A record 31.5 million Americans plan to bet on this year's Super Bowl, according to estimates released Tuesday by the gambling industry's national trade group. The American Gaming Association forecasted that over $7.6 billion will be wagered on pro football's championship game set for Sunday. Both the amount of people planning to bet (up 35% from last year) and the estimated amount of money being bet (up 78% from last year) are new records, the AP reports. Bettors include people making casual wagers with friends or relatives, entries into office pools, wagers with licensed sportsbooks, and bets placed with illegal bookmakers.
When the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals begin the game Sunday evening in the Rams' home stadium, 30 states plus Washington DC will offer legal gambling. Since last year's game, 45 million additional people will be able to bet on the Super Bowl because their states have legalized sports betting over the past year: Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The gaming association predicted that 18.2 million American adults will place traditional sports wagers online, at a retail sportsbook, or with a bookie, and 18.5 million plan to bet casually with friends or as part of a pool or squares contest. The association says 55% plan to bet on the Rams, with 45% backing the Bengals.
The Super Bowl is also one of the most perilous times of year for people with a gambling problem. Harry Levant, a public health advocate from Philadelphia and a recovering gambling addict, is an official with the group Stop Predatory Gambling. He says legal sports betting is increasing a public health crisis in America involving problem gambling. Levant says the rapid rise of in-game betting feeds into a compulsive gambler's desire for more and faster opportunities to bet. "No longer is gambling limited to who's going to win the game," he says. "Now gambling is on every play. Keep them gambling, keep chasing action." There is a national help line for people with a gambling problem, or who think they might have one: 1-800-GAMBLER. (Read more Super Bowl stories.)