Could the Super Bowl force states’ hands on sports betting legislation?

December 27, 2022 Stadium showing fans during Super Bowl

There are now more states in the USA that allow sports betting than do not, and the numerical disparity is growing. Nonetheless, there are still significant holdouts among the states that have not given the green light to wagering, including some of the biggest states in terms of population. In those states that have yet to extend the opportunity of betting to their public, there is perhaps a greater level of antipathy among either a majority of residents or lawmakers, or at least within a vocal enough minority, than in those states that have passed it. But in 2023, there may be something of a reckoning to be had, and it revolves around the Super Bowl.

The title game in the NFL will kick off in February, and while the names of the teams involved are a complete mystery right now, there is a more than decent chance that both will come from states that don’t have legal betting. The Super Bowl is the biggest betting event in the US sporting calendar, and can represent a significant chunk of betting revenue for states with legal betting. Realistically, the greatest level of betting activity would come from the states where the competing teams are located – so Super Sunday could be a moment where residents and lawmakers count the cost of the bets not placed in their state.

If, say, the Super Bowl were to pair up the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills, which is entirely possible, then the competing teams would be from Pennsylvania and New York – both states with legal betting, which could take a significant chunk of the $7 billion plus that would be bet on the big game. However, it is equally possible that the teams involved could be the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. Hailing from Missouri and California, these teams would not be available to bet on for their local fanbases, as neither state has yet passed betting legislation.

There are other teams currently running with some of the best records in the league who also hail from states without legal betting. The Miami Dolphins have been having their best season in years, but Floridians cannot bet on a game, and so there would also be frustrated Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans should Tom Brady pull the team back from its mediocre first half of the season. The Dallas Cowboys – based in non-betting Texas – and Los Angeles Chargers who are also from California are also Super Bowl contenders whose fans cannot, for the most part, place legal bets.

If the Super Bowl poses two clubs from the ranks of the non-betting states, it would certainly shine a light on the potential revenues that were being left on the table by the teams concerned. And while it might not, on its own, generate a change of mind by the lawmakers in those states, it will certainly get people thinking about what that revenue could pay for. As tangential as it might seem, Super Bowl LVII could yet be a watershed for US sports betting.

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