US online gambling sees ‘astounding’ growth

Image copyright AP Image caption An American sports fan bets on a basketball game with internet on the internet

The number of states adopting online gambling has soared in the past 12 months, a new report says.

Twenty-one states are now allowing sports betting, including last month.

New Jersey and Delaware were the first two states to introduce gambling on the internet in 2017.

Other states currently allowing sports betting include Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Rhode Island and Maine.

Image copyright AP Image caption American football fans visit the state of Delaware for its online sports betting

The office of the National Council on Problem Gambling, which monitors the issue, said the number of active sports betting sites increased by 27% to 594 in 2017.

The biggest increase was in Nevada, home to the world’s biggest online casino, where there are now up to 23 sites.

Philadelphia has introduced the first measures to allow sports betting at brick-and-mortar facilities in the city. It has also already expanded the types of people who can hold wagers legally in the state.

Pennsylvania, with 22 sites, is fourth in the list. “They’re ramping up and improving – there’s a lot of excitement around in Pennsylvania,” Beth Givens, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, told Reuters.

She said that location was a barrier to sports betting in some states – Kansas does not allow sports betting at horse racetracks and Texas is unclear whether it will allow online wagering.

But smaller casinos in states including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Montana are making a good go of their online offering, she said.

First there was a legal challenge, then there was an “interim patch” and now, there is the regulation bill

More states will do so, she added, partly in response to legislation pending in Washington, DC.

DC’s new law will “allow states to move forward online” with sports betting and Mr Givens believes most states will pass sports betting regulations to ensure “legal and safe” gambling options.

The Washington DC legislation, H.R. 710, signed by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2016, did not specifically mention sports gambling, but it allowed the states to opt in or out of the plan.

For some states that was the final hurdle, Ms Givens said, because it cleared the path for internet gambling, although the legislation did not open up online betting to all casino gambling.

“The Washington DC law did not explicitly allow for sports betting – it did not create that legal avenue,” she said.

“But for some states that was the final hurdle, because it cleared the path for online and that opened the door.

“The Colorado football team used the legislation as a vehicle to get legal sports betting in the state. They said the law would allow for internet gaming and introduced legislation to allow that at the city’s four racetracks in the state.

“Some states still need an interim patch before they can get that out there – that’s what we’ve seen in Delaware and Nevada.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The NFL uses the sports betting bill for funding

Online gambling allows gamblers to deposit money into their online accounts and then follow a fixed route to place a bet, rather than going to a casino site or leaving the site of a casino and then wagering again.

It was previously illegal in 41 US states and Canada.

The NFL was one of the most vociferous opponents of sports betting, opposing legislation in more than 30 states.

But the league ended its opposition after the new laws took effect.

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