U.N.: Illegal Sports Betting Reaches $1.7T Annually

    • While the legal sports betting market is growing, it still has a ways to go to catch the black market, according to a new U.N. report.
    • The report stated that the practice is often used for money laundering.

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The legal sports betting industry is on the rise, but according to a United Nations report from last week, it pales in comparison to the illegal market.

The report, from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, estimates that global illegal sports bets total up to $1.7 trillion each year and are often used by organized crime groups for money laundering.

The legal market checked in at around $40 billion in 2020, per the report, primarily from Asia ($19.6 billion) and Europe ($15.2 billion).

The picture in North America ($2.3 billion) is in flux as more states legalize sports betting.

By The Numbers

The U.N. report cited a 2020 American Gaming Association study which found that 52% of U.S. sports bettors participated in the illegal market — and that 82% of them were surprised to learn they were using illegal websites.

  • The report estimates that up to $140 billion is laundered through sports betting each year.
  • The amount unlawfully wagered on sports betting is estimated to be between $340 billion and $1.7 trillion.
  • The Asian Racing Federation estimated that up to 80% of global sports bets are made illegally.
  • Cryptocurrencies have enabled surreptitious payments related to illegal gambling.

The report recommends governments work with payment companies to identify illegal transactions and develop regulations that require licensed betting operators to publish lists of shareholders, parent companies, and subsidiaries.