BOSTON (SHNS) – As a sports betting bill idles in the Massachusetts Senate, industry officials say the expansion of legalized wagering on sports means the number of Americans who will bet on NFL games this season will rise by 36 percent.

The American Gaming Association released research Tuesday suggesting a record 45.2 million Americans plan to bet on the NFL this season, which starts Thursday at Raymond James Stadium with a matchup between the NFL champion and Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. Citing poll results, the association pegged fans from the Northeast as the most interested in the nation in betting on the NFL this year.

Legal wagers may be placed in 26 states and Washington D.C, up from 18 states and D.C. at the start of the 2020 season, the association said. Sports betting is legal in 32 states but some of those states have not yet launched wagering. Sixteen of the 23 states that are home to NFL teams have legalized sports betting.

“Sports betting is more popular than ever among Americans, and the enthusiasm of bettors for the upcoming NFL season highlights the remarkable growth of the industry over the past three years,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said. “Importantly, when the 2021 NFL season begins, more than 111 million American adults will be able to wager safely with regulated sportsbooks in their home states rather than with the predatory illegal market.”

The association estimates that Americans have legally wagered nearly $27 billion on sports in the first seven months of 2021, generating more than $350 million in federal, state, and local taxes. The Massachusetts House on July 22 passed legislation legalizing sports betting.

Gov. Charlie Baker supports legalization, but legalization backers have long had trouble getting a bill to the floor of the state Senate. The House bill (H 3993) passed 156-3, and has remained before the Senate Ways and Means Committee for the length of a summer recess that began at the start of August.

Massachusetts has been considering whether to expand gambling here since the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018 ruled that the nearly nationwide prohibition on sports wagering was unconstitutional and gave states the ability to legalize the activity.