There’s been a few changes to legalized gambling in the U.S. over the past 50 years, but sports wagering is still taboo in most states.
Despite notable exceptions (one glimmering desert city comes to mind), the long-standing crackdown on sports betting has led to a gargantuan American black market. While statistics show Las Vegas sees about $4 billion in legal wagers each year, it’s estimated illegal bets range between $80 billion and $380 billion each year. Most of this money goes through offshore online gambling sites, local bookies and office pools.
So we know people like to put $20 on the Patriots or $30 on the Yankees. The question is: Will they be able to do it legally in the coming years?
Pressure is building. Technology makes it easier by the day. And by not legalizing sports wagers and taking a small cut in the process, states are missing out on easy revenue. (Political tip: States governments hate missing out on easy revenue.)
Here’s how we got here:
Back in 1992, American bettors were crushed when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was introduced. It banned sports wagering everywhere other than four states. The ban is still in effect. and it’s recently come under a lot of scrutiny. New Jersey, for instance, has challenged the constitutionality of PASPA and the case is being heard by the Supreme Court.
Infact, New Jersey’s constitution was amended in 2011 when voters backed sports wagering at struggling racetracks and casinos. But the amendment didn’t go over well with the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL and NCAA, who all filed a lawsuit to prevent it. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit sided with the leagues and the law was overturned. New Jersey officials now hope the Supreme Court will pave the way to legalized sports betting.
Let’s take a timeout and review the landscape: Sports betting is currently legal in Oregon, Delaware, Montana and Nevada but it’s banned everywhere else.
So where do the leagues stand on the issue? Let’s just say, we wouldn’t have even asked that question 40 years ago. They were all diametrically opposed to any form of legalized gambling. Now? The leagues are warming up the idea.
They don’t have a problem with betting on individual games in Nevada and are fine with daily fantasy sports. And NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has publicly supported some form of nationwide gambling venture, even though his league (along with the NHL, NFL, MLB, and NCAA) are fighting against New Jersey’s wishes.
Silver wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times and said it’s time for mainstream sports wagering rather than having it hidden underground. He also told a radio audience that he spoke to the commissioners of the other major sports leagues and received various reactions. Some were dead against it, such as the NFL, while others MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was more open to it. Silver said he’s not promoting sports gambling, but believes pro leagues should be looking into it.
Silver added that the opinion of the individual leagues doesn’t mean much because if sports betting’s going to be allowed then it’s going to be legalized regardless of what they think about it. Because of this, he feels there’s not much sense in sternly opposing it. Silver believes it’s better to license and regulate the industry as it will allow leagues to monitor wagering patterns and retain their integrity at the same time. He said leagues will be able to monitor betting trends and any irregular wagering habits can be investigated.
Gambling advocates point out that the U.S. is also missing out on billions of dollars of revenue due to the sports-betting ban. Research into global gambling habits has shown the U.S. would be the world’s biggest market if sports wagering was legalized. According to the American Gaming Association, Americans will bet close to $150 billion this year with most of it being on college and NFL football.
The problem is, most of the wagers are technically illegal.
In addition, research company Gambling Compliance has stated that legalized sports wagering would generate between approximately $6 billion a year in revenue. The AGA says illegal sports gambling is at an all-time high, and it’s obvious the ban isn’t working.
It seems the majority of Americans are in favor of legalized sports betting. A 2017 poll by the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Washington Post showed that 55 per cent of American adults approved of it.