Betting on sporting events is only legal in four states, but the American Sports Betting Coalition and casino industry officials all over the country are trying to change that.
“We are partnering with local and state elected officials, law enforcement and other diverse interests to tell Washington to get out of the way,” Geoff Freeman, president and chief executive of the American Gaming Association,” told NJ.com. “Regulated sports betting is what fans want and sports integrity demands.”
“Nearly six in 10 Americans are in favor of ending the federal sports betting ban and allowing states to decide the question of legalization,” according to the coalition’s website. “Nearly two in three Americans believe regulated sports betting would allow communities to benefit from additional tax revenue and job creation.”
Freeman estimates that a legal sports betting industry could create 152,000 jobs, pump $26 billion into the U.S. economy, and raise $5.3 billion in taxes, NJ.com reports. In part, that’s because bettors are more likely to watch games and follow sports more closely, which could mean more viewers for broadcasters and advertisers.
The coalition claims to include law enforcement officials and elected representatives, and it lists the Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Conference of State Legislatures as supporters. ASBC already has met with players’ unions for the four major pro sports, and it plans to meet with other interested parties to, as NJ.com puts it, “discuss what a world with legalized sports betting would look like.”
It’s been some time since that world existed. In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which the ASBC calls “a failed law” that “effectively outlaw[ed] sports betting in most of the U.S.” Four states that previously allowed sports betting (Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon) were grandfathered into the law, and only Nevada permits full-fledged betting on college and professional sports through licensed bookmakers.
The NCAA, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association all have condemned legalized sports betting. That stance, however, seems to be softening — thanks to the impending presence of NFL and NHL teams in Las Vegas.
“In the two biggest sports events of the year — the Super Bowl and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament — Americans wagered nearly $15 billion,” according to a trio of opinion writers for TheHill.com, a popular online source for coverage of politics and policies. “About 97 percent was bet illegally. A law mocked and ignored by 97 percent of Americans isn’t serving any public benefit.
“How low is public esteem for the current law?” the writers asked. “A little over a year ago, President Obama went on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and joked about pardoning himself for betting on the Super Bowl. When a federal law becomes a punchline for the president of the United States, it’s time for a change.”
Further blurring the line between legal and illegal gambling is the partnering of professional sports leagues with daily fantasy sports operations. If the ASBC gets its way, and sports betting becomes legal in the United States, fantasy sports leagues might lose their luster, according to BleacherReport.com CEO Dave Finocchio, who contends participation is already declining. “NFL fantasy probably peaked three, four, five years ago,” he said at Seattle’s GeekWire Sports Tech Summit on June 22. “It’s slowly dwindling.”
“So far, 11 states have passed laws declaring paid-entry fantasy sports to be a ‘game of skill’ under their laws,” writes Dustin Gouker on LegalSportsReport.com. “No state is likely to pass legislation calling [daily fantasy sports] ‘gambling.’