Casino industry rebounds from pandemic while mobile sports betting is on the rise

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Sports fans are anticipating three NFL football games on Thanksgiving Day and some college football rivalry games this weekend.

Those fans can bet on the matchups from the comfort of their own couches as sports betting rebounds from the pandemic. 

At the height of COVID, sports betting had a rough streak.

The NFL had to postpone games because of infected players, and the NBA had to suspend part of its season.

It wasn’t looking good. Then, the leagues picked up some momentum and betting returned.

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This year marks a turn for the gaming industry.

The American Gaming Association reports nationwide gaming revenue reached nearly $39 billion through the first nine months of 2021.

That's more than all of last year’s revenue.

The casino industry is doing better than ever coming out of the pandemic. (Ashley Soriano/Fox News)

Bill Miller, AGA’s CEO and president, said 2019 was the gaming industry's best year to date, 2020 its worst. Miller said 2021 is "setting up to be the industry’s greatest year in history."

Nearly 1,000 casinos across the country shut down completely for part of last year, which meant a lot of bettors had to place bets online instead of in person.

"Coming out of the pandemic, we’ve really seen sports betting on the rise, and I think people really miss not having sports," said Jason McCormick, vice president of racing sports for Station Casinos. "Since they came back, the gambling aspect of it has been absolutely fantastic."

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Online sports betting is still relatively new. 

Before 2018, it was legal only in Nevada. Today, 32 states and the District of Columbia allow online betting, according to the AGA.

 And Ohio and Massachusetts are considering online betting.

Sports betting is legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia.

"People have been betting on sports as long as there has been sports to bet on," Miller said. "Unfortunately, most Americans have been betting on sports illegally, but that’s changing and it’s a really exciting thing."

Raffi Demirjian lives in Texas, where sports betting is illegal.

He recently graduated from Oklahoma State University, which hosts the Oklahoma Sooners in a huge rivalry game this weekend. 

Demirjian traveled to Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas to bet on it. 

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"For once, I’m feeling confident about the rivalry game. We haven’t won it since 2014, so maybe this is the year. I’m feeling pretty good, so I figured I’d try to win a little bit out of it," Demirjian said. 

The rise in mobile betting presents new options for people who can’t make it to Vegas for the holiday games.

"Mobile is such a great aspect to have so you’re not leaving your family and friends to run out to make your sports bet," McCormick said. "So to get that mobile app and be able to sit in the comfort of your home and bet your games with your family without having to run out, it’s just a great option."

The AGA says with the return of meetings, conventions and international travel, the gaming industry will recover even more in 2022.

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