This coming Tuesday, sports betting in this country will celebrate a year of freedom, of operating in the shadows and into the light.
If you recall, back on May 14, 2018, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which had existed going back to 1992 preventing states from having legalized sports betting in their jurisdictions. Nevada was exempt from the law since it had been taking bets on sporting events for decades.
But with New Jersey leading the charge, PASPA was eventually overturned by the High Court in a 6-3 vote. It didn’t take long for the states, desperate for new revenue streams, to get into the sportsbook business.
They’ve been taking bets in Jersey and in Pennsylvania and Delaware. You can make a sports bet in Mississippi, New Mexico, Rhode Island and West Virginia. Montana came on board last week and Tennessee, Indiana, Iowa and New York are preparing to join the fun. Several other states have debated the merits of having legalized sports betting.
It has changed the landscape of the industry dramatically. Billions have already been bet and that number will grow as more states come on board.
And should California, Texas and Florida ever decide this is worth doing, look out.
Of course, like any startup business, there are bound to be a few hiccups. DraftKings had a PR nightmare back in January when New Jersey bettors got shut out of making a bet in an NFL wagering contest. In West Virginia, the state last month suspended one of the apps used to make mobile sports wagers and the company which had a license to operate a sports book, Delaware North, is suing the app creator, Miomni Gaming.
And last week in Rhode Island, a Republican activist planned to sue the state, claiming sports betting should never have been allowed to proceed without the public having had the opportunity to vote on whether or not it wanted it.
Still, many politicians see it as a positive. Proponents of sports betting bills use the enticement of added revenue streams and promises of millions of much-needed tax dollars to fill depleted state coffers. But in several cases, the projections have come up short.
The way I see it, even if a state picks up only a few million in annual revenue from sports betting, that’s still a few million it didn’t have. It won’t solve all the fiscal woes, but it’ll help get some tablets for students to use in schools, perhaps help with infrastructure projects and maybe hire a few more state troopers or highway patrol cops.
As I read the daily stories coming out of the various state legislatures, it’s apparent that there’s no consensus on just how to have sports betting. Some want a mobile betting component, some don’t. Some want only a brick-and-mortar operation. Some want the state’s lottery to oversee sports betting. Some want a high tax or license fee in order to do business. Some are more flexible on the license fee.
There are other political ramifications. Native American tribes which run casinos across the country and are very lucrative, are split on whether to allow sports betting. In New York and New Mexico, it’s yes. In California and Florida, it’s no.
I’ll admit, I don’t fully understand all the details as to why some tribes are for or against sports betting. I would think that those who allow it or are in favor of it would benefit from the additional traffic to their properties and would generate more revenue. Then again, maybe the compacts they have with the feds might be severely impacted by allowing sports betting and it may not be worth the financial risk to renegotiate those deals so someone can make a baseball bet in July.
While the tribes figure out how to proceed, the politicians continue to debate on how to operate a sportsbook. It may take some time, but eventually, virtually every state will have some form of sports betting. It may be a fancy book. It may be phone accounts. It may be online. But I’ll lay 6-5 that sooner rather than later, virtually all 50 states will offer you an opportunity to make a Super Bowl bet among other wagers.
I say “virtually” because I doubt Utah will ever come on board. But with Nevada bordering it, that may not be an issue as many Utahns find ways to bet legally in Mesquite and Wendover, not to mention illegally with a bookie (yes, those guys are still in business).
And if you’re thinking that the repeal of PASPA hurt Nevada, guess again. According to figures released by the state’s Gaming Control Board on April 25, the Silver State had a historic March in its sportsbooks with a handle of $597 million, $495 million of which was bet on college basketball. The books had a win of $32.5 million.
If you’re a legislator in a state that is considering adopting and passing a sports betting bill, you should see that Nevada in general and Las Vegas in particular, isn’t going away. But that doesn’t mean you should be intimidated by the numbers Nevada generates and back off bringing sports betting to your state. If your constituents want the convenience of having the ability to make a wager on a sporting event at home without having to fly to Vegas, you should consider their desires. And that goes for every single piece of legislation in every state. The people’s wishes should always be first and foremost. That’s why we see hundreds of referendums on ballots every year.
First anniversaries are always special. Traditionally, you are supposed to give paper as a gift. And given the first anniversary of the repeal of PASPA is looming, what could be a more fitting way to celebrate than making a bet at a sportsbook and placing that piece of paper into your wallet in the hopes of redeeming it for some dollar bills?
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