By Flint Wheeler

Before even looking at the data on sports betting in Nevada, we know that it’s been growing over the years. Unlike the best steak or beer, sports betting can be quantified with financial information and casinos and sportsbook operators have to report this data to the government every month.

Since the info is available for public consumption, let’s take look at sports wagering totals in Nevada over the last 32 years.

There were 52 locations to place a sports bet in Nevada in 1984. That number gradually increased over the years peaking at 196 locations in 2015 and dipping slightly to 192 in 2016.


The amount of money wagered on sports in Nevada in 1984 was $894,564,000 and in 2016 sports bettors put up a whopping $4,509,753,000.

At face value, seems pretty drastic.

However, the increase in how much money was wagered isn’t quite as drastic when you adjust for inflation. The $894,564,000 wagered in 1984 is equal to $2,066,425,620.29 in 2016 when adjusted for inflation. That’s still a big increase, but not nothing that would make the lights on the strip burn out.

In 1984, the sportsbooks won $20,899,000 from wagers compared to $219,174,000 in 2016 and, once again, the increase isn’t quite as drastic when you adjust for inflation. That $20,899,000 would have been $48,276,287.71 based on a cumulative rate of inflation of 130%.

Blah blah, people bet on sports and sportsbooks win a lot. The sport which the books make the most money from is probably more useful.

Here is the percentage of total betting handle (customer wagers) represented by each sport in 2016.

Football – 41.63%

Basketball – 30.40%

Baseball – 14.69%

It should be noted that 2016 was a bad year for the sportsbooks when it came to parlays at only winning 4.75% of their total betting handle coming from multiple games on a single ticket. This number has been decreasing drastically in recent years and, based on what I hear from sportsbook staffers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some kind of changes to parlay and teaser payouts in time for next football season.

The next batch of numbers we’ll look at is the percent of the total amount wagered that casinos were able to keep from each sport in 2016. This is specifically how much sportsbook operators in Nevada won from each sport.

Football – 5.39%

Basketball – 4.75%

Baseball – 3.08%

As you can see, the more money taken in by the sportsbooks on a particular sport, the more money the sportsbooks win in the end.

In 2016, books won 17.28% of the parlays placed. That may seem like a lot relative to individual wagers, but the sportsbooks won 36.83% of the parlays placed just two years ago in 2014.

Not only are people wagering more money overall but they’re losing more than ever. This can mean only one of two things, betters are getting dumber, or the books are getting sharper. My moneys on the latter as more and more of these larger books are hiring PHD’s in mathematics and statistics to better gauge an opening line and now becoming more important, the likely hood that the public perception will take the number in one direction over the other. My confidence in that there is not to many PHD’s in math deliberating the over under in the next Knicks game leads me to believe the sportsbooks winning ways won’t come to an end anytime soon. Be smart out there, the odds are stacked against us.

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