Editor’s note: The following is cross post that originally appeared on 24/7 Wall St.
The sports gambling business — legal and illegal — is worth several hundred billion dollars worldwide. Of that, only $2.6 billion is wagered legitimately in the U.S. through the sports desks at Las Vegas casinos. According to 24/7 Wall St. research, most of the bets are placed on just 22 of the 122 teams in the four major leagues.
The NFL seems to be the gamblers’ favorite, with 65 percent of the total $2.6 billion bet on football teams, according to data gathered by 24/7 Wall St. as well as interviews conducted with people in the sports gambling industry.
Most of the balance goes to wagers on college football and teams in the MLB, NHL, and NBA.
The amount and number of these bets is a closely kept secret. Even the Nevada State Gaming Control Board, which regulates betting in the state, has only partial figures on major league sports gambling.
24/7 Wall St. interviewed regulators, casino sports desk management, and people in the online bookmaking and Internet gambling businesses to find out which professional teams drew the most gambling action in the last full season of the four major leagues. Jay Rood, VP of Race and Sports at the MGM Resorts Intl, was a particularly helpful source.
Football betting action is bigger than the three other sports combined for several reasons. First, many of the league’s games are nationally televised. Second, the Super Bowl is broadcast around the world and was seen by 109 million U.S. viewers last year. The event draws nearly $100 million in legal bets through Las Vegas alone. Football is also a larger sport financially than the others based on ticket prices and television contracts. Finally, a number of teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and New England Patriots, have significant national fan bases.
The four major leagues have 122 teams among them. Sporting desk managers define gambling action based on the total volume of bets made for or against any given team. They do not track illegal sports gambling and there are no reasonable estimates of illegal betting amounts.
24/7 Wall St. also wanted to see if there is a correlation between the level of betting on a team and any other statistics about the organization. Betting action was most correlated with team valuations, which came from Forbes, win-loss records, and attendance trends, which came from the leagues and each of the teams. The teams that draw the most gambling are, in almost all cases, organizations that have high revenue within their sports, teams with decade-long track records of winning, and, in some cases, several years of improvements in attendance [Blaze Note: after all, who would bet on a team with low attendance and a lousy track record of losing?]
Most of the teams that have highest betting activity are iconic organizations. Tradition and excellence, it seems, even extend to the interests of gamblers.
Team value: #13
Attendance 2010: 2,510,119 (13th highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: -11.1 percent (10th biggest decrease)
W-L Last Ten Years: 888-730 (5th best)
The Atlanta Braves are one of the oldest teams in baseball. In the 1990s, with legendary players such as Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones, the team played in the World Series finals five times, and won the title during the 1995 season. The team has since had mixed success, only making the playoffs once in the past six seasons, despite recording the fifth-best record in baseball, going 888-730, between 2001 and 2010.
Team value: #4
Attendance 2010: 3,062,973 (7th highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +10.2 percent (12th biggest increase)
W-L Last Ten Years: 817-801 (13th)
Unlike most of the teams on this list, the Chicago Cubs are not a team that has many historical wins under its belt. In 1908, the club notched its second World Series title, becoming the first team to win two titles. However, since that time, the Cubs have not won a single World Series, and hold the record for the longest streak without a World Series win, now at 103 years. Despite its poor record, the team remains the fourth most valuable in baseball, and is highly beloved among fans. The team had the seventh-highest attendance in 2010.
Team value: #11
Attendance 2010: 3,301,218 (4th highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +6.04 percent (14th biggest increase)
W-L Last Ten Years: 904-715 (3rd best)
The St. Louis Cardinals have won more World Series than any major league team but the Yankees. Under manager Tony La Russa and slugger Albert Pujols, the team has had a highly successful record lately, with the third best record in the MLB, behind the Yankees and the Red Sox. The Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, and are battling the Texas Rangers for the title this year again. Last year, the team had the fourth highest attendance in baseball, at over 3.3 million people watching their games.
Team value: #6
Attendance 2010: 3,647,249 (2nd highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +104.67 percent (the biggest increase)
W-L Last Ten Years: 882-737 (7th best)
According to the team’s website, the Philadelphia Phillies are “the oldest, continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional sports.” Despite being among the oldest in baseball, the Phillies have won just two World Series. Recently, however, the team has been very successful, making the playoffs the past six years in a row, and winning the World Series in 2008. In 2004, the team moved to Citizens Bank Park from Veterans Stadium. Despite the fact that stadium capacity decreased by more than 10,000 people, regular season attendance has more than doubled over a ten-year period. Between 2001 and 2010 the team had the seventh best record in baseball.
Team value: #2
Attendance 2010: 3,046,443 (8th highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +16.04 percent (10th biggest increase)
W-L Last Ten Years: 924-695 (2nd best)
The Boston Red Sox were founded in 1901 as one of the American League’s eight charter franchises. The team won the very first World Series, anchored by hall-of-fame pitcher Cy Young. Between 1912 and 1918, they won four additional World Series. But after that final victory and the selling of pitcher and slugger Babe Ruth, the Sox could not win when it mattered. While Boston fielded many greats, including Ted Williams, more than eight decades passed before it won another World Series. The Boston Red Sox finally won in 2004 in legendary fashion, beating the rival New York Yankees in the ALCS after falling behind 0-3 and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals to secure the championship. They won the series again in 2007 and have consistently been one of the best teams in baseball over the last decade. Between 2001 and 2010, the Sox had the second-best record in baseball, behind only the Yankees.
Team value: #1
Attendance 2010: 3,765,807 (the highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +15.35 percent (11th biggest increase)
W-L Last Ten Years: 973-644 (the best)
The Bronx Bombers are arguably the most storied franchise in major league sports, and certainly the one with the most wins. Since their start as a the Highlanders in 1903, to their first game as the Yankees in 1913 through today, the team has rarely had a period in its history where it did not have a legitimate chance of winning the major league title.
Since the inception of the World Series, the team has won 27 times, or one in every four series (it played and lost in an additional 13). Since the inception of the wildcard in 1995, the Yankees have made the playoffs every year except one (2007), have been to seven World Series, and won five. The Yankees moved to a brand new stadium in 2009, and christened the new field with yet another World Series win.