The NFL won’t admit it but so much of the interest in their sport is driven by gambling. Betting on pro football is a multibillion-dollar industry, and a staggering portion of that money is wagered on the Super Bowl alone.
Just how much fans bet on the Super Bowl is tricky to calculate because so much of it is wagered illegally, either through illegal bookies or friendly arrangements like office pools. Sportsbooks in Nevada took a record total of $138.48 million in bets during Super Bowl LI in 2017, but that’s just a paltry fraction of the total money wagered.
The American Gaming Association, a casino lobbying group, estimated that Americans would bet a grand total of $4.76 billion during Super Bowl LII. That’s roughly equivalent to the GDP of Barbados.
While betting on single sporting events remains illegal in every state but Nevada, there are calls to change the federal law and permit states to legalize wagers on sports. The NFL, which will soon have a team in Las Vegas, is still staunchly opposed to expanding gambling but the NBA is lobbying to lift those restrictions.