The pro teams Americans bet on the most

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% 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.

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The teams Americans bet on the most

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 was able to compile a list of the major league teams Americans bet on most: five NFL teams, five NBA teams, six NHL teams and six MLB teams.

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.

Robinson Cano's New York Yankees are bet on heavily by Americans.
(Getty Images)

Most of the teams that have highest betting activity are iconic organizations. The New York Yankees are at the top of the baseball list. The Los Angeles Lakers, and the Minneapolis Lakers, have the most impressive championship record in the NBA. Tradition and excellence, it seems, even extend to the interests of gamblers.

NFL teams bet on the most

3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Team value: No. 13
Attendance 2010:: 504,669 (12th lowest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +1.1% (15th biggest increase)
W-L last ten years: 106-53-1 (3rd best)
More on the Steelers

2. Dallas Cowboys
Team value: No. 1
Attendance 2010:: 696,377 (the highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +37.76% (the biggest increase)
W-L last ten years: 83-77-0 (14th best)
More on the Cowboys

1. New England Patriots
Team value: No. 3
Attendance 2010:: 550,048 (13th highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +14.04% (6th biggest increase)
W-L last ten years: 121-39-0 (the best)
More on the Patriots

NBA teams bet on the most

3. Miami Heat
Team value: No. 7
Attendance 2010:: 810,930 (5th highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +19.75 (8th biggest increase)
W-L last ten years: 404-416 (14th best)
More on the Heat

2. Boston Celtics
Team value: No. 4
Attendance 2010:: 763,584 (11th highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +21.36% (5th biggest increase)
W-L last ten years: 473-347 (6th best)
More on the Celtics

1. Los Angeles Lakers
Team value: No. 2
Attendance 2010:: 778,877 (8th highest)
Pct. change attendance 2001 – 2010: +0.33% (19th biggest increase)
W-L last ten years: 515-305 (3rd best)
More on the Lakers

See the MLB teams Americans best on the most, including the Yankees and Red Sox.

See the NHL teams Americans best on the most, including the Red Wings and Bruins.

Updated Friday, Nov 4, 2011