Casino gambling floors and sporting events may have been forced closed during the pandemic, but that doesn't mean people weren't still betting. On the contrary, online gambling was already a significant force in the industry, and the national lockdowns only burnished its positioning.

Now that casinos are rolling again, sports are live, and people can congregate in crowds once more, gambling stocks offer investors a great opportunity to increase the odds in their favor of generating high returns for their portfolios.

The following four gambling stocks represent some of the best investments in this space today.

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Flutter Entertainment

Flutter Entertainment (FLUT -2.79%) is not only the biggest sportsbook in the U.S. through its FanDuel platform, but with Paddy Power, BetFair, and The Stars Group, owner of the world's leading poker platform PokerStars, it is also the biggest sportsbook globally.

Although headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Flutter's biggest growth proposition is arguably the United States. Its sportsbooks added 900,000 new players in the first quarter while total average monthly players hit 1.6 million, a 132% increase from the year-ago period. FanDuel accounted for over 91% of Flutter's revenue and the service has a leading 36% share of the sportsbook market

Flutter's stock isn't cheap, but it has plenty of opportunity to grow into its premium in the rapidly expanding sports betting industry. Globally, sports betting is a $200 billion business; in the U.S. it is expected to grow to $8 billion by 2025, a pretty phenomenal achievement since it was only legalized in 2018. Most sports wagers are placed online, as much as 95% in some states. With FanDuel having the top spot in virtually all those states, it stands to gain the most as the market's growth story plays out.

Moreover, it is also mulling whether to spin out some of its ownership stake in FanDuel into a publicly-traded company.

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DraftKings (DKNG -2.69%) is the second-biggest U.S. sportsbook with a 25% share, and it benefits from many of the same tailwinds that are driving FanDuel and Flutter Entertainment higher.

Its stock, though, was recently hit by a short-seller report that alleged some skullduggery at a tech business DraftKings acquired. While management's refutation of the charges could have been stronger, the issue largely seems unrelated to the sportsbook's operations. In particular, DraftKings says it bought the company for its technology and not its foreign business operations, which are minuscule in comparison. So the allegations shouldn't be an issue for the sportsbook.

Valuation, on the other hand, is also at a premium for DraftKings, as it was the best-performing initial public offering (IPO) last year. Some analysts have valid concerns about it, wondering whether it can live up to its potential, particularly with casinos reopening.

Yet I think it, too, can grow into it. Live-streaming of sporting events will be a key element of how sports betting evolves going forward, and DraftKings' recent partnership with Sling TV to launch a sports odds channel ensures it will be a part of the action.

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Esports Entertainment Group

A less-often discussed opportunity is the massive esports trend. Still, it could become the fastest-growing segment within sports betting, and no one may have a better fix on its potential than Esports Entertainment Group (GMBL).

Generally, global revenue for esports is expected to jump 14.5% in 2021, reaching over $1 billion. Data from Newzoo says over 75% of that figure, or $834 million, will come from media rights and sponsorships.

Global live-streaming audiences are also experiencing significant growth, hitting 729 million people this year -- up 10% from 2020 -- and expected to climb to as many as 920 million by 2024. 

Esports Entertainment Group bills itself as "the only esports-dedicated U.S. wagering platform," so it doesn't offer any casino gambling or sports betting domestically. However, it does have a finger in the pie in the U.K. and Ireland.

It also recently submitted its application to begin accepting bets on esports in New Jersey, the biggest sports betting state in the country, and hopes to be able to accept wagers on esports events by the end of the year. 

Esports Entertainment only went public last year, but it represents a good bet on the reopening economy as esports events begin to take shape once more.

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MGM Resorts

MGM Resorts International (MGM -5.01%) is included here because it has its finger on the pulse of every gambling opportunity there is. It is the largest casino operator in Las Vegas, has regional casinos in Atlantic City and Boston, and as a world-class resort operator, has a presence in Macao, China, too.

In BetMGM, the company also has its own online casino gaming platform as well as the third-largest and fastest-growing sportsbook in the country. The Borgata casino in Atlantic City is New Jersey's third-biggest sportsbook and MGM says it will be the second-largest very soon. As more states legalize online gambling and sports betting, BetMGM is expected to be a force to be reckoned with.

The U.S. casinos are beginning to show life again after the pandemic, and MGM has sought to limit its real estate exposure by selling off the property while retaining operation control over the casinos. It also just agreed to sell the Las Vegas CityCenter, a luxury hotel, condo, and shopping venue. 

Another bet on the reopening economy, MGM Resorts is a play investors should consider.