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US – AGA report shows Americans gamble more than half a trillion dollars illegally each year

By - 1 December 2022

Americans gamble an estimated $511bn each year with illegal and unregulated sportsbooks, iGaming websites and so-called “skill games,” according to a new report from the American Gaming Association.

This illegal wagering robs state governments of $13.3bn in tax revenue annually, nearly $2.5bn more than legal operators generated in 2021 ($11.7bn). It also costs the legal gaming industry $44.2bn in annual revenue, or nearly half of the $92bn in combined commercial and tribal revenue in 2021.

“Illegal and unregulated gambling is a scourge on our society, taking advantage of vulnerable consumers, skirting regulatory obligations and robbing communities of critical tax revenue for infrastructure, education and more,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. “We have always known that the illegal and unregulated market is expansive, but this report illuminates just how pervasive it is.”

AGA’s report estimates that Americans wager $63.8bn with illegal bookies and offshore sites at a cost of $3.8bn in gaming revenue and $700m in state taxes. With Americans projected to place $100bn in legal sports bets this year, these findings imply that illegal sportsbook operators are capturing nearly 40 percent of the US sports betting market.

While the numbers are significant, they also demonstrate Americans’ movement to the regulated market with legal sports betting’s expansion to 36 states and the District of Columbia.

The report also found that 49 percent of past-year sports bettors have placed a bet with an illegal operator. Previous AGA research shows that more than half of Americans that bet on sports with illegal operators believe they are wagering legally.

Americans wager an estimated $337.9bn with illegal iGaming websites, with a loss of $3.9bn in state tax revenue. With $13.5bn in estimated revenue, the illegal iGaming market in the US is nearly three times the size of the legal US iGaming market, estimated to be $5bn in 2022.

With iGaming only legal in six states, nearly half of Americans (48 per cent) that have played online slots or table games in the past year have played with illegal online casinos.

Unregulated gaming machines also continue to proliferate, with an estimated 580,651 unregulated machines in the US. With 870,000 regulated machines in casinos and slot routes, that means 40 percent of all gaming machines in the US are unlicensed.

Based on state regulatory data for similar machines, the operator win percentage on unregulated gambling machines is significantly higher than legal casino slot machines. During the past 12 months, slot machines in Nevada have a 7.16 per cent win rate, compared to a nearly 25 percent estimated win rate for unregulated machines—demonstrating how unregulated machines take advantage of customers.

“All stakeholders—policymakers, law enforcement, regulators, legal businesses—must work together to root out the illegal and unregulated gambling market. This is a fight we’re in for the long haul to protect consumers, support communities and defend the law-abiding members of our industry.”

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