Sports betting tide runs strong

May 26, 2015 3:02 AM

Chuck Esposito is the bookmaker at the Sunset Station's sportsbook.Even as Congress debates putting more teeth into the Wire Act “to restore long-standing United States policy that the Wire Act prohibits all forms of Internet gambling, and for other purposes,” there are those who believe sports betting will become legal in the United States on a grand scale. And it will undoubtedly be conducted over the Internet as that is only intelligent way to handle it in today’s world.

Currently, legal sports betting is limited to Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware, all grandfathered in when the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act made it illegal and prevented other states from adding it to their menus.

But the pro-sports-betting undercurrent is alive and well, and may be getting stronger.

Last fall in an op-ed article for the New York Times, NBA commissioner Adam Silver shocked many by advocating sports betting be taken “out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated.” In later interviews he tried to temper his stand a bit by saying he was not truly a pro sports betting person, but simply a realist. Bottom line, he expects sports betting to become a reality.

At February’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston there seemed to be agreement among attendees, including Michael Rubin, executive chairman of the sports merchandise retailer Fanatics and a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Vivek Ranadive, majority owner of the Sacramento Kings, that legalized sports betting is inevitable.

New Jersey continues its legal battle to add sports betting to its gambling menu, most recently arguing its position to a federal appeals court in March. A ruling could be forthcoming anytime, but no matter what the court says the losing side will likely appeal.

Will Hobson of the Washington Post did an extensive piece in late February on the background of moral objections to gambling and how they have mostly disappeared, one result of that being the firm establishment of lotteries in more than 40 states. The article also compares the similarities between Britain in the 1960s when it legalized sports betting and today’s United States.

Over the weekend David Wharton with the Los Angeles Times reported on Dan Spillane’s comments at the GiGse convention for Internet gaming held recently in San Francisco. Spillane, vice president and assistant general counsel for the NBA, told his audience patience would be needed. “We’re at the beginning of what I think is a long process,” he said. “But you have to start somewhere.”

Wharton told his readers: “Legalization would open new revenue streams by way of sponsorship and advertising deals with the gaming industry. It might also help build a more loyal customer base.” Even Spillane, according to Wharton, has agreed that “legalization would probably be good for business.” The scent of money is very powerful.

In the meantime, the powers that be in our nation’s capital continue to throw rocks in the path, hoping to stem the tide for legality. They may be able to slow it down, but they won’t stop it, and in the not too distant future (estimates range from 2 to 10 years) legalized sports betting will be a reality.

CALLING HOCKEY FANS: If you have an interest in hockey or the possibility of having a professional sports team in Las Vegas, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to get your questions answered this Wednesday at Sunset Station.

Chuck Esposito, director of race and sports at the Station Casinos property, has made arrangements for Bill Foley, the businessman spearheading efforts to bring an NHL expansion team to town, to attend a meet and greet at the casino’s Club Madrid room on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

There will be a question and answer session that will be moderated by Brian Blessing of Sports Radio 920 The Game show.

See you around town.

Eileen DiRocco is the owner and publisher of GamingToday, the bible for gaming news “you can bet on.” Contact Eileen at