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Sports Betting Is New National Pastime

Super Bowl bets prove that Americans-and their leaders-love to bet

Moments after Super Bowl 50, an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert crystallized the current status of sports betting in America. Colbert’s guest was President Barack Obama, who acknowledged that he bets on the Big Game.

“Of course I did,” the president said. “After every Super Bowl, I call the winning team to congratulate them. And sometimes I call the losing team, especially if I bet on them.”

Super Bowl 50 was a milestone event for many reasons, not least of which was the amount bet on the big game at Nevada sports books and by Americans across the country.

As betting on sports becomes more popular each year—a record $132.5 million was wagered legally in Nevada while more than $4 billion was bet illegally—sports fans overwhelmingly want the prohibition to end. New research shows 80 percent of Super Bowl viewers believe it’s time to change sports betting law, which limits this activity to four states: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.

Further, two in three viewers say states should decide whether or not to legalize sports betting. About 70 percent say regulating this pastime would make it safer for consumers and generate tax funds for much-needed local programs like education and public safety. And the vast majority of football fans—65 percent—say legal, regulated betting will protect the integrity of the games or have no impact on outcomes.

In recognition of these views, and after the AGA board directed us to examine this issue, AGA is leading the conversation around a new approach to sports betting that enhances consumer protections, strengthens the integrity of games and recognizes fans’ desire for greater engagement with sports.

One piece of our campaign is conducting authoritative research that helps drive the conversation. Through public opinion survey data, for example, we highlighted the views of millions of Americans who are already betting on sports but would like to do so in a legal manner.

Another piece is aggressive communications. We’re capitalizing on opportunities to convey the message that the status quo is unsustainable. AGA traveled to San Francisco ahead of the Super Bowl and connected with sports radio and TV stations from across the country, highlighting the opinions of sports fans and shining a spotlight on sports betting’s growing popularity.

These interviews dovetail with a third part of our effort, which is building a grassroots network of support. On radio, TV and social media, we’re encouraging sports fans to sign up, get engaged and voice their desire for a change in sports betting law. Our new website,, serves as a hub for capturing the momentum and quickly sharing the most up-to-date information on this dynamic, evolving issue.

As record levels of Super Bowl betting—and the president’s participation—show, America’s passion for football is rivaled only by its enthusiasm for sports betting. You can expect a lot more from AGA in the weeks, months and years ahead to support the industry’s desire for a fresh approach to sports betting.

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