Four years ago, the US Supreme Court made a landmark ruling that a federal Act prohibiting sports betting should be struck down and that each US state could make its own rules on sports betting legalization and regulation. It’s fair to say that most practically tripped over one another in their haste to do so. More than 30 states have now legalized, and all but a couple have included online sports betting within the regulatory framework.

This brings sports betting into line with casino gaming, which was already controlled at state level. So how many states do you suppose have legalized online casinos, given that they have had the authority to do so for much longer? 35? 40? The answer is just six.

Some preconceptions are hard to shake

In part, casinos are a more complex matter due to so many states having agreements in place with various tribes, who exclusively operate casinos on reservation land. But that is only a small part of the story.

Sports betting has some wealthy and influential backers, from broadcasting networks to billionaire NFL owners. Sport is also an easy sell to Middle America. Stories like loyal Browns fans optimistically laying down a couple of dollars every week to back their team against all odds are all part of the American sporting narrative.

It’s harder to romanticize casinos in the same way. They don’t have the same powerful advocates and people don’t have the same view. Casinos are still perceived by many as tawdry, smoky, dangerous places.

An objective comparison

If you have $50 to spare and you want to gamble with it, should you put it on an NFL game this Sunday or feed it into a slot game or do something else with it? The answer depends on a number of things. What odds are on offer in the NFL and who’s playing whom? If taking the casino option, there are dozens of real money casino sites (see the Legit Gambling Sites page for full information) so what are you going to play and where will you play it?

If we exclude poker, which is really a category of its own, there are more professional gamblers involved in sports betting than in casino games. This is because sports betting has more subjectivity and unknowns involved, from the odds the sports book places to the form of the teams or athletes to aspects like weather or home field advantage. If you know the sport intimately, it is possible to outwit the bookmakers by identifying the most favorable odds.

Casino games are different. Slots and roulette have house edges that are a mathematical certainty. Sure, you’ll sometimes win, but the casino will always end up on top.

Playing for pleasure

Our comparison suggests that if you have expert knowledge of a particular sport, then betting on it brings the best chance of success, while if not, at least with a casino game, you know the odds you are up against.

But even this misses the point. Casual gamblers play for pleasure, not profit. That applies as much to the raucous crowds around a roulette wheel as it does to those dedicated Browns fans. The real answer is that sports betting or casino gaming are not so different as long as you play for fun and only bet what you can afford to lose.

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