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Inside Gaming: AGA Estimates $90B in Illegal Football Bets; Maryland Casinos Up

A Las Vegas sportsbook
  • More than $90 billion to be bet illegally on NFL and college football this year, says the AGA.

  • Maryland casinos are up (again), Betsson acquires TonyBet's Lithuanian operations, and more.

This week's installment of Inside Gaming starts with a report regarding illegal sports betting timed to coincide with the kickoff of a new football season, shares news of Maryland casinos thriving in 2016, tells of a Swedish gaming company's acquisition of TonyBet's Lithuanian operations, and passes along a rumor regarding high rollers losing big at baccarat in Las Vegas this summer.

AGA Estimates More Than $90 Billion To Be Wagered Illegally on Football This Season

The National Football League kicked off a new season last night with a Super Bowl 50 rematch, with the Denver Broncos again defeating the Carolina Panthers in a close one, 21-20. The result no doubt pleased gamblers who bet on the Broncos moneyline and/or against the spread (as the Panthers were favored).

Meanwhile the American Gaming Association this week reports that the great majority of those who bet on last night's game — and who will be betting on both NFL and college football throughout the season — will be doing so illegally. The AGA "is estimating that fans across the country will bet $90 billion on NFL and college football games this season," but adds that "$88 billion — or 98 percent — of all bets will be made illegally." In fact, the AGA subsequently upped its estimate to $95 billion in total wagers and $93 billion bet illegally.

The AGA provides such estimates regarding illegal sports betting on a regular basis, in part so as to highlight problems associated with illegal sports betting and to encourage legislators to revisit the current federal ban against sports betting, i.e., the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

Explaining the methodology that produced its estimate, the AGA adopts information gleaned from a report of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, matching it with GDP growth while also comparing amounts wagered legally in Nevada sportsbooks. The latter, says the AGA, is "the best available indicator of what proportion [legal sports betting] might make up in the illegal market." Usually estimates of illegal wagering are around 40 times (or more) the amount wagered legally.

"It's really hard to gauge those numbers," said Director of Race and Sports for Boyd Gaming Bob Scucci this week on Chad Millman's Behind the Bet$ podcast. "It's hard to verify. I mean, we all know that there's a lot [of illegal betting], so trying to put a hard number on it — if they're counting every friendly wager, every bar room bet between two guys, I guess they can reach those numbers."

In other NFL-related news, speculation continues to swirl regarding the possibility of the Oakland Raiders relocating to Las Vegas in the near future, a storyline that Scucci and Millman suggested might increase interest in betting on Raiders games by Vegas bettors.

Such a move depends on the building of a stadium in Las Vegas, and this week Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, shared with Yahoo! Finance his plans to build a 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion structure south of Las Vegas.

The American Gaming Association's latest report on illegal sports betting can be found here.

Maryland Casino Revenues Over $100M in August, Up Ninth Straight Month

More good news for Maryland's five casinos as they reported a revenue increase for a ninth-straight month. The casinos collectively earned $100.3 million in August, up 3.7 percent year-over-year, reports The Baltimore Sun. The last monthly decline reported by Maryland casinos came in November 2015 when they dipped 0.5 percent.

Maryland Live had the biggest month with $55.9 million in revenue, up 7.2 percent from a year ago. That followed a $60.4 million month in July for Maryland Live. The other casinos all reported increases as well save the Hollywood Casino Perryville.

"Analysts have attributed Maryland's upward trend in casino gambling to favorable economic conditions and increasingly effective marketing," says The Baltimore Sun.

Meanwhile a sixth casino, the MGM National Harbor, is under construction in Prince George's County, and is scheduled to open by the end of 2016.

Read more about Maryland's upward trend in The Baltimore Sun.

Betsson Group Acquires TonyBet's Lithuanian Operations

This week came news that the Swedish company Betsson Group had acquired the privately-owned gaming operator Lošimų strateginė grupė, UAB that trades as TonyBet in Lithuania. As shared over the GlobeNewswire, through the acquisition the group now "strengthens its foothold in the Baltic region with licenses in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania."

TonyBet was founded in 2009 by its namesake and current Member of the European Parliament, Antanas "Tony G" Guoga, who appeared on a recent episode of the PokerNews podcast to discuss various topics including his launching of back in 2005.

TonyBet offers an online sportsbook additionally available through more than 20 betting shops in Lithuania. The terms of the transaction include Betsson paying an initial €4 million, with the sellers eligible to earn a further €2 million in 2017 "subject to achieving certain milestones." The deal is expected to close within the next month.

"We see strong synergies in this acquisition," commented Betsson CEO and President Ulrik Bengtsson, noting his company's "ambition... to increase revenue from locally regulated markets."

Learn more about Betsson's move into Lithuania on the GlobeNewswire.

"Certain Whispers": High Roller Dropped $20 Million at Baccarat in July

Finally we have a postscript to add to last week's report on Nevada's big billion-dollar July.

In their monthly revenue report, Nevada Gaming Control Board reported a total win amount of $1.015 billion for casinos in the Silver State in July, the largest monthly total since December 2013. As we noted last week, the Las Vegas strip did particularly well in July also, up 16.77 percent for the month (year-over-year).

We noted how baccarat had been up over 40 percent for strip casinos in July. A story in Gaming Today helps explain why that was the case.

While the story is without attribution and cites unnamed sources, it suggests one Vegas casino allegedly "won something north of $20,000,000" from a single gambler for whom baccarat was a favored game. The story additionally alludes to "certain whispers" regarding other "whale sightings in baccarat rooms in July," with "whale" a gambling term referring to free-spending high-stakes gamblers who wager lots of money, often losing.

As noted in the article, it will be curious to watch the Nevada numbers in the coming months to see whether or not baccarat and other games that were up in July — including slots, blackjack, and roulette — continue to increase, thereby reflecting steadier growth in tourist gambling. Even so, it is interesting to think how a single high roller could contribute significantly to the state's overall numbers.

Read more about the July rumors and Nevada's prospects for coming months at Gaming Today.

Photo: “race & sports book,” fictures. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

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