STUDY: Majority of Americans support legalizing sports betting - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

STUDY: Majority of Americans support legalizing sports betting

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Fans enjoying March Madness inside the Mandalay Bay Sportsbook on March 19, 2016. (Robbie Hunt/FOX5) Fans enjoying March Madness inside the Mandalay Bay Sportsbook on March 19, 2016. (Robbie Hunt/FOX5)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Sports betting is a billion dollar industry that has been gaining popularity over the years, and now it has hit a historic milestone. 

According to a survey done by the Washington Post and University of Massachusetts Lowell, 55 percent of Americans support making sports betting legal. It's the first time a majority of people have supported legalization efforts for an industry that was, at one point, taboo. 

The rise in popularity of sports betting was on full display at the South Point Hotel and Casino Thursday night, as bettors packed into the sportsbook for Thursday Night Football. 

"It makes sports more exciting," one bettor said. 

"This is just a Thursday night game and there's still people here," South Point Sportsbook Operator Jimmy Vaccaro said. "They're betting a lot of money and they're having a good time."

Vaccaro has spent decades in the sports betting business, and said he has watched the rise in popularity first-hand from behind the betting counter. 

"Each year, you saw the wall come down a little bit. We start to give the customer more, and they start enjoying it more," Vaccaro said. "They used to just watch the game. Now they have a monetary interest in the game, which isn't all that bad!"

The study comes as the Supreme Court is getting ready to hear a case on whether New Jersey can allow sports betting. It's a decision that could clear the way for legalized sports gambling across the country.

"There's 20 states already who signed on saying if (the Supreme Court decides to) give it to New Jersey, (those states) want it too," Vaccaro explained. 

So if sports betting starts to spread, what does that mean for valley sports books?

"Will it hurt Nevada? No," Vaccaro said. "I was here in 1978 when they talked about legalizing the casinos in New Jersey and they said, 'Nobody would even show up here in Nevada.' All we did was create new customers."

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