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Dustin Gouker

Dustin Gouker

Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. You can also find his work at Legal Sports Report.

MLB Is Apparently Full Of Crap On Its Sports Betting Ad Ban, As DraftKings Still Advertises

Dustin Gouker August 13, 2018
DraftKings sportsbook MLB ads

You may have heard: DraftKings is in the sports betting business officially now, via its DraftKings Sportsbook in New Jersey.

The last we heard, Major League Baseball said it would not be taking advertising money from sports betting companies.

DraftKings, however, is still advertising via MLB teams. To wit:

There seems to be a disconnect somewhere. So what’s going on?

The backstory on MLB and DraftKings

The last we heard from MLB, back in June, there is no sports betting advertising whatsoever allowed:

“We have been informed that club television and radio rights holders are being approached by sports books to place advertising/enhancements. Pursuant to MLB policy, clubs must inform their rights holders that they are presently not permitted to accept such advertising. Clubs may not at this time enter into any relationship with a pure sports book, or with a casino with a sports book to the extent that the arrangement involves sports betting.”

DraftKings is still very much in the daily fantasy sports business. But it also is fully in the sports betting industry after its NJ sports betting launch last week. If MLB has changed its policy, it hasn’t been publicly voiced.

The intersting thing is that the ad above — seen at the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark — doesn’t even mention DFS. It’s just promoting DraftKings’ brand, which now, of course, includes sports gambling.

MLB probably doing a lot of parsing right now

While DraftKings is only in one US sports betting market, that’s likely to change soon. Its sportsbook won’t be in Ohio any time in the near future, but it does have a deal to offer New York sports betting. And it likely will attempt to find its way into neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which both have legalized sports wagering.

That means that MLB is probably going through all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify a continued marketing relationship with DraftKings. From MLB’s June statement, you can argue DraftKings is not a “pure sportsbook” — it offers DFS too — or “a casino with a sports book.”

Still, that line is pretty difficult to parse, espectially when you don’t even put “daily fantasy sports” on an ad.

Anyway, Major League Baseball — the same league that fought to pay minor leaguers less than minimum wage — is still awful on many levels. And its arbitrary line in the sand on what kind of advertising from sports betting companies is OK is just another example.

Bryce Harper, The Home Run Derby And Potential Problems For MLB On Sports Betting

Dustin Gouker July 17, 2018
MLB betting

The Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper murdered a bunch of baseballs in the Home Run Derby on Monday night as part of the festivities at the All-Star Game.

One little hiccup though: Harper and the pitcher throwing him batting practice — his Dad — apparently weren’t following the rules.

I’m not here to breathlessly defend the rules of an event that’s just supposed to be a lot of fun. But it does have implications for the world of sports betting.

Yes, there are rules for the HR Derby

This might shock some of you, but there are actually rules for the derby. I mean, we all know the basic ones, like you have to hit out of the park, time limits, etc.

One of the less known ones, though, is that a ball has to hit the ground before another pitch can be thrown to the contestant. It makes some sense, and clearly if not everyone is following that rule, someone gets an advantage. Enter Bryce Harper, whose dad started throwing pitches pretty quickly near the end of the final round:

Again: Who cares if the rules are bent? It’s just the Home Run Derby, not something important like electing a president or regulations on polluting the water.

The only part you and I should care about it is when sports betting becomes involved.

Betting on the HR Derby

The Home Run Derby is fun to watch. But you know what makes it more fun to watch? Betting on it. The game was booked in Nevada and at least some places — including at the FanDuel Sportsbook — in the New Jersey sports betting market.

Some people obviously bet on the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber, the other finals participant to win the event, and seeing Harper win it with a loose interpretation of the rules didn’t go over well in some portions of sports (and sports betting) Twitter:

As some have pointed out, Schwarber also looked like he was breaking a similar rule in an earlier round.

Still, this is where it can get tricky for Major League Baseball.

The potential problem for MLB

It’s well-known MLB wants to be directly involved in sports betting regulation in the US in myriad ways, including integrity fees/royalties and limits on what can be wagered on. Would it want to have betting on the Home Run Derby, or would it even have control over whether that betting can happen? (In all the states that have legalized sports wagering so far, MLB has no say.)

If MLB is involved, and it is setting the rules for the Home Run Derby, then MLB is suddenly in a bad spot. Does MLB take a draconian approach to enforcing the rules for the HR Derby to protect its “integrity?” Or does it carry on like it does today, knowing betting goes on on the event and shrugging its shoulders?

It can do the latter if it’s not directly involved in sports wagering at the state level. But if it is involved, it becomes a lot more difficult for it to ignore the rules for something seemingly as innocuous and fun as the Home Run Derby.

DraftKings Sportsbook Is Almost Here? Founders Tease Product On Twitter

Dustin Gouker July 13, 2018
draftkings sportsbook

We are apparently close to having a DraftKings Sportsbook app.

Two of the daily fantasy sports company’s founders — Jason Robins and Matt Kalish — tweeted about the planned launch of a sports betting app on Friday evening:

DraftKings is close on sports betting

The teases confirm what many believed — that DraftKings would have separate platforms for its DFS and sports betting offerings. It has been working with Kambi Group on developing its sports betting product.

DraftKings will, in theory, first launch its app in the NJ sports betting market. It has a relationship with Resorts Atlantic City that allows it to offer sports betting via the land-based casino’s license.

We still don’t know anything about the timeline for launch, although no one is offering online wagering yet in New Jersey. Industry chatter says some online and mobile offerings could be live as soon as later this month.

DraftKings is apparently confident about its ability to deliver a product. The news also comes as the company is seeking to raise $200 million.

The Best DraftKings Sportsbook Bonus Available Online

More sports betting is coming to NJ

The news about DraftKings comes just a day before the first-ever physical FanDuel Sportsbook is set to launch in New Jersey, at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

There are currently three physical sportsbooks that are already open — Monmouth Park, Borgata and Ocean Resort Casino.

MLB’s Changing Stance On Need For Sports Betting Cooperation Might Give You Whiplash

Dustin Gouker June 11, 2018
MLB whiplash sports betting

Major League Baseball and the NBA sometimes have to twist themselves into knots to explain what they want from legal US sports betting, and why they want it.

But the MLB has done a pretty big flip-flop in recent years on the need to cooperate with sports betting regulators when it comes to sharing information.

What the MLB said recently

MLB’s most recent plan of attack is to say Nevada sports betting regulation is really, really bad, a take so horrible that it has no basis in reality. Nevada has been doing this for decades, and there’s little evidence that state officials have done anything other than a superb job overseeing the industry.

But that’s not the subject of this story. We’re more concerned here with what the MLB said about “cooperation.” Here’s MLB executive Brian Seeley, in talking to Reuters:

Australia is a world benchmark for the industry, he said, because “there is the most cooperation and coordination between sports leagues, the regulator and bookmakers.”

And then:

“You can say that you care about integrity too,” Seeley said of bookmakers. “But when you turn around and oppose any requirement that you let the leagues know about integrity problems, it is hard for me to believe you.”

If you’re following along, MLB is saying YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO WORK WITH THEM if you care at all about sports, betting, starving children around the world, endangered animals, etc. OK, maybe not those last two. But the point remains, MLB is painting a doomsday scenario if you don’t listen to them.

Got that? OK, hold on.

‘Completely incorrect’

Let’s rewind a bit, to see what the MLB was telling us less than six years ago about sports betting.

Here’s Tom Ostertag, former MLB general counsel, in a deposition he gave for the first iteration of the federal sports betting case, NCAA vs. Christie, in 2012. (The state of New Jersey won the second and more-recent version of the case in the US Supreme Court.)

“We think the idea that any sportsbook can be helpful to us, again, is completely incorrect. It’s almost like saying we’ll create a problem and then we’ll tell you about it. And how does that benefit us?”

We’re not sure what we’re supposed to take away from this, as Seeley’s recent comments are a 180-degree change from Ostertag’s. Was the MLB admitting it was entirely wrong then, and it’s seen the light? Is cooperation not that important, and the MLB is just pretending it is now?

Likely, it’s the former, as the leagues have evolved their stances a lot in recent years. But still going from “LOL at cooperation with sportsbooks” to “integrity can’t happen without cooperation” is like putting a car in reverse while going 100 miles per hour.

Have fun squaring this latest bit of hypocrisy, MLB.

Three Giant Lies Sen. Orrin Hatch Just Told About Sports Betting

Dustin Gouker May 23, 2018
LOL sports betting Hatch

Let’s start here: Sen. Orrin Hatch — the person who is partially responsible for the debacle that was the federal sports betting ban — should be everyone’s last choice for advancing a bill responsible for regulation of wagering in the United States.

But that’s what we’re going to get anyway, as Hatch is the one who will spearhead Congressional legislation. (Hatch was one of the authors of PASPA.)

Hatch doubled down with what was a pretty awful op-ed about his plans for regulation and the history of sports betting. So let’s get to the biggest whoppers Hatch wrote.

No. 1: ‘The indisputable success of PASPA…’

“The indisputable success of PASPA makes the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate this law all the more devastating,” Hatch wrote.

What in the bleeping world is Hatch talking about? PASPA, enacted in 1992, was a disaster in just about any measure:

  • The law was on the books for decades despite the fact it was unconstitutional.
  • It helped create a thriving black market for sports betting that is estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars. Nevada sports betting has existed with few problems during that time.
  • US leagues seem to unanimously agree that regulation is better than trying to institute a blanket ban; Congress could still do that, if it wanted to, just not in the way it wrote PASPA. So, if PASPA was so great, Hatch should just be rewriting it. But, guess what? It sucked.

Anyway, this stupid sentence is pretty much enough to discount anything Hatch ever says about sports betting until the end of time.

No. 2 The Supreme Court hurt ‘the integrity of athletics’

More from Hatch:

By striking down PASPA, the Supreme Court has effectively laid the groundwork for the legalization of sports betting across all 50 states, upending decades of established law that has long protected the integrity of athletics.

Again, if anything the nation’s highest court did the opposite. PASPA is a “ban” that looked great on paper but does almost nothing to stop illegal wagering of any type. Now, states (or the federal government) have a chance to effectively regulate something that was incredibly widespread.

Get out of here with this take, Orrin.

No. 3: Sports betting is an ‘an existential threat to the games we know and love’

Nope.

Betting has been going on US sports via both regulated and illegal means for more than a century. The leagues have existed, and will continue to exist, no matter what happens with sports gambling.

Not mentioned in Hatch’s list of really old sports betting scandals — none of which have anything to do with a regulated sports betting market — was the NBA/Tim Donaghy mess. The NBA seems to be doing just fine a decade after that.

To claim that something changed in the past week is to ignore reality. There’s plenty of wagering already taking place on the major pro sports leagues and college sports, and we haven’t reached the end of times, like Hatch would like us to believe.

Anyway, this kind of hyperbole is all over the place since PASPA was struck down. It’s just more concerning from the person who also thinks PASPA was a great success. And from the person who is apparently going to try to craft our nation’s sports betting policy.

Over-Under On States Passing Sports Betting Bills This Year? Six, Lobbyist Says

Dustin Gouker May 4, 2018
six states sports betting

Twitter is a great place for hot takes of all sorts, and that is just as true in the world of US sports betting regulation as anything else.

One common topic of debate: How many states are going to legalize sports wagering? Could we see as many as six in 2018? One lobbyist seems to think so.

Six states for sports betting?

This take came from a lobbyist for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe:

Six states seems aggressive, given that we’ve only seen one state — West Virginia — pass a law so far this year. But Kudon is no garden-variety lobbyist. He’s helped get laws passed in nearly 20 states in recent years as it relates to daily fantasy sports.

And Orrick is a part of the lobbying effort for sports betting on behalf of the NBA and Major League Baseball. So if he speaks, we listen.

How likely is 6?

If I am handicapping it, I am still betting the under on six, despite the weight that Kudon’s Twitter characters carry. Some of the states that seemed to have a good chance of passing something have run into speed bumps.

You can take a look at the legislative calendar so far for states that have at least broached the subject of sports betting. If we count WV and New Jersey — where a new bill popped — two states in 2018 seems like a no-brainer.

Several states seem like they will continue to consider the issue into the summer, including possibly Michigan and Illinois. But forecasting more than a handful of states with new laws seems difficult to do with the information we have right now.

All of this, of course, assumes New Jersey wins the Supreme Court sports betting case, in which a decision is pending. Some states appear to be waiting for a decision to come before they really start the discussion. And if that decision doesn’t come until the end of June, it shortens the calendar even more for legislatures trying to act.

And so we wait for sports betting…

The next time a decision could come from the Supreme Court is May 14.

The good news is time is getting short. In less than two months, we’ll definitely know the answer one way or another. And until then, we’ll keep guessing at what the court will rule and which states will legalize it.

Three Reasons Why It’s So Hard To Take NBA, MLB Seriously On Sports Betting

Dustin Gouker April 25, 2018
NBA Sports Betting

Despite what you might have read, the NBA and Major League Baseball are not actually proponents of legal sports betting in the United States. In fact, they are only in favor of it when it can benefit them directly.

If they actually were champions of sports gambling, we’d have seen a far different story arc for sports gambling here. And we would see them advocating for far different things in legislation as it is introduced in state legislatures around the country.

As the leagues further vocalize what they want, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to view the leagues as rational actors worth paying attention to in the sports betting debate as we await a decision in the US Supreme Court sports betting case.

The leagues started lobbying only when they had to

The NBA has been hailed as a progressive force of change for US sports betting for years, even as it sat idly by to do nothing other than say it should be legal and regulated in the United States.

To wit, the NBA said it would not lobby Congress — let alone states — as recently as a year ago before an abrupt pivot to say that it would. As soon as 2018 rolled around, we learned the two leagues were putting on a full-court press in as many as a dozen states.

Why the sudden change? It coincided with the Supreme Court’s decision to take the New Jersey sports betting case, in which the NBA, MLB and other sports leagues were litigants. And then in December, oral arguments went poorly for the leagues, most analysts agree.

That means the sudden change from a laissez-faire attitude is not borne out of a real change of heart on sports betting, it came from necessity. The leagues had sensed they lost control of both the “when” and “how” for sports betting. And suddenly they started telling everyone how it should be done.

To make it clear that the leagues don’t really support regulated sports betting unless their list of demands is met, they continue to oppose a law in West Virginia that went on the books this spring.

The bottom line: the NBA and MLB could have been working on creating a legal and regulated environment for sports betting years ago, and those attempts would seem a lot less disingenuous than they do now.

The leagues are asking for a cut…of NJ sports betting

This amazing story surfaced last week.

Even as the leagues fight New Jersey in court, the NBA and MLB are lobbying government officials in the state to give them a cut of all wagers along with other things they are asking for in other states.

It’s crazy that they are brazen enough to have stymied sports betting in NJ for years and then turn around and ask for a cut when it turns out they might lose the case. The next thing you know, the same leagues will be going to Nevada — a place where legal wagering has existed for decades — and make the same demands.

Here’s what’s happened in the six years that NJ sports betting has been hung up in two different court cases:

  • A number of Atlantic City casinos have closed.
  • AC went through a state takeover because of its struggling finances.
  • The state has paid $8 million in legal fees.

And now the leagues want money from New Jersey gaming interests? Come on.

The leagues are not really offering anything of value

The leagues are asking for a lot of money and control when it comes to sports wagering. But they’re not giving back anything in return, as least not legislatively.

They’re offering to be a part of the process for monitoring and ensuring integrity of the underlying games, but that’s something they’re going to do anyway.

The leagues continue to argue that “we exist, therefore pay us to bet on our games.” That’s an awful argument, and it really doesn’t work like that almost anywhere in the world.

The leagues, at the core, want to be paid for their intellectual property, and they don’t want any strings attached to it. If they would start offering something of value to states and prospective sports betting operators, that might be a different story.

But for now, the leagues are putting their hands out and giving nothing in return. That’s a stance that’s difficult to take seriously if you’re a government official or gaming company.

What Exciting Stuff Is In The NFL’s ‘Secret Study’ On Sports Betting?

Dustin Gouker March 28, 2018
NFL Betting

When we see “NFL” and “secret study” in the same sentence, our ears perk up.

Add in “sports betting,” and it’s time to stop what we’re doing and pay attention.

The NFL tackles sports betting

Here’s what NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport learned about a meeting that took place at this week’s owners meetings:

Like all the major sports leagues in the US, the NFL is preparing for a world where the US Supreme Court could lift the federal ban on wagering outside of Nevada. Goodell even talked about it at a press conference today, although it was full of a number of non-answers that didn’t tell us a whole lot.

The NFL usually has two major talking points when it comes to sports betting: It doesn’t support the legalization of wagering, and it is solely concerned with “the integrity of the game.”

But let’s get back to the “secret study,” which is far more exciting.

What’s in the box?

Right now, we can only speculate, as no one appears to be releasing the contents of the study. But here’s one nugget:

That sounds not as exciting as we were hoping. Ian had us covered, though:

“Patterns of behavior” is much more exciting. Might those “patterns” be that people watch more sports when they bet on the games? And they watch games longer if they have a monetary interest on them?

We’ll go ahead and guess that was in there, since it’s true and the data would likely bear that out. It’s probably the kind of basic thing the NFL would put in a study for owners to read.

Regulation? Integrity?

There was probably a lot about “integrity” in the study, too, as that’s the word that most often comes out of Goodell’s mouth when talk to turns to sports betting. Here’s what he said Wednesday:

“The No. 1 thing that was endorsed repeatedly by our membership was the integrity of our game, though. We have to make sure that whatever environment we’re working in … we have to make sure we are operating in an environment where we can protect that integrity of the game.”

Smart money would have said Goodell would have said “integrity” about a dozen more times, but two is all we got.

So integrity matters were probably in the study, too. Right now, there’s a massive black market for sports betting in the US, and a legal market would be better for integrity. Regulators and the leagues would have far more insight into what’s going on with wagering if it were legal in the US.

Does the NFL think a legal, regulated environment is better, and did the study find that to be true?

Those would be interesting things to know. But until the secret study leaks, we’ll just have to guess.

New Bill Would Study If Loot Boxes Constitute Gambling In Washington State

Dustin Gouker January 11, 2018

The Washington legislature might involve itself in the issue of loot boxes in video games and whether virtual items constitute gambling in the state.

Loot boxes are items included in some video games in which a random in-game item — oftentimes of varying usefulness or desirability within the game — can be acquired by players. The issue came to a head with purchasable loot boxes in the game Star Wars Battlefront II.

What’s in the loot box bill?

The bill — S 6266 — does not seek to take any direct action on loot boxes yet. Instead, it says that the Washington State Gambling Commission “must conduct a study of the use of loot boxes and similar types of mechanisms in online games or apps.”

The result of the WSGC study would be due by December of this year, if the bill is enacted. The WSGC is expected to provide recommendations:

…regarding how to best regulate the practice of including loot boxes and similar types of mechanisms in online games and apps, including options for the adoption and implementation of a regulatory and enforcement system, restrictions on the sale of games containing these mechanisms, and any appropriate disclosures.

The backstory of loot boxes

The bill comes after a legislator in Hawaii introduced legislation to ban certain types of loot boxes connected to micro-transactions. Loot boxes have attracted the attention of policymakers and regulators in the US and Europe.

Washington state has been at the fore of gambling issues as they intersect with video games and esports. In 2016, the state’s gambling commission told Valve Corp. — based in Bellevue, Wash. — to put a stop to skin betting; skins are a type of in-game virtual item.

Las Vegas Esports Arena At Luxor Slated To Open In March

Dustin Gouker January 11, 2018
The opening date for the first dedicated esports arena on the Las Vegas Strip is finally known.

Luxor and esports, together at last

Luxor Hotel and Casino will open Esports Arena Las Vegas on Thursday, March 22.

The initial event that the new venue will host is not yet known. But according to a press release from Allied Esports, the facility’s operator, the March opening date will kick off with “a series of events, including an invitation-only, multi-day, live-streamed tournament.” More details are to come.

“Esports Arena Las Vegas is the cornerstone of our property, brand and content development and will allow us to engage esports communities, brands and stakeholders like never before,” said Jud Hannigan, CEO of Allied Esports. “With Las Vegas rapidly becoming a hub for esports, Esports Arena Las Vegas at Luxor will be the city’s home for competitive gaming and interactive entertainment.”

The arena marks the most serious effort yet to turn Vegas into a hub for esports. There will be no esports betting on site, as the Luxor does not have a sportsbook.

More about the arena

The esports arena used to be a nightclub, called LAX. According to Allied, it’s been transformed into a multi-level arena with:

  • A competition stage
  • LED video wall
  • Telescopic seating
  • Daily gaming stations
  • State-of-the-art streaming and television-quality production studios.

More from Allied:

The arena will provide a ready-to-go championship destination for tournaments, leagues and high-stakes matchups in a setting designed to deliver an unparalleled fan experience.

In December, Allied Esports and world-renowned chef Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup announced a partnership to create the first gaming-inspired food and beverage menu at Esports Arena Las Vegas, the flagship location of Allied Esports’ growing global network of esports properties spanning North America, Europe and China.

Here is what the entrance will look like:

The image at the top is a rendering of the inside.

A ‘touring’ esports arena?

Allied also announced that its mobile esports solution — Esports Arena Drive — is ready to go. What is that?

It’s an 80-foot, 18-wheel, 35-ton semi-trailer that unfolds with a push of a button to reveal a self-contained mobile arena featuring a competition stage with full production facilities, a caster studio, social media center and VIP lounge.

A similar mobile arena already exists in Europe.

“Esports Arena Drive gives us an amazing opportunity to reach communities around the country in a truly authentic and awesome way,” said Tyler Endres, COO of Esports Arena. “For players, viewers online, and partners alike, Esports Arena Drive will bring the Esports Arena experience to wherever the fans are.”

Esports Arena Drive will make an appearance at Daytona International Speedway with 704Games, the publisher of NASCAR Heat 2, for a multi-day tournament at the Daytona 500.