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Juan Carlos Blanco

Juan Carlos Blanco

Juan Carlos Blanco has served as a freelance writer for a wide variety of online publications and websites, with an intensive focus on fantasy sports. Juan has provided analysis and comprehensive coverage of the MLB, NBA, NFL and CFL, while also reporting on news and developments in the daily fantasy sports and online gaming industries.

DraftKings Made A Sharp Bet With Kambi Group Partnership

Juan Carlos Blanco June 22, 2018

There’s an old adage about the importance of being smart enough to know what you don’t know.

DraftKings seems to have a firm grasp on the concept. This week, the company and European sports betting provider Kambi Group announced that the latter will essentially power DK’s sports betting platform under a multi-year partnership.

DraftKings has been ambitious in its sports betting aspirations

Despite no direct experience in the industry, DK clearly had a sports betting launch on its New Year’s resolutions for 2018. That much was evident as early as February, when they announced the hire of a Head of Sportsbook.

Naturally, the sports-betting plans that co-founder Matt Kalish recently revealed have been in the works since last summer picked up a full head of steam as of May 14, when the SCOTUS eradicated PASPA.

There’s been a few other notable developments involving DK and sports betting since then:

  • The company initiated an ad campaign about its forthcoming sportsbook in New Jersey via highway billboards and transit signage.
  • Kalish held a Facebook Live chat on May 31. Within it, he announced the company’s intentions to be a serious player in sports betting, even declaring there isn’t a reason they can’t eventually be “number one in sportsbook”.
  • DK announced a partnership with Resorts AC for its sports betting initiatives in New Jersey on June 1.
  • It was recently reported that DraftKings is seeking $150-$200 million in additional funding for its sports betting operations.

Leveraging expertise, keeping pace with competition

The joining of forces with Kambi is significant in a number of ways, especially for a company dipping its toe into the sports betting waters for the first time.

Dubbing itself the “Sports Betting Experience Company”, Kambi, active in six continents overall, brings DK much-needed expertise in the field. Its sole focus is providing other companies with the tools to develop and maintain sports betting platforms.

As per its press release announcing the new alliance, Kambi’s 19-customer portfolio includes high-profile clients such as:

  • Rush Street Interactive
  • 888
  • Kindred Group
  • Napoleon Games
  • Televisa

The move is also prudent from a “keeping up with the Joneses” perspective. After all, FanDuel has made its sportsbook intentions clear as well. Paddy Power Betfair’s recent acquisition of a controlling share in the DFS operator was basically the equivalent of a mammoth neon sign announcing their entry into the space.

DraftKings, therefore, needed an influx of both infrastructure and experience to roll out a quality, competitive product. It’s now laid the groundwork for accomplishing that goal and closing the considerable knowledge gap that exists between running a DFS-centered company and a sportsbook.

DK sports betting debut apparently around the corner

One big conundrum that the DraftKings-Kambi partnership faces in the short term is market penetration.

Sports betting projects to be legalized at a relatively deliberate, state-by-state pace over the next few years. Kambi can certainly develop a Ferrari-quality sports betting platform for DK, but it may be one that’s forced to sit in the garage much more often than they’d like for the time being.

On the flip side, the progressive rollout that the molasses-like pace of legislation will dictate could be a blessing in disguise. The two companies will have a chance to tweak and perfect the platform as needed while it’s still comparably small in scale. That should help ensure it’s ready for prime time in a few years when legalized sports betting is ideally a much more widespread phenomenon.

New Jersey will apparently serve as the guinea pig.

The press release describes DK’s sports betting launch in the state as “imminent”. The earliest date that they’d be able to officially begin taking online bets is presumably July 10th. That marks the 30th day from when the law – which required that waiting period before any brick-and-mortar licensees could offer mobile/online wagering — was officially enacted with Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature. Naturally, DraftKings doesn’t run a brick-and-mortar casino, but they will offer their online sportsbook in the Garden State through Resorts AC’s license.

How successful Kambi will be in propping up a company that can rightfully be labeled a sports betting “noob” remains to be seen, however.

After all, gaining a serious foothold won’t be a stroll on the AC Boardwalk. From the onset, DK figures to face some stiff competition within New Jersey’s borders in the form of a William Hill-operated sportsbook at Monmouth Park, as well as a potential Paddy Power Betfair-powered and FanDuel-branded sportsbook at Meadowlands Racetrack.

Those “DFS guys” at DK have beaten the odds a time or two already. We’re about to find out if they can do it in a new arena.

Canada Has Every Reason To Follow US In Legalizing Single-Game Sports Betting

Juan Carlos Blanco June 18, 2018
Canada Sports Betting

You may have heard some recent scuttlebutt about the U.S. allegedly getting ripped off by its neighbors to the north for years. Apparently, some in Washington really take that old South Park credo of “blame Canada” to heart.

But on the sports betting front, it’s Canadians who are poised to increasingly get the short end of the stick moving forward. That is, unless their government eventually opts to walk in the legislative footsteps of its neighbors to the south.

Canada’s single-game sports wagering ban persists

Just like the U.S. until a little over a month ago, Canada has a federal ban on single-game sports betting. The country’s individual provincial governments do have leeway to offer sports lotteries, but they must be in the form of a two-team parlay at minimum to avoid running afoul of the law. Hopes were high for a 2016 bill that sought to decriminalize single-game wagering, yet it was ultimately defeated in the House of Commons by a fairly narrow 156-133 vote margin.

As you’d expect in a case where there’s really no marketplace competition, the consumer essentially gets the shaft in this scenario in terms of betting lines. It’s no surprise that like many U.S. residents, a significant number of Canadian bettors have long chosen to take their action to offshore sportsbooks or a local bookie.

Legalized sports betting could boost one Canadian sports league’s profile

In the overall sports landscape, the Canadian Football League (CFL) carries somewhat of a reputation as the proverbial red-headed stepchild when compared to hockey. However, that perception isn’t necessarily accurate in every corner of the Great White North.

While the Toronto Argonauts and BC Lions are legitimately struggling to generate attendance, the likes of the Calgary Stampeders, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Eskimos have consistently loyal fanbases.

Also consider that:

  • A recent Canada Project survey revealed 63 percent of respondents feel the CFL is an integral part of Canada’s “sporting identity”.
  • An IMI brand study found the CFL to be the third biggest sports brand in the country, with one in two Canadians following the league at some level.
  • Last year’s Grey Cup championship reportedly was the most watched edition of the game in Canada since 2013, enjoyed a 10 percent increase in viewership over the prior year, and achieved a 34 share in TV ratings within the country.

The league also has national TV exposure throughout all of North America. In the U.S., various ESPN properties alternate the carrying of Canadian counterpart TSN’s broadcasts throughout the regular season, playoffs and Grey Cup.

In other words, they clearly have some traction. And the recent signing of a certain infamous Johnny Manziel has resulted in an extra uptick in mainstream attention. Thus, in Canada, the CFL would serve as a textbook example of a sports entity that could potentially vault to the next level of popularity with the extra awareness that legalized sports betting would bring.

CFL’s quirky scoring rules, style of play lend themselves well to sports betting

The CFL product’s inherent ability to provide a good ‘ol fashioned betting sweat certainly wouldn’t hurt, either.

Exponentially more fast-paced than its vastly more popular NFL cousin, some of the idiosyncrasies of the CFL’s rulebook tend to make it somewhat of a rollercoaster ride for those with skin in the game:

  • Three downs instead of four, leading to a much higher percentage of passing
  • Unlimited number of receivers in motion behind the line of scrimmage before the snap and running starts allowed.
  • A 110-yard long and 65-foot wide field.
  • A 20-yard end zone.
  • Missed field-goal returns much more common and occasionally result in touchdowns.
  • A single-point play, aka “a rouge”
  • Typically robust game totals.

Think of the NFL and Arena Football League having a baby. Just one that doesn’t propel into walls in full gear and that plays on a field bigger than your average family room.

Given how many extra possessions a CFL team typically sees because of the three-down structure and higher percentage of passing, you’d also be ill-advised to rip up your ticket in frustration before the final gun in most cases — wild last-minute comebacks are much more commonplace than on a typical NFL Sunday.

And what of that pesky “rouge”? As you might imagine, a single-point play can wreak some havoc on money lines and point spreads in a game’s closing seconds.

Sweating over/under action on a CFL game is also often an experience onto itself. Envision trying to make an educated guess on the final score of a Madden showdown between you and a buddy and you’ll start to get the idea.

There’s already plenty of money being wagered on CFL games

There’s a DFS- and soon-to-be-sports betting tie-in between the league and DraftKings, as well.

The DFS industry leader has been running CFL contests since 2016. What was initially a one-year “advertising and promotional” agreement is now officially in its third season.

In a press release announcing the renewal of the pact for a second year in back in 2017, DK touted the fact there were “nearly one million entries” in that first season (last season’s figures have been requested from DK but were not yet available as of this writing).

Of course, in fairly short order, residents in certain U.S. states will have another option besides DFS if they want to plunk down a few bucks on a CFL game within the platform.

The company will soon roll out its sportsbook in New Jersey in partnership with Resorts AC, and they expect to be a player in any other state that successfully introduces a legalized sports betting environment.

CFL and NHL games will naturally be on the docket daily when those leagues are in season. However, as long as the status quo persists, Canadians will be able to put money in play on either sport in the DFS “wing” of DK; however, they’ll be shut out of doing so on the sportsbook side, while a growing number of U.S. residents will have access.

Will Canadian sports betting push reach a tipping point?

Moving forward, Canadian sports fans and bettors will thus likely look on with at least a tinge of envy as legalized sports betting becomes increasingly prevalent in the United States.

Granted, some in the eastern portion of the country will certainly be within striking distance of states that already are (New Jersey, Delaware) or will soon be offering (Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island) single-game wagering. But that’s nowhere near the same as having the convenience of being able to go to a local sportsbook or placing an online bet.

Canada has no shortage of rabid sports fans. It also has an abundance of active bettors — in 2016, the Canadian Gaming Association estimated that the country’s residents were spending approximately $4 billion on offshore sportsbooks and another $500 million on provincial sports lotteries.

And perhaps we’re in the early stages of the stars aligning for the country’s sports betting supporters, considering:

  • The recent defeat of PASPA in the U.S.
  • A healthy appetite for sports betting that already clearly exists within Canadian borders.
  • Robust support for decriminalization of single-game wagering within government.

Can all these factors form a “perfect storm” and ultimately lead to the legalization of Canadian single-game wagering?

Admittedly, there’s not exactly a push for the country to follow the U.S.’s example on much of anything these days. Sports betting might eventually be an exception.

Stop the Presses: Mike Francesa Just Invented A Brilliant New Sports Betting Game

Juan Carlos Blanco June 13, 2018
Mike Francesa

When I grow up, I want to score an absurdly high-paid gig where I publicly contradict myself on previous positions without repercussions. One in which I’ll never have to acknowledge I was wrong in my original stance.

Granted, I could be alluding to almost any politician with that job description. But I’m actually referring to legendary New York sports talk host Mike Francesa.

Sports betting innovator?!

Yup. The same guy we thought was going to be spending his days at the track when he “retired” from WFAN last December. It took all of five months before he was back on the airwaves, just 18 days prior to the SCOTUS’ decision to eradicate PASPA in Murphy vs. NCAA.

A supporter of sports betting, Francesa certainly wasn’t displeased with the development. In fact, he recently used his platform to blast Gov. Phil Murphy and the state of New Jersey for announcing its rollout of legal sports betting when there’s still a 30-day waiting period for licensees to apply for an online/mobile wagering permit.

Francesa is apparently so fired up about the potential for a widespread legalized sports betting landscape, it’s got his creative juices flowing.

Earlier this week, he spent a few minutes musing about how if states with legal sports wagering “were smart”, they’d create and sponsor some betting “games” that are skill-based, low-risk and high-reward. These contests, he explains, would be ideal for those who may not necessarily want to bet through a sportsbook.

Contests where participants assemble a roster of various players in a given sport that are playing that day. And, if those players’ cumulative stats for the night surpass those of another predetermined group of players, you win a large five-figure sum.

Seriously. Francesa invented daily fantasy sports. In 2018.

And to think Al Gore fashioned himself a big shot when he “created” the internet.

No shortage of irony in Francesa’s sports betting ‘brainstorm’

No need to call the bomb squad. That loud boom was just the collective sound of the heads of every DFS player and supporter exploding.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with what Francesa is suggesting, of course. In fact, it sounds like a completely workable and … get this … FUN concept! However, it’s not only been in existence in some form for over a decade at this point, it’s also a multi-million-dollar industry in terms of annual revenue.

And ironically, Francesa almost gave New York Assemblyman (and DFS player) Dean Murray an aneurysm while arguing with him on the air about whether DFS was a game of skill in December 2015. By the time that “interview” was over, Murray probably felt like he’d been through about a dozen town halls with angry constituents.

Francesa apparently now has no problem affixing the “skill” label to a game that would essentially amount to playing DFS against the “house” (in his example, presumably the state, which would predetermine the lineup that participants would have to beat to win).

However, unless his four-month sabbatical served as the equivalent of a hard drive wipe on his memory, he at least owes Murray a belated apology. Or at a minimum, a $5 ticket to a future “Sports Pope” GPP in New York.

That is, if the Empire State decides to be “smart” about the whole thing.

Upstart Football League And Sports Betting Could Forge A Timely, Successful Marriage

Juan Carlos Blanco June 8, 2018

Alternative football leagues have garnered a well-earned reputation as a fool’s errand over the last several decades.

The recently announced Alliance of American Football (AAF) could ultimately prove an exception to the rule. Legalized sports betting — a potential magnet that predecessors like the AFL, USFL and UFL couldn’t reap the benefits of — is poised to play a part in that.

AAF coming off as organized, progressive

To be clear, the AAF has already laid out what appears to be a rock-solid foundation in an operational sense:

  • The league has snagged a pair of notable TV partners, CBS and CBS Sports Network, for its inaugural season.
  • It boasts a management structure replete with respected names, including former Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers general manager Bill Polian.
  • It plans to play with a manageable eight teams – five in non-NFL cities – over a 10-week period during the football-barren spring.
  • It’s contracted a slew of head coaches that pack solid name recognition, including Steve Spurrier, Mike Singletary and Mike Martz.
  • It includes several rules designed to speed up and/or make the game more exciting, including limited coach’s challenges, a shorter play clock and two-point conversions in lieu of extra points.
  • And perhaps just as important, it’s co-founded by Charlie Ebersol, who’s made no bones of his intentions to make fan integration – a large part of it via mobile technology – a pivotal part of the AAF experience.

League’s planned fantasy product projected to have sports betting-like format

The final point partly alludes to the AAF’s plans for its in-house fantasy product. Notably, the AAF’s planned mobile app will not only stream games free of charge – it will also reportedly include “a fully integrated fantasy experience, where you can play while you’re watching”, according to Ebersol.

Taken at face value, it sounds as if the AAF is primed to offer the fantasy equivalent of in-game prop betting. That model is currently being deployed with varying level of success by operators such as Boom Fantasy and Fanamana’s InGame Fantasy. However, as a proprietary offering of a professional sports league, it would seemingly qualify as a first.

Embrace of new landscape would be a prudent move

And if the AAF is already thinking outside the box with respect to fantasy football, what’s to say it won’t cozy up to sports betting in some form or fashion?

An AAF-sponsored sportsbook is a bit much. However, an embrace of the new legalized sports betting landscape — one that includes information on lines and props being disseminated on the league’s broadcast and digital properties — is perfectly plausible.

After all, the inevitable media avalanche of sports betting content has already started rolling downhill:

  • Brent Musburger’s Vegas Stats and Information Network, a pioneer of sorts, launched more than a full year before the recent landmark SCOTUS decision.
  • ESPN then waited all of about five minutes after the eradication of PASPA before kicking off “I’ll Take That Bet” — featuring prognostications from several experts — on its streaming platform, in conjunction with the Action Network.
  • The NFL consented to sports betting content having a prominent presence on network pregame shows for years when the activity was illegal; it only stands to reason that type of content will be exponentially pervasive now that the ban has been obliterated.

AAF’s timing may be particularly fortuitous

The ability to put some skin in the game has long been proven to enhance the viewership of a variety of sports. Nevada-based wagering and illegal betting have both corroborated this over the years – especially with football. And more recently, daily fantasy sports and its often-mammoth jackpots has also moved the needle of fan interest.

The fact the league is partly headed by an apparently forward-thinking 30-something in Ebersol doesn’t hurt, either. Given his age, he’s undoubtedly fully in the loop with today’s technology and media consumption trends – the AAF’s aforementioned plans for its fantasy product clearly bear that out.

And their apparently keen awareness of what appeals to the modern fan is likely to lead to a healthy relationship with legal sports wagering – a very good bet for a league trying to beat some steep odds.

After all, there’s nothing like being able to plunk down a few bucks on whether Singletary will fire up his squad by shedding his pants to keep eyeballs on the product.

Image courtesy of Alliance of American Football

Tales From Delaware: Sharp Bets, Colorful Cappers At The Sports Betting Icebreaker

Juan Carlos Blanco June 7, 2018
Delaware Sports Betting

At this time last year, the odds of New Jersey winning its sports betting case were about as good as the Browns making the Super Bowl. But on Tuesday, you could have joined the delusionally giddy Darren Rovell of ESPN in legally placing an ill-advised wager on the latter.

Yes, outside of Vegas. And no, not in New Jersey either. Would you believe… Delaware?

Unlikely politician-notorious handicapper duo cut the ribbon


The First State fittingly became the first state to offer legalized single-game wagering outside of Nevada on Tuesday afternoon. The door to that possibility was opened when the SCOTUS struck down PASPA in Murphy vs. NCAA on May 14.

At approximately 1:30 p.m., the sportsbook at Delaware’s Dover Downs track took a $10 wager from Governor John Carney on the Phillies to defeat the Cubs that evening. With it, the ribbon was officially cut on single-game sports betting outside of Nevada.

Ironically, the first bet placed by a “regular citizen” – and we’re using that term loosely in this case – came from a guy who’d probably make for a much better fit in today’s political climate than the buttoned-up governor —  legendary, eardrum-busting Stu Feiner.

For the uninitiated (and given his …uh…outgoing personality, that probably doesn’t constitute a very large group), Feiner (pictured above) is a colorful handicapper who’s proudly offered betting tips in five-figure decibels and playfully (we think) encouraged would-be customers to mortgage their homes and use their children as collateral to put cash down on surefire winners for decades.

You can hear Feiner cheering over everyone after the Governor placed his +200 bet below.

Solid six-figure returns on first day

By day’s end, Delaware’s three sportsbooks had taken in just over $322,000 in handle. Surprisingly, the prolific Feiner only accounted for $2,000 of that figure.

The overall take was certainly respectable when considering that major-league baseball – the one major sport in the midst of its regular season — only had a five-game slate available. Additionally, the state’s threshold of any single-game bet of over $1,000 requiring approval from the risk manager may have helped cap the total haul to an extent.

Early bettors make sharp wagers

When he wasn’t engaging in the sports betting equivalent of chasing rainbows and unicorns, Rovell was busy memorializing a couple of other first-time bettors on his Twitter feed.

Current Dover resident Karriem Keys was one. The 53-year-old went back to his Manhattan roots in putting $10 at 5-to-1 odds for the Yankees to win this year’s World Series.

No word on whether Rovell – who reported that the ticket writer couldn’t quite contain himself while processing his Browns bet  – needled Keys about placing such a chalky wager.

He also spotlighted the aptly-named @boygotswag, who added a few extra bucks to his pocket with which to further legitimize his Twitter handle. The Delaware resident presciently plunked down $20 on the Cavs to have the halftime lead in Wednesday’s Game 3, and he correctly tabbed the Nationals to win over the Rays by at least two runs Tuesday.

Familiar face gets in on the fun

And incidentally, Rovell wasn’t the only sports betting media luminary spending a few bucks during Delaware’s coming-out party.

Esteemed Legal Sports Report scribe Eric Ramsey may not have tickled his ticket writer’s funny bone with his -105 bet on the Yankees as 1.5-run favorites over the Blue Jays, but he’d secured a decent little payday by night’s end.

After all, why let those four-letter network guys have all the fun (and big bucks), right?

Mobile Sports Betting Start-Ups Would Be Wise To Pump The Brakes

Juan Carlos Blanco June 1, 2018
Mobile Sports Betting

No sooner did SCOTUS strike down the federal sports betting ban than potential stakeholders start envisioning the inevitably massive windfalls they figure are coming down the pike.

Many of these are lawmakers, some who continue to spout potential sports betting revenue figures steeped in either willful embellishment or blissful ignorance.

But they’re far from the only ones with a cart-before-horse approach. Plenty of would-be, sports betting-focused startups no doubt have visions of cash-stuffed sugarplums dancing in their collective heads, as well.

Sports betting faces different start-up climate than DFS did

A recent Bloomberg piece highlighted how multiple companies are looking to get an early jump on what is expected to be a considerable expansion of mobile wagering over the next few years.

Granted, the article takes a generally measured tone with respect to how quickly fully digital sports betting platforms — such as apps allowing for in-game prop betting — might be able to take off. However, it does, at one point, attempt to draw a comparison to the daily fantasy sports industry that could prove misguided.

It’s easy to see how the long-anticipated but nevertheless sudden arrival of legalized sports betting creates a temptation to draw certain parallels to DFS:

  • The existence of both naturally depends on the same underlying games being played.
  • Both have fought battles of public perception and legality.
  • The meteoric rise from startups to industry heavyweights that FanDuel and DraftKings experienced in what was then a new industry is likely to inspire many nascent sports betting hopefuls.

But the harsh reality is that the road could prove much rockier this time around. After all, at the time of their respective ascensions, FanDuel and DraftKings enjoyed a few advantages with respect to the product they were peddling:

  • Fantasy sports was already an established, legal form of entertainment for millions for decades prior.
  • Playing fantasy sports for money carried no appreciable social stigma; it was widely accepted that friends and family got together each year to draft their squads and put a little skin in the game in the process.
  • Multiple season-long fantasy operators had long been running contests with significant cash prizes — particularly for fantasy football — with no legal conflicts of consequence.
  • There were no “black market” fantasy companies to contend with.
  • That’s because, with the exception of a handful of states, playing fantasy sports for money wasn’t expressly illegal. Moreover, as a new offshoot of what was widely considered an innocuous form of entertainment, DFS wasn’t likely to be on legislators’ radars for quite some time.

Sports betting can’t afford legal blindspots

Clearly, none of those factors apply to sports betting.

DFS snuck into the party uninvited and didn’t draw too much attention to itself. That is, until one of its crew inadvertently put a turd in the punch bowl.

In contrast, all eyes – some of them still disapproving and suspicious — are on sports betting as it makes its grand entrance.

Freedom to legalize and regulate is great, of course. However, that guarantees nothing in terms of expansion, especially on the digital front.

Sure, the potential and convenience of mobile wagering is a beautiful sight to sports betting app developers looking to capitalize. But having an approach of walking “right up to the line of what lawmakers will tolerate” that one such company, Readyfire, reportedly plans to deploy, could have unfortunate repercussions.

Lawmakers around the country will be contending with multiple contingents whose positions run the gamut from mildly concerned to extremely dissatisfied with respect to widespread legalized sports betting. Now that they perceive the overall war as lost, the focal point for many will be to win the battle of making wagering as restrictive as possible.

Taking this into account — as well as the incredibly arduous road sports betting already had to take to legalization — the ask-for-forgiveness-instead-of-permission strategy doesn’t exactly shape up as the most prudent.

Get a $4 DFS ticket at DraftKings!

Disgraced NBA Ref Has A Lot To Say About Legal Sports Betting

Juan Carlos Blanco May 28, 2018
Tim Donaghy

Why do we care what a disgraced NBA referee has to say about the future of legal sports gambling? Good question. But we’re getting lots of reaction from Tim Donaghy anyway.

Illegal sports betting got Donaghy booted out of NBA

Donaghy suddenly resigned from the NBA in July 2007 after refereeing 792 games, a development that was inexplicable for all of about five minutes.

Shortly thereafter, it would be revealed that he had wagered tens of thousands of dollars on NBA games – including those he’d officiated in – and had frequently passed along confidential information to bookies. He’d also taken the extra step of deliberately making calls that affected betting-related outcomes after allegedly being threatened by the mafia.

Ultimately, Donaghy served 15 months on counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce. Needless to say, he never donned a referee’s uniform again.

Plenty to say about advent of legalized wagering

But get this. In his “second life”, Donaghy now makes a living out of the very activity that booted him out of his previous career – sports betting. Along with business partner and seasoned sports bettor Danny Biancullo, he runs Refs Picks, a handicapping service poised to grow exponentially in a legalized landscape.

Donaghy – and by extension, Refs Picks — recently got a boatload of free publicity through telephone interviews he conducted with CNBC and NBC Sports Northwest.

Despite his checkered past with sports betting, he had some salient points to make in the wake of the SCOTUS decision:

  • Now that sports betting has a chance at widespread legalization, leagues will do everything to take a piece of the pie.
  • The SCOTUS decision was the right one, as a path to legalized sports betting was “long overdue”.
  • The NBA was laying out a shrewd public relations strategy by jumping out in front of all the other sports leagues in their support of sports betting. As a result, they believe they have a bit of moral high ground when it comes to trying to profit from it through integrity and data licensing fees.
  • He labels integrity fees as hypocritical while echoing the main critique of such a demand – that the leagues should have been policing their game all along.

NBA contradicting itself in policy and actions, Donaghy opines

There’s more than a trace of disdain for certain aspects of the NBA’s conduct in Donaghy’s comments. It’s not only his aforementioned critique of the league wanting to be paid for monitoring their own sport;  it’s also how he sees the preoccupation with integrity contradicted by their handling of game officiating:

  • Donaghy insists referees are still making calls “based on the names on the front and back of jerseys” the majority of the time.
  • Moreover, while he doesn’t necessarily feel refs are directly instructed to extend playoff series with their calls, he’s confounded when those that make erroneous, game-changing calls are rewarded by being advanced to the next postseason round. 

Missing the mark on future betting habits, college athletics

Donaghy’s points as described thus far appear reasonable and progressive when it comes to legalized sports betting, the fallacies behind integrity fees and even how NBA officiating can be far from unbiased at times.

However, he also seems a bit off center in a couple of his other perspectives.

  • Donaghy’s stance that underground bookies will still enjoy robust business runs counter to the prevailing view, including those espoused by career law-enforcement professionals.
  • Donaghy labels tax-free winnings as a great motivator for bettors to continue utilizing elicit means to place wagers. However, he appears to greatly underestimate the allure of the reliability that a legalized sports betting entity can offer, especially to novice bettors. There’s also the considerable ease and convenience of placing a wager from one’s mobile device, something that will eventually be a reality in a substantial number of states.
  • And Donaghy also hints at falling prey to a dubious view that has somehow garnered at least a modest foothold since the SCOTUS decision – that college sports in particular will now be more susceptible to a betting scandal than ever before.

In regards to the potential college sports scandals, Donaghy puts forth the possibility of an athlete getting themselves into financial hot water via online poker or similar activity, and then fixing a game at someone’s behest in order to get themselves out of a bind. The fact that there will be “more avenues to gamble” is part of Donaghy’s reasoning.

To begin with, many states considering sports betting legislation – including New Jersey – are taking steps to restrict wagering on college sports in particular.

Not to mention, anyone who’s sounded the alarm about how college athletics will be inevitably tainted with the advent of legalized wagering has yet to explain how immense amounts of money bet illegally for decades has failed to lead to such a result on a grand or frequent scale.

On this last point, considering what ultimately led to Donaghy’s downfall, “projection” might come to mind.

Florida’s Odds For Legal Sports Betting? It’s A Toss-Up

Juan Carlos Blanco May 25, 2018
Florida Sports Betting

To the rest of the country, Florida often seems to march to the beat of its own drummer. Yes, things admittedly do tend to stray from the norm in the tropics. That could well hold true for the prospects of legalized sports betting as well.

Other states enjoy a much more straightforward path to passing sports betting legislation. Jurisdictions without a tribal presence certainly have one less hoop through jump through. Those whose legislators have the full authority to expand gaming options within the state have an advantage in that regard, as well.

Florida has a unique set of challenges

Predictably, the situation is more complex in Florida.

  • The existing compact between the powerful Seminole Tribe and the state is one factor. The Seminoles have rights to cease their $19.5 million monthly payments to the state if legislators vote to expand certain forms of commercial gaming.
  • Another wild card is Amendment 3, set to be voted on in November. While passage will require a supermajority of 60 percent of voters, there’s plenty of money behind the initiative. Disney and the Seminoles alone have laid out more than a combined $16 million as of mid-May to back Voters In Charge, the political action committee spearheading the effort.

Amendment 3, if passed, will put proposed future expansion of any activity that falls under the definition of Class III gaming in the hands of voters. According to a 2007 legal opinion issued by then-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, “any sports betting and parimutuel wagering including but not limited to wagering on horse racing, dog racing or jai alai” is classified as Class III.

Interestingly, the text of Amendment 3 specifically exempts pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, dog racing or jai-alai from the type of activities it seeks to place under future voter control. However, it makes no mention of sports betting. There may be a legal gray area there as a result, but testing it would likely be an arduous and expensive process.

What’s legalized sports betting’s clearest path?

That begs the question – are sports betting’s chances for future legalization in Florida better served by the passage or failure of Amendment 3? Through layman eyes, it’s close to 50/50.

  • On the one hand, Florida legislators have in the past often moved at a molasses-like pace when it comes to expansion of gaming in the state. The necessity of ensuring tribal compacts aren’t run afoul of admittedly bogs down such efforts at times.
  • Conversely, if left solely to voters in terms of a “yay” or “nay” on legalization, matters might unfold a lot more efficiently. And public perception would play a pivotal role in this scenario. While sports betting may be lumped in with several other forms of casino gaming by legal definition, it seemingly has its own niche in the eyes of the masses.

Many who might stay away from and oppose the proliferation of slots, poker and the like have nevertheless placed a friendly wager or three on their favorite team, or on the Super Bowl. A certain percentage have undoubtedly sunk some cash into March Madness pools with friends or co-workers. Quite a few may be passionate season-long and/or daily fantasy players that are already used to having a financial interest in the games they watch.

And naturally, there’s always more than a few who actively patronize a local bookie or offshore sportsbook.

Therefore, if it comes down to either lawmakers or voters forming enough consensus to pass a measure first, I’m probably leaning toward the latter in the case of sports betting legalization.

An expert opinion on Florida’s sports betting’s current legal landscape

Sports law attorney Daniel Wallach has a wealth of experience with respect to gaming regulatory issues in Florida.

Unsurprisingly, he holds a multitude of opinions on the multiple moving parts at play with respect to the future of legalized sports betting within the state:

  • Wallach feels sports betting’s path of least resistance is through the legislature, as opposed to being left to voters under a scenario where Amendment 3 successfully passes. Under that framework, not only would any proposed legalized sports betting measure have to meet a certain threshold with voters to pass, legislators would then have to agree on a regulatory framework, tax rates, licensing fees, etc.
  • Wallach sees Amendment 3’s chances of passing as relatively bleak anyhow, as the required bar of a 60 percent supermajority is a high one to meet.
  • Eventually, Florida is likely to feel a certain amount of pressure to legalize sports betting if an increasing number of neighboring states pass legislation. The state also loses significant amount of money in both tourism dollars and tax revenue from gaming operators from this point forward with every passing year it fails to legalize sports betting.
  • Sports betting is much more widely integrated and accepted in society than other forms of gaming (i.e. poker, slots) and has “passionate fandom” as an underlying foundation that other gaming activities can’t quite claim.
  • The usual stagnation with regards to gaming expansion among legislators will eventually reach a tipping point; there are too many potential stakeholders in the state and too much money to be made all the way around for sports betting to be put off for too much longer.
  • Consequently, a window of 3-to-5 years is likely the time frame within which we see sports betting become a reality in Florida. The caveat to that prognosis is whether Amendment 3 succeeds, which potentially makes passage of future legislation more cumbersome.

Does A New Gambling Deal Affect Florida’s Sports Betting Chances?

Juan Carlos Blanco May 18, 2018
Florida Sports Betting

The Sunshine State has long marketed itself as a welcoming slice of paradise to would-be tourists. However, historically, it’s been anything but for the expansion of non-tribal gaming interests.

Little traction for commercial gaming expansion

The daily fantasy sports industry has found that out first-hand in recent years. The Florida legislature has attempted to pass bills expressly legalizing DFS in three consecutive sessions, with the current effort part of an omnibus gaming bill that also includes a proposed new compact with the state’s powerful Seminole Tribe.

One of the main stumbling blocks for DFS legislation has been centered on whether it’s officially considered a gambling activity. If it is, that would qualify legalizing it as an expansion of Internet-based gaming in the state, something the current compact specifies is cause for a reduction or cessation of hundreds of millions in payments the Seminole Tribe makes into state coffers annually.

Florida sports betting chances murky at present

Of course, there’s no such ambiguity when it comes to sports betting, meaning that presumably, it would potentially have to be limited to brick-and-mortar sportsbooks if it were to avoid running afoul of the current agreement.

Just keeping the present revenue-sharing agreement uninterrupted proved challenging enough for legislators. Last month, they were able to come to an agreement on extending the tribe’s current commitment to its monthly payments of approximately $19.5 million until May 2019.

That’s good news on one end of the gaming spectrum.

  • The extra time provides the two parties a chance to resolve pending issues related to banked “designated player” card games being offered at pari-mutuel facilities that the tribes believe infringe on their exclusivity (which caused the previous revenue-sharing agreement to technically lapse on March 31).
  • It also will allow further discussions regarding the implementation of slot machines in counties outside of Miami-Dade and Broward where voters have already approved them.

However, the development doesn’t equate to much for Florida sports betting interests, at least on the surface. That admittedly could change if legislators attempt to include a provision regarding potential future sports betting legislation into a renegotiated version of the existing compact that would also address the aforementioned issues. However, there doesn’t seem to be any movement in that direction at present.

Fundamental change in future Florida gaming expansion could be imminent

Another major development regarding gambling interests in Florida is Amendment 3, set to be voted on during November 2018 mid-terms.

The measure would change the state constitution to stipulate that any future casino gambling expansion would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters, as opposed to being decided on by legislators. Amendment 3 has some heavyweight backers that make for strange bedfellows.

Disney has reportedly contributed at least $4.7 million to the political action committee spearheading it, Voters in Charge.  The Seminoles – which would be potentially further insulated from competition from commercial gaming establishments if the measure passed — are the second-largest donor.

As currently written, Amendment 3 wouldn’t affect any potential future sports betting legislation, as the activity does not fall under its definition of “casino gambling”.  However, the fact it received more than enough signatures to get on the ballot and has some considerable money behind it is a tangible reminder that there is still an anti-gambling contingent in the state.

Naturally, if the Seminole Tribe expressed an interest in eventually implementing sportsbooks at their Hard Rock-themed facilities throughout the state, that would likely be a game-changer. That would seem likely given that the tribe is already expected to open a sportsbook in New Jersey via the Hard Rock property in Atlantic City.

If Amendment 3 passes, sports betting might soon be one of the few remaining forms of gaming that Florida legislators may still have the power to authorize by 2019, and that they may be able to reach achieve synergy with the Seminole Tribe on.

This story was originally published on April 19, 2018

The NFL’s Curious Dichotomy With Sports Betting Goes Back Decades

Juan Carlos Blanco May 17, 2018
NFL Sports Betting

Before landing a gig on CBS’s NFL Today in 1976, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder had a famed career as a Vegas bookmaker. He’d run afoul of U.S. gambling law along the way, with President Gerald Ford eventually pardoning his 1963 conviction of “interstate transportation of bets and wagering information” 11 years later.

Despite that checkered past and the league’s supposed staunch anti-gambling stance, take a wild guess as to who supposedly gave final blessing for the Greek to be featured in a nationally broadcast, thinly veiled homage to sports betting each week — then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle.

The only concession on CBS’ part was for the Greek to refrain from specifically talking point spreads.

Instead, he and NFL Today host Brent Musburger would go over who the Greek felt would win each game straight up. The rub was that he also threw out a score prediction – a wink-wink way of discussing who’d cover without ever mentioning the spread.

Across the dial on NBC, Pete “The Ax” Axthelm had even more freedom. This 1984 clip with him openly discussing the Dolphins being favored by 3.5 points over the Raiders in a key matchup and how a “gambler” would approach the game serves as some tangible evidence.

One of many contradictions

The point is, the league allowing its two biggest broadcast partners at the time to devote precious weekly TV time to the subject is just one of countless examples of what’s long been a conflicting approach.

The existence of a weekly injury report for each team is yet another, and its creation actually stems from a gambling-related scandal dating back to the 1946 NFL Championship Game.

NFL potentially moving from denial to (allegedly) grudging acceptance

Some of this sordid history came to mind when examining the latest public pronouncements from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the issue of sports gambling. Those unfolded last month at the NFL owners’ meetings when Goodell conceded time had been devoted to discussing a potential future legalized sports betting environment.

This time around, Goodell refrained from affirming that the NFL was “very much opposed to gambling on sports”, a line that has often been trotted out in various iterations over the years whenever the subject has come up. In fact, there finally seems to be a tacit admission from the league that sports betting is something they should be preparing for, as opposed to continually pushing back against.

NFL profits handsomely from money-based gaming on its product

The collective “about damn time” that you hear comes from anyone who’s been paying attention. Despite their decades-long public railing against sports betting, the NFL would be extremely hard-pressed to deny a significant part of its popularity and subsequent profitability is intertwined with the following:

  • Legal Nevada-based wagering on the Super Bowl alone has seen its handle increase for three consecutive years, peaking at an all-time high of nearly $138.5 million for this year’s Eagles-Pats Super Bowl.
  • An estimated $4.6 billion was wagered on the game with illegal offshore sportsbooks.
  • A total of 22 NFL teams have individual partnership agreements with daily fantasy heavyweights DraftKings and FanDuel.
  • Just this past season, DraftKings typically saw its users put between $25 million and $38 million in play on a given NFL week, while the range for FanDuel fell between $14 million and $22 million. Those types of dollars undeniably equal many more eyeballs on the product, a fact the NFL ultimately profits from.

And naturally, the NFL’s approval of the Raiders relocation to Las Vegas – where they’ll play in a stadium in which fans will presumably be able to wager on games through any of the state’s sportsbooks’ mobile apps – is likely the biggest contradiction yet.

Ironically, it may require taking a loss as a defendant in Murphy vs. NCAA to finally unburden the NFL from persisting with an act that wore thin decades ago.