Four years ago, betting on live sports was illegal in most of the United States. Now, fans watching games or attending them at stadiums are barraged with advertisements encouraging them to bet on matchups, not just watch as spectators.

This transformation in sports betting started nearly a decade ago, at first with the explosion of wagering on fantasy sports. Then in 2018, the Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize wagers on live games. Today, 31 states and Washington, D.C., permit sports gambling either online or in person, and five more states have passed laws that will allow such betting in the future. Professional sports in the U.S. now are part of a multibillion-dollar corporate gambling enterprise.

This shift represents the largest expansion of gambling in United States history. Several of my Times colleagues and I spent months investigating how the industry expanded, and today I want to highlight some of our findings.

Once sports betting was more broadly legalized, casinos teamed up with sports betting platforms like FanDuel and DraftKings, along with the major professional sports teams, to go state by state to push lawmakers to embrace it. Part of their tool kit for persuasion? Millions of dollars in contributions from the sports betting companies and their allies to those lawmakers’ campaigns for office.

We found that gambling industry representatives had told legislators they could expect to see significant tax benefits from sports betting. In many states, that windfall has fallen short.

Take Michigan, home to the Detroit Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons professional teams, along with another two dozen college athletics N.C.A.A. programs — in short, a whole lot of sports to bet on. Online sports betting started in that state in January 2021, and the American Gaming Association predicted that state legislators could expect to see more than $40 million a year in tax revenues. What has Michigan collected in the last year? Just $21 million in state and local taxes, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

The gambling industry also pressed states to keep tax rates low on sports betting, warning that if the states pushed rates too high, sports fans would turn to the black market to place bets on unregulated sites. Those warnings were misplaced. Some states, including New York and New Hampshire, ignored the industry’s advice and installed the highest tax rates on betting. They have seen bets placed at a higher rate per capita than many low-tax states. New York has seen so much betting — even with a high tax rate of 51 percent — that the state has collected an extraordinary $546 million in taxes in the first 10 months of this year. That amount is half of all the state tax revenues on sports betting nationwide.

Many of the states also allowed the gambling industry to give out hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of tax-free bets to gamblers, essentially marketing the industry. The promotions are intended to entice new customers to form a new habit: placing wagers on games. It is the modern-day equivalent of the free bus ride to Atlantic City casinos with a roll of quarters thrown in for the slots. Arizona sports betting operators alone gave out $205 million in free bets. But for states, the result was large shortfalls in expected tax revenues in places like Michigan and Virginia. Some, Virginia included, moved to curtail the tax-free bets.

The promotions were one example of how regulators were outmatched in trying to oversee the industry as it grew so rapidly. Rule enforcement was scattershot, punishments were light or rare, and regulators often looked to the gambling industry to police itself.

One casino company, Penn Entertainment, teamed up with David Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports, who has a history of misogynistic and racist behavior, turning him into a public spokesman for sports betting.

To market their expansion of sports betting, gambling sites reached unusual agreements with at least eight universities, including Michigan State, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Louisiana State University. The schools became partners with the companies in exchange for millions of dollars in payments. These deals generated questions about whether promoting gambling on campus — especially to people who are at an age when they are vulnerable to developing gambling disorders — fits the mission of higher education.

At least $161 billion in wagers have been placed since sports betting was broadly legalized in the United States. This explosion of gambling is just the start. Betting companies have made clear that the ultimate goal is to bring so-called iGaming to states across the nation, where customers can use their mobile phones to play blackjack, poker and other casino-style games.

Colorado Springs Shooting

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens discuss the new House majority.

Think of obesity as a consequence of our food systems and environment, not as a personal failing, Julia Belluz writes.

Trump brought about the end of Roe v. Wade, but at a cost. The anti-abortion movement must break from him, David French argues.

Top 25 travel experiences: Christmas in Ethiopia and an oasis swim in Oman.

Worst merger ever? How AT&T’s $100 billion deal to buy Time Warner went disastrously wrong.

Tips: How to handle holiday dinners if you have digestive issues.

Metropolitan diary: An extra concert ticket leads to a long and happy marriage.

Quiz time: Take our latest news quiz and share your score (the average was 9.5).

Advice from Wirecutter: Winter is coming. Get good boots.

Lives Lived: Jason David Frank played the Green Ranger and later the White Ranger on the 1990s children’s television show “The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” He died at 49.

Chiefs’ late win: Patrick Mahomes got the ball with 1:46 left in the game. Six plays, 75 yards and a game-winning touchdown later, Kansas City had its 25th straight win.

No. 1 beats No. 2: The top-ranked South Carolina edged Stanford in overtime in an early-season women’s basketball showdown.

The host’s opening loss: Qatar stepped onto the world stage with an elaborate opening ceremony, then immediately stumbled as its national team lost to Ecuador, 2-0.

Today’s matches: England will rely on an experienced squad to take on Iran at 8 a.m. Eastern. The Netherlands against Senegal follows at 11 a.m. and the U.S. plays Wales at 2 p.m.

The U.S. captain: Tyler Adams, 23, possesses an intense nature shaped by family games like an egg-and-spoon relay that devolved into shouting.

Pronunciation: You’re probably saying Qatar wrong.

On-field protest: Some European teams decided not to wear armbands supporting gay rights after organizers threatened to issue yellow cards. Follow today’s updates.

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address lasted two minutes, so brief that the photographers in attendance missed the moment. Because of that, experts have never been sure about where, exactly, he delivered the speech. Now a former Disney animator and self-described “Lincoln freak” says he has solved the mystery.

The sleuth, Christopher Oakley, analyzed other photographs from the day to triangulate the photographers’ positions, then merged them with 3-D modeling software. After years of research, he presented his findings last week to the Lincoln Forum, a gathering of scholars and enthusiasts, and received a standing ovation.

Harold Holzer, the forum’s chairman, called Oakley’s work “ingenious.” For enthusiasts, he said, discovering the exact location “is as crucial as discovering where Moses got the Ten Commandments.”

The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were bulletin and ebullient. Here is today’s puzzle.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Pour juices over, like a roasting turkey (five letters).

And here’s today’s Wordle. After, use our bot to get better.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.

P.S. The Times redesigned part of its newspaper editions to highlight weekend recommendations and reveal how our reporters work.

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