U.S. sports leagues could reap $4.2 billion a year from legal betting: survey

The four major U.S. professional sports leagues could reap a combined $4.2 billion annually as a result of legal sports betting, most of it indirectly from increased fan engagement, according to a casino industry survey released on Thursday.

The findings could fuel a long-simmering feud between the gaming industry and American sports leagues, who want a share of the gambling revenue as U.S. states begin to legalize sports betting.

The survey showed leagues stand to benefit even without taking a cut of wagers. The National Football League is likely to make the most, with a projected $2.33 billion of additional annual revenue, according to the study seen by Reuters. The rest would go to Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League.

The Nielsen Sports survey was commissioned by the American Gaming Association (AGA), which represents the casino industry. The NBA and MLB and declined to comment. The NFL and NHL did not reply to requests for comment.

For years, the leagues fought states’ efforts to legalize sports betting, arguing it would lead to game fixing.

But in May, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a federal ban against sports betting, paving the way for any state to legalize, regulate and tax the activity.

Since then, the leagues have sought to glean a portion of the coming windfall to help them fund additional integrity measures. They also have argued that they deserve a portion of wagers because there would be nothing to bet on without their players, stadiums and games.

Major League Baseball has said it wants 1 percent of the total amount of money bet as an “integrity fee.”