Bad mix: Sports bets and lottery

Bad mix: Sports bets and lottery

May 15, 2018 3:10 AM


As various state governments continue to ruminate, cogitate and deliberate just how to implement and tax sports wagering, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the current federal law banning single-game betting in every state except Nevada, a new entity has emerged hoping to stick its fork into a piece of what may be a significant financial pie.

Brad Cummings, the progressive and usually clear-thinking founder of EquiLottery, an entity trying to convince the various state lotteries to use horse racing results as a means of producing the official numbers that generate lottery payouts, says state lotteries need to examine “the risk it (legal sports betting) could cannibalize existing revenue and take away from bellwether products like Powerball, Mega Millions and the ever-changing portfolio of scratch off tickets lotteries offer every year.”

Cummings, in a missive from EquiLottery, believes lotteries are perfectly positioned to do it better than the competition and “our participation allows for a bulk of the profits to go to the good causes our industry supports.”

Georgia is one state that pops into mind when it comes to almost obsessively protecting its lottery. When anyone, outsider or state resident, proposes introducing any other form of gambling in the Peach State, be it pari-mutuel horse betting, casino gambling or anything else, many lawmakers head for the nearest newspaper or microphone to proclaim the need to protect the Georgia Lottery and its HOPE Program (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally).

Created in 1993, the unique scholarship and grant program rewards students with financial assistance in degree, diploma, and certificate programs at eligible Georgia public and private colleges and universities, and public technical colleges.

HOPE is entirely funded by revenue from the Georgia Lottery so if you propose anything that might impact it, elected officials and bureaucrats start seething in a manner that suggests an opposition fostered not only to protect scholarships, but also to protect the bureaucracy that manages the lottery.

Thanks to the internet, it’s quite easy to look up the bureaucratic costs of a state-run lottery. These costs, although they vary state to state, are significant.

Adding a lottery-like layer of administrative costs to sports wagering would just ratchet up the expenses that, one way or another, trickle down to the public in general and the potential sports bettor in particular.

Cummings urges lottery officials to begin to lay the legislative groundwork now. He says, “As your state starts to redefine its sports gaming statutes, be sure to carve out the express ability to offer sports gaming based on chance through the lottery.”

Cummings notes that over the summer he’s an invited speaker at gaming conferences such as GiGse in Miami and the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City. This crouton was bound to be tossed into the sports wagering salad at some time, so I suppose it might as well be now.

It’s hard to see any real synergy between lottery players and sports bettors. Many veterans of the Nevada sports wagering scene note that lotteries are for suckers and dreamers and serve merely as an extra tax on the poor who can’t really afford to play various lottery games. However, many lottery players need that dream of instant riches to survive in a world that continues to apply an ever-tightening, vice-like grip on their finances.

In some research for another story, I discovered the odds for winning the grand prize in the multi-state Lotto America game are 1 in 25,989,600.

Good luck with that!

Those who bet sports and those who run the various business concerns directly related to sports betting say, unlike the lottery, it is not a guessing game. Sports bettors know there’s always some randomness in game results, but there are many ways to ferret out those contests in which you might have increased opportunity to win.

It still looks like the various states now considering moving swiftly into the world of sports betting, now that it’s legal on a federal level, are continuing to ignore the Nevada model that works so well here. Because there’s no state lottery here, it’s hard to know just what the lottery bureaucracy would do, should it become involved in sports wagering, even if it’s just somehow connecting it to a game of chance.

A potential mixture of these dissimilar forms of gambling, apples and oranges, if you will, should be avoided.