Sports betting is legal and regulated in more than half of the U.S. But despite the competition, Nevada’s sports betting industry has thrived. If the first six months of 2021 are an indicator, Nevada sportsbooks are on pace to shatter the state’s annual records for wagers and revenues that were recorded in 2019. Through June, sportsbooks collected $3.3 billion in bets, an increase of 32 percent compared to 2019. Total sports revenue of $207 million is already 56.2 percent ahead of the 2019 total. Only three states – New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois – have recorded higher sports betting revenue figures than Nevada through the first half of 2021. Only New Jersey has seen higher sports wagers with $4.1 billion through June. Eilers & Krejcik gaming analyst Chris Grove said the growth of legal sports betting nationally in the last three years, following a 2018 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court opening the activity to states beyond Nevada, could be similar to the expansion of poker in the last decade. “It's possible that increased interest in sports betting will grow the national revenue pie sufficiently to allow Nevada to grow alongside states where sports betting has recently been legalized,” Grove said. “That, of course, relies on the state's casinos continuing to build and expand one-of-a-kind sports betting experiences.” In 2019, Nevada sportsbooks took in $5.319 billion in wagers, the 10th consecutive all-time state record. Revenues collected by the books from those wagers totaled a record $329.1 million. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the state’s first annual decline in sports betting in more than a decade. Total wagers fell to $4.3 billion in 2020, and revenues dipped to $262.8 million. But last week’s release of the state’s monthly gaming revenue figures by the Gaming Control Board confirmed the state’s sports betting industry is back on track. Twenty-two states and Washington D.C. have legal and regulated sports betting. Another 10 states could launch as soon as this year in time for the college football and NFL seasons. California voters will consider a referendum in 2022 to allow tribal casinos and racetracks to offer retail sportsbooks. In Florida, an agreement between the governor and the Seminole Indians could bring sports betting to the tribe’s casinos. However, several groups are contesting the legality of the revised compact. Grove said it was inevitable that Nevada sports betting figures would be eclipsed by New Jersey and other jurisdictions, because of the state's relatively small population. Sportsbooks at Northern New Jersey racetracks and the state’s approval for remote mobile sports wagering draws business from populous New York City. “There's little to suggest that the growth of sports betting in other states is causing a decrease in Nevada's sports betting revenue,” Grove said. Record high sports bettings totals in 2021 have also been assisted by the changed calendars for several sports leagues pushing games into 2021 and benefiting sportsbooks. The result was a record for June in both wagers ($545.2 million) and revenues ($29.2 million). “The strong monthly totals were bolstered by an unusual sports calendar that saw NBA playoffs action, which typically ends in early June, throughout the entire month,” Grove said. Mobile sports wagering has accounted for more than 60 percent of all the sports bets placed in Nevada this year. Global Market Advisors Partner Brendan Bussmann suggested mobile wagering would grow if Nevada gaming regulators allowed remote registration, an effort opposed by Station Casinos. “One of the biggest opportunities for Nevada to drive additional sports betting revenue is to remove the in-person requirement,” Bussmann said. “Technology continues to provide advancement for knowing your customer and anti-money laundering initiatives. Geolocation for sports betting and iGaming in other states have surpassed Nevada’s current regulatory structure. It’s time for us to push forward.” The absence of DraftKings and FanDuel is another dynamic in Nevada’s sports betting universe. The companies, which jumped into legal sports betting following the Supreme Court ruling, are considered the nation’s top two sports betting operators. DraftKings is in 14 states and FanDuel is in 10 states, which includes a partnership with Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corp. in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Mississippi. The companies gained a larger national presence in April when they were selected as official sports betting partners of the National Football League along with Caesars Entertainment. The designation gave the businesses exclusive rights to utilize NFL trademarks within their operations and engage with fans through NFL-themed free-to-play games. Prior to 2018, the companies operated as daily fantasy-centric businesses and had trouble gaining acceptance from the traditional sports betting community. In October 2015, Nevada gaming regulators told DraftKings, FanDuel, and other daily fantasy suppliers they had to be licensed as sports betting operators if they were to continue providing the activity in the state. Neither has made inroads into Nevada’s casino market. DraftKings maintains a large office presence in the Town Square complex on south Las Vegas Boulevard for its nationwide back-of-the-house support services. Boyd has a 5 percent ownership stake in FanDuel, but the partnership doesn’t include the company’s 10 Las Vegas-area casinos. In April, Boyd CEO Keith Smith was non-committal concerning a potential move into Nevada for FanDuel in connection with the company’s casinos in the Las Vegas Valley and downtown. “It’s a possibility in the future, but for now the relationship is with the non-Nevada properties,” Smith said following Boyd’s quarterly earnings conference call. “The reason we did the deal is that we knew they were a winner, long term.” Howard Stutz is a staff reporter for The Nevada Independent, a 501(c)3 nonprofit news organization. This story was first published Aug. 4 as part of the Indy Gaming newsletter and is republished here with permission. For more Nevada news, visit The Nevada Independent.