roanoke Times as of June 15, 2021, “Sports betting has proven enormously popular in Virginia since its launch in late January, and the state passed a milestone recently with $1 billion wagered, the fastest state to reach that mark… There are now 10 companies licensed to take bets within the commonwealth, and industry experts project that when the market is fully grown, Virginia will take about $5 billion in sports wagers each year.”

Those eye-watering figures aren’t lost on governors of other states and if you’d like to see how VA compares to other states you’ll see exactly what they are seeing. That’s why there’s almost a collective rush towards legalizing online sports betting. Case in point, New York.

Even though the Empire State was one of the first states to legalize sports betting in 2013, they’ve lagged when it comes to the virtual sphere. Governor Andrew Cuomo has made it a priority to catch up to neighboring states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey that are sports betting behemouths. According to some reports, mobile and online wagering are set to make their appearances sometime after Jult 31, 2021.

At this point in the game, every state in the Union hasn’t officially joined the online sports betting goldrush, but it’s only a question of time. With the damage COVID-19 has done to states’ balance sheets, governors are looking for taxable revenue wherever they can find it. While the move toward legalized online betting may have been inevitable once a handful of states adopted it, you can bet the pandemic has provided the impetus to move faster. 

You can draw a straightline from the virus first appearing to that bet you placed (and now regret) on the Brooklyn Nets winning it all (if you live in Virginia, that is). It’s a strange world we live in.


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