By Sports Betting Buzz
Is this it? Is legalized sports betting finally here? The neighborhood bookie isn’t dead yet, but he’s on life support. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to make a decision on American sports gambling and potentially reverse a decades-long federal ban (with a few noteworthy carveouts).
In fact, some states are already gearing up for real, legal wagers and professional leagues – like Major League Baseball – are prepping for the seismic shift. MLB has been educating players, managers and umpires on the ins and outs of legalized sports gambling and no, Pete Rose hasn’t been hired as an expert (yet).
The waiting game continues, but the high court is expected to make a ruling before July. As it stands, Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana are the only states where bettors can legally bet on sports events (legalized horse racing not included). It’s been this way since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was enacted in 1992.
Pro sports leagues on board
According to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, he’s taking the approach that sports gambling will be available to many more Americans in the near future. In a sure sign of what’s to come, MLB divested from its partial ownership of Daily Fantasy Sports giant DraftKings.
The NBA, NFL and NHL aren’t sleeping either. All the major pro sports leagues have been studying various types of betting analytics. And since they’re in a money-generating business, they’ve also been scouting possible partners to rake in additional revenue if sports gambling gets the green light.
This dramatic turn is remarkable. Just a couple of years ago, sports leagues were all dead set against gambling on their product. It was their opposition to wagering that prompted the government to introduce PASPA in the first place. But over the years the leagues have realized that fans have more interest in their games if they also have something on the line.
Let’s face it, most fans don’t want to watch the dregs of any pro sports league unless they’ve got cash riding on the game.
While the NHL and NFL haven’t said as much, MLB and the NBA have been vocal. Both leagues have been giving their input to state legislatures by helping them craft bills. As of May 1, a total of 18 state legislatures were prepared for the Supreme Court’s decision by having some form of plan in the works for legalized gambling (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and Indiana are just a few).
Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, said his league has discussed the economics with legislators as they try to come up with a suitable sports-betting framework.
Too much money at stake
American gamblers and sports fans bet illegally on pro and amateur events ($150 billion a year on the low-end estimates). Obviously, this action won’t vanish — regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision. But “illegal” sports betting will quickly become “legal” sports betting as it’s properly licensed and regulated. The longer federal and state governments sit idle, the more they miss out on tax money. It’s also the perfect opportunity to offer sports fans and bettors a legal and safe way to wager on various sporting events, while at the same time protecting the integrity of the leagues.
The government can do this by introducing consumer-protection programs to help tackle problem gambling. In addition, sports leagues can continue to work with legislators to restrict specific types of wagers, which could be decided by the actions of a single athlete.
From our perspective, it’s not a question of if sports betting is legalized. Just when.