Few embrace the “there’s no minute like the last minute” concept better than state legislatures.
Often, a flurry of bills will pass when the urgency of a legislative session’s end presses the point for lawmakers. As it relates to sports betting, the most recent example just unfolded in Michigan. Wolverine State legislators overwhelmingly approved House Bill 4926, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, in the wee hours of Dec. 21. The legislation passed the state’s Senate by a 33-5 margin and then cleared the hurdle in the House, 71-35. The bill now sits on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk for signature.
Despite the monumental progress, the full implementation of Michigan online gaming isn’t likely before 2020. But several states are not only expected to legalize sports betting in 2019 but could potentially launch a legal market in time for football season.
Plenty in the wings for 2019
In the wake of 10 states now either having active regulated sports betting markets or in preparation for such following the passage of legislation, five more have already placed themselves in the on-deck circle for 2019 by pre-filing bills. The outlook for each is as follows:
There are currently three pre-filed bills ahead of the 2019 legislative session: BR 15, BR 29 and BR 320. That’s indicative of what’s expected to be a legitimately serious push for legalization of various forms gaming in the Bluegrass State in the coming year. Notably, BR 15 calls for the Kentucky Lottery Corporation to establish a sports wagering regulatory infrastructure.
The groundwork was laid during the last few months with the creation of an unofficial panel intended to study the issue. Then, lawmakers heard from various stakeholders in October regarding various pertinent components of any future gaming legislation: tax rates, integrity monitoring and mobile wagering among them.
The most recent development in Kentucky is particularly interesting. State Attorney General Andy Beshear, publicly threw his support behind the idea of legislators passing an expansive gaming bill in 2019 that would encompass not just sports betting, but daily fantasy sports, casinos and online poker as well. The impetus for Beshear’s stance is relatively straightforward — much-needed revenue for the state coffers, including an estimated $30 million annually from sports betting that would help fully fund the state’s pension systems.
The Show Me State seems intent on showing it can get comprehensive sports betting legislation passed in 2019. But what form that will take is still very much in the air, considering there are two slightly different pre-filed bills.
Sen. Denny Hoskins’ (R-MO) piece of proposed legislation, SB 44, includes a 1 percent royalty or integrity fee, but with half of it earmarked toward an Entertainment Facilities Infrastructure Fund that would be used for the upkeep of sports or cultural facilities within Missouri. The bill sets a tax on adjusted sports betting gross revenue at 6.25 percent. A $5,000 annual administrative fee and $10,000 “reinvestigation fee” that sounds more ominous than intended would also apply. The latter would go into a fund that would eventually mature every fifth year when the licensee is re-vetted.
Then, Representative Cody Smith stepped into the picture with his pre-filed bill, HB 119, in early December.
Smith’s bill does include a 1 percent integrity fee, although there’s a tweak with that aspect in his legislation as well — 75 percent is paid to registered professional sports leagues, while 25 percent would be paid to the NCAA on wagers that involve major college teams. The bill would include a $10,000 application fee and $5,000 annual renewal fee for “interactive gaming licenses,” aka on-site mobile wagering. Traditional brick-and-mortar licenses would also be subject to a $10,000 application fee.
Notably, under the terms of Smith’s proposal, gaming operators would be required to use official data from the sports leagues if the ”sports governing bodies” informed the operators they wanted them to do so — a veritable slam dunk.
One of two current placeholder bills, S 316, was filed in July by the bipartisan duo of Sens. John Eklund and Sean O’Brien. Another, H 714, also sits at the ready for potential deliberation once the 2019 legislative session kicks off.
The Buckeye State has a total of 11 land-based and racetrack casinos. One of its lawmakers, Sen. Bill Coley, notably advocated for interstate sports betting compacts that would include data sharing between jurisdictions at a U.S. Sports Betting Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. in November. That concept is deemed too ambitious by many at the moment, especially given recent rumblings about a forthcoming revised legal opinion on the reach of the Wire Act.
Any legalization of gambling in the Volunteer State must happen via voter referendum. Accordingly, two pre-filed bills that would call for a measure to legalize sports betting be put to voters — HB 0001 and companion SB 0016 — have been pre-filed.
As per the introductory text of the proposed legislation, sports betting would have to be approved by voters on a county-by-county basis and there would be a 10 percent tax on sports betting revenue. A total of 40 percent of that allotment would be allocated for general appropriations. Another 30 percent would go toward to “state colleges of applied technologies and community colleges for equipment and capital projects.” Finally, 30 percent would go toward local governments where sports betting is approved and would fund education and infrastructure in those jurisdictions.
The Tennessee Gaming Commission would serve as the regulatory body.
Virginia appears to be a potentially serious player on the sports betting front for 2019. The latest news coming out of the state involves an online-only sports betting bill pre-filed for next year’s legislative session by Delegate Mark Sickles. The proposed legislation, House Bill 1638 would repeal Virginia’s current ban on both sports betting and online lottery ticket sales.
The novelty of the bill stems from the fact it does not address the establishment of a brick-and-mortar sports betting market within the state whatsoever (Virginia does not have any casinos, tribal or commercial). Instead, it aims to legalize and regulate sports betting “platforms” that are better defined as a “website, app, or other platform accessible via the Internet or mobile, wireless, or similar communications technology that sports bettors use to place sports bets.”
Details of the bill as it pertains to sports betting include: The state’s lottery serving as the overseer of implementation and ongoing regulation; five sports betting licenses being made available at an initial cost of $250,000 each; sports betting revenue being taxed at 15 percent, with 2.5 percent of it going to the lottery for administrative fees.
Notably, Delegate Marcus Simon also spoke of introducing his own sports betting bill early in the 2019 legislative session that would aim to legalize the activity by July of next year. When he spoke of the potential legislation in October, Simon alluded to racetracks and off-track betting parlors as potential sites for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.
Be sure to follow TheLines for the latest sports betting updates in your state in 2019!
Neva Pryor is worried.
Pryor, the executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling in New Jersey, sees the wave of legal sports betting sweeping across her state. She worries about how the increased availability will affect vulnerable populations in the Garden State.
Last month, she expressed her concerns to a legislative committee:
“We know that our costs will soar, and we’re very concerned about that.”
New sports betting opportunities may mean new problems
She may be right. More availability for placing sports bets may have a noticeable effect on the humans in the area.
Nationally, most estimates place the prevalence of gambling addiction at about 3 percent of the US population. Roughly 10 million Americans report suffering from the debilitating condition.
However, those numbers represent a time prior to widespread sports betting. Those 10 million poor souls often had to traverse great distances to feed their addictions, and the sheer inconvenience likely persuaded others not to indulge.
Now, it won’t be so inconvenient. People who merely wished they could bet sports will be able to do so.
Increased availability will also mean increased advertising to vulnerable populations. At least one Australian study has found marketing to be a contributing factor to the enhancement of gambling addiction symptoms.
Sports betting doesn’t have the same societal impact as gambling
We may also see an uptick in compulsive gambling because of how Americans view sports betting. The country is in a time of tremendous social upheaval, and once-taboo elements like marijuana, tattoos, and gambling are becoming much more acceptable.
The growth of social media and reality television has shown people engaging in these behaviors without ill effects. So, gambling, once relegated to dark, smoky backrooms, is now a legitimate industry with corporate sponsors and major cable network coverage.
Worse, sports betting doesn’t even occupy the same societal space as gambling. People who would never enter a casino don’t bat an eye at throwing down a few bucks on a game.
We know that sports betting is in a different arena based upon some of the sheer numbers surrounding it. Gaming research firm Eilers and Krejcik estimates that by 2023, the US market for sports betting will be in the neighborhood of $6 billion annually.
Some of that $6 billion will certainly come from people with a problem.
Legalization doesn’t always mean an outbreak
That said, widely-legal sports betting doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a surge of new cases. If recent experiences with legalizing marijuana are any clue, the bigger danger will be for the already addicted.
Oregon legalized recreational marijuana use in 2015. Last year, the Society for the Study of Addiction published a study of Oregon college students and their use of the drug.
The findings were somewhat surprising. Use of recreational marijuana among student did increase, but only in students that reported a tendency to binge drink.
Usage rates for other students only increased for those under 21. So, students with ready, legal access to the drug who were not already using were unlikely to do so.
The findings mirrored studies in Colorado and Washington. Those studies found that older adolescents, like high school seniors, similarly did not increase their usage after legalization.
The only populations that did see an increase were younger Washington students – those in 8th or 10th grades. Colorado did not even see a similar uptick in the younger group.
The main solution may simply be vigilance
All of that is to say that it’s not a given that there will be more gambling addicts in states that legalize sports betting. However, the depth of current addictions may increase.
As a result, government agencies and non-profit organizations need to stay on alert. Governments may also want to implement requirements for employees that work in sportsbooks.
There are already legal precedents for imposing a duty upon service providers. Thirty-eight states have “dram shop” laws that require bartenders and other bar personnel to stop serving people who are obviously drunk.
Perhaps casinos, racetracks, and sportsbooks would benefit from a similar situation. On the other hand, a gambling addict could merely move to a different location if he was denied service, and it’s not nearly as obvious as someone who is drunk.
Nevertheless, there does need to be an ongoing conversation in each state that legalizes sports betting. Otherwise, many good people may go down a very dark hole.
From outside the United States, the current scramble to produce state legislation for sports betting looks a bit like the US has just discovered VHS video recorders. The rest of the world has long since moved on.
A quick scan of legislation proposed in various states looks like it was designed for the steam age. Where are the current big regulatory issues in gambling regulation; esports, virtual sports, in-game and crypto-currencies? Conspicuous by their absence.
Esports betting is the next next thing
The most popular esports are League of Legends (LOL), CounterStrike Global Offensive (CSGO), StarCraft 2 and Overwatch although there are many others which garner a large audience.
If any US politicians have noticed the existence of Twitch, they should have picked up that on June 24, Riot Games became the first channel to pass one billion views, almost entirely for broadcasts of their esport game League of Legends.
We'd like to extend a thank you to the viewers for helping the @RiotGames @Twitch Channel be the first one to surpass 1 billion views. We could not have done it without your loyal support ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2W69ix0CEJ
— lolesports (@lolesports) June 24, 2018
At a Nevada Gaming Policy Committee meeting chaired by Governor Brian Sandoval, Arthur Manteris, vice president of Station Casinos‘ sportsbooks made the simple statement:
“Gamblers make viewers, and viewers make gamblers,” adding that the viewing figures are: “Numbers the world has never seen before.”
Manteris has forty years experience of sports betting in Las Vegas.
Online esports betting still isn’t legal in Nevada, but it is available in casinos. New Jersey’s latest sports betting legislation includes what appears to be a ban on esports betting:
“A prohibited sports event includes all high school sports events, electronic sports, and competitive video games but does not include international sports events in which persons under age 18 make up a minority of the participants.”
Sports attorney Daniel Wallach told Compete that there was still some wiggle room and that the regulator could rule on a case-by-case basis to allow some esports betting. Nevertheless, it doesn’t look good.
Esports is experiencing triple-digit growth
Over the last four or five years, esports betting has been the fastest growing area of sports betting. Sports betting operator Pinnacle has seen triple-digit growth for the last five years.
— Pinnacle (@PinnacleSports) December 20, 2016
Narus Advisors and research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming have forecast that global wagers on esports will be $6.7 billion in 2018 growing to $13 billion by 2020. That’s a small but significant fraction of the global online sports betting market and it’s growing at internet speed.
Virtual sports are a closer complement to traditional sports. Using big data about players and team performance they enable virtual versions of traditional sporting fixtures to be played out.
Bettors can watch the matches with high-quality video game graphics, and even engage in in-game betting. Sports data firm BetRadar is one of the biggest names in the virtual sports betting business.
Here’s their 2018 promotional video showing the sports they offer as virtual products and the quality of the video graphics.
If you skipped the video, you missed the list of sports that they offer globally; soccer, basketball, tennis, horse racing and dog racing.
No hockey, no American Football, no baseball. This is the legacy of the federal ban on sports betting, the most advanced betting technology in the rest of the world has ignored the most popular US sports.
Nevada and New Jersey are two states where at least some virtual sports betting is allowed, the question is whether other states will follow when they pass their own sports betting legislation.
Skins, crypto & loot boxes
One characteristic of modern video games and esports is that the game developers monetize play by offering virtual goods for sale. These goods, such as weapons, armor, boxes with surprise contents (loot boxes) and other in-game advantages/enhancements can also be won by playing.
Collectively known as skins, they have become a de facto in-game currency, and can sometimes be used for betting.
The regulators of today need to define what counts as money for the purposes of gambling. The UK Gambling Commission has made a good stab at the problem. US regulators need to follow suit, especially with the proliferation of modern cryptocurrencies.
With everyone so excited about the legalization of sports betting, it’s easy for politicians to miss the fact that the industry is moving on into a virtual age. The legislation they produce risks excluding players and US businesses from an important development or at least leaving gamblers to the risks of placing their bets on the black market.
Leagues asking for an integrity fee from sports betting has been all the rage this year. Everyone wants their share. The arguments for “integrity” has been so poor that some leagues have switched to a more royalty-based fee. The leagues DGAF what the fee is called, they just want that money.
Leagues may have been first in line looking for a cut of the revenue from sports betting but more entities are stepping in. Leagues, teams, and casino operators recently shared their thoughts on the matter in Pennsylvania. They each spoke up about how revenue from sports betting should be divided.
The inclusion of specific organizations requesting a handout from gambling money went to another level in Pennsylvania. Not only did a professional sports franchise ask for some of the many riches derived from a fee for sports gambling in the state, but they asked for more.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have stated that they want their share of the integrity/royalty fee that Major League Baseball may receive. Fair enough. They went on to say that they also need more money from the state taxes to keep their stadium operational.
From the Pirates:
“Providing a professional sports product is a costly endeavor…The capital needs at PNC Park are significant and unfortunately are much higher than the current funds allocated to them by our landlord.”
“It stands to reason that a portion of the revenue collected from sports wagering should be allocated to the maintenance and capital upkeep of PNC Park and the other sports-related facilities in Pennsylvania which provide for sports wagering in the first place.”
You can see the full unedited letter at Legal Sports Report. Their 17-year-old gift of a stadium isn’t old enough to be considered a millennial. However, PNC Park could already be falling apart. On Wednesday night there was a little backlog in the Pirates dugout.
It was a little damp in the dugout tunnel at PNC Park tonight. Just a little. pic.twitter.com/zm12uxFz0F
— Tom (@Haudricourt) June 21, 2018
Oopsie! Someone done clogged up the drains inside the dugout leading to the Pirates clubhouse.
There’s no doubting that PNC Park is one of the most beautiful baseball stadiums in the country. The Pirates have been asking the state for funds to maintain the stadium for the past five to seven years. Despite being a profitable business, it probably makes sense that the state pay for upkeep since the residents of Pennsylvania paid to build the stadium.
The good news for the Pirates is that the Pennsylvania state tax on sports gambling is so high that there might actually be money available to them when sports betting becomes legal in the state. Of course, a sportsbook operator has to decide to take bets in Pennsylvania.
It might be difficult to make a profit with the potentially high tax and integrity/royalty fee. Right now, the tax rate proposed for sports betting is 34%. New Jersey, for comparison, has a tax rate for sports betting between 8.5% and 14.5% depending on how and where the bets are placed.
It’s too bad Phil Mickelson overshadowed the premium performance of Brooks Koepka winning his second U.S. Open in as many years. Mickelson committed a bizarre penalty during Saturday’s third round when he putted a ball a second time before the ball had stopped moving.
The infraction earned Mickelson a two-stroke penalty, but many believe he should have been disqualified, including PGA Tour pros. And of course, the USGA’s decision to allow Mickelson to continue his round affected tickets for interested sports bettors around the world.
This left many asking: why wasn’t Mickelson disqualified for his intentional act and rules violation?
The putt heard round the world
The incident came on the 13th hole on Saturday when Mickelson hit his bogey putt well past the hole and it appeared destined to roll off the green. Rather than wait to see where the ball might end up, Mickelson ran after the ball and hit it again as it was still moving.
Phil made a 10 on the 13th hole after being assessed a 2-shot penalty for hitting a moving ball. pic.twitter.com/8QGqJIlV49
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 16, 2018
Mickelson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for the infraction and took a score of 10 on the hole. The USGA cited Rule 14-5:
But in citing Rule 14-5, the USGA superseded Rule 1-2.
Rule 1-2 comes with a provision that would have allowed Mickelson to be disqualified if the action were deemed to have gained him a “significant advantage.”
The USGA said Mickelson was given a penalty for violating Rule 14-5, but not Rule 1-2, because, “He didn’t purposely stop or deflect the ball.”
Well, that’s such a poor explanation and excuse for not enforcing what should have been a disqualification. Mickelson later acknowledged that he intentionally hit the moving ball because he didn’t want it to roll off the green. He apologized for his actions on Wednesday.
Ruling impact on golf betting
I had a number of betting interests in the tournament match-ups, including a small slice on Mickelson over Tiger Woods. When Tiger missed the cut and Phil made it to the weekend, Mickelson was declared the head-to-head match-up winner.
According to Nevada sports book house rules:
IF ONE GOLFER CONTINUE PLAY AFTER HIS OPPONENT HAS MISSED THE CUT, WITHDRAWN (WD) OR BEEN DISQUALIFIED (DQ), THE GOLFER WHO CONTINUES PLAY WINS HIS MATCH-UP
But what if Mickelson was in contention to win the tournament? What if Woods had made the cut? There could have been many wagering interests and potential live-betting situations involving Mickelson.
A rules violation can have an impact on wagering results. Recall when the USGA made a ‘big bogey’ according to USGA CEO Mike Davis when it penalized Dustin Johnson one stroke during the 2016 U.S. Open on a murky new rule that was revised to help players who were grounding their putters while addressing the ball. The USGA’s delayed enforcement created a fiasco.
At the 2010 PGA Championship with the PGA officials, Johnson was issued a controversial two-stroke penalty on the 18th hole Sunday in what was one of the most bizarre rules gaffes in decades. Johnson was ruled to have grounded his club in a bunker, but it was more like dirt and a waste area that the crowd had been walking on and standing in during the tournament. Needing only a par on the final hole to win, the penalty cost Johnson the golf tournament.
What about integrity?
In September 2017, the PGA implemented a new integrity program to “protect its competitions from potential outside influences related to gambling.” Then PASPA went to the Supreme Court in December, and the federal sports betting ban was struck down in May, allowing for all states to launch a regulated sports betting market.
In considering golf wagering for the future and the potential impact of ‘integrity fees’, how will the PGA handle these types of situations with a royalty being collected by the PGA for all the golf wagering during their tournaments? The PGA issued a statement on regulation saying that it’s the most effective way of “ensuring integrity in competition, protecting consumers, engaging fans and generating revenue for government, operators and leagues.”
But when these strange occurrences surface like the Mickelson mistake and even more money is at stake, will bettors be the ones sending complaints to the PGA offices?
Everyone has a Chad in their friend group.
Chad, always one to impress with how he met one of Drake’s security personnel at the club last night, albeit met with a tinge of skepticism from the group.
Always continuing to one-up stories by making his case with ridiculous claims of now having an in for a party with Drake, now met with eye rolls and scoffs.
Always one to impress
At one time, the Keystone State was considered one of the odds-on favorites to first introduce regulated single-game wagering outside of Nevada.
While New Jersey was carrying the load in the US Supreme Court case, Pennsylvania lawmakers in October 2017 passed a gaming expansion bill that included legalizing PA sports betting. On May 14, SCOTUS ruled in New Jersey’s favor, striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act to clear the way for regulated wagering.
Now, more than a month later, like a mourner at a wake, PA is on the outside looking in. Although really, Pennsylvania might as well be in the casket. And with the rope in the study, it was the state’s lawmakers that put it there.
It was that group that decided to get all Ottoman Empire on a still-unborn industry by proposing a head-spinning 36 percent tax – 34 percent to the state, 2 percent to local coffers – on gross sports betting revenue. Yes, that is in fact gross. That rate is on top of an up-front $10 million fee just for properties to obtain a sports betting license.
Always making a case
If casino and sportsbook operators were hesitant with just the tax rate – which would stand as the highest rate in any jurisdiction in the world – they’re folding their cards at $10 million before even seeing the flop.
Hollywood Casino spokesman Eric Schippers told Penn Live in May that Pennsylvania “has strangled the goose on this one.”
The state has done more than that, as it has plucked the feathers and started preheating the Traeger – all while trying to call the bluff of potential licensees.
“I think they will all participate and would be shocked if they didn’t,” Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Matzie told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this month. “In sports-crazy Pittsburgh and sports-crazy Philadelphia, you’re going to see it bring a lot more people into the casino, watching the big-screen TVs, and when they get those people in the door to bet they’ll also hopefully drop money at the tables or in the slots.”
Always standing steadfast, driving himself out of the group
The state has not wavered from its proposed regulations, which the PA Gaming Control Board published last month. Pennsylvania, though, is welcoming public comments on said regulations.
And in a twist, it has been one of the very sports leagues that took New Jersey to court over PASPA, one of the same leagues that were laughed and shouted out of the room when meeting with Jersey lawmakers for possible integrity fees, that are speaking out on the state’s rates and fees. (For perspective, neighboring New Jersey will tax in-person revenue at 8.5 percent at casinos and racetracks, online casino revenue at 13 percent and online track revenue at 14.25 percent; Nevada has a 5-percent tax rate.)
In a letter from the NFL: “Finally, we would like to share our concerns that the statutory operator licensing fees of $10 million and the 34 percent tax rate on gaming revenue may render legal market participants unable to effectively compete with those in the illegal market.”
Granted, many of the other leagues and teams chimed in for integrity fees, more universal regulation or for outright prohibition of sports betting. Still, when the NFL – sitting on its throne while the Jeff Rosses of the world roast it – provides some insight into PA’s ridiculousness, that should be cause for concern.
Nothing is set in stone just yet for Pennsylvania sports betting. In fact, it does not appear anything will be until later this year or even into 2019.
Chad is not one to tell your group of friends that he has been wrong. But perhaps an intervention from that group – the leagues, casinos, track operators, and sportsbooks – can set Chad straight.
In case you missed the news out of the Garden State this week, here’s a quick rundown:
- New Jersey passed a sports betting bill on Thursday.
- The bill states that Golden Nugget can open a sportsbook but cannot take NBA bets.
- Bill must be signed by Gov. Philip D. Murphy before any bets are taken.
The previous version of this bill made us question whether the Golden Nugget would be able to operate a sportsbook. Well, the most recent version of the bill was revised and the Golden Nugget will be able to operate a sportsbook. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the Golden Nugget cannot take wagers on NBA games. The issue with Golden Nugget owner, Tilman Fertitta, owning the Houston Rockets is still seen as a conflict. This is potentially a huge blow to the south New Jersey casino operator.
Basketball has strong roots on the east coast and the NBA is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in America. All basketball (including college hoops) is second to the NFL in handle in Nevada sports betting. While the two states may not be apples to apples, the potential for basketball betting revenue in New Jersey can’t be overlooked.
Basketball is big business for Nevada sportsbooks
Together, college and pro basketball have historically been one of the biggest winners for sportsbooks in Nevada. According to UNLV Gaming, sportsbooks actually won more money in 2017 from basketball than any other sport. Last year college and pro basketball win for sportsbooks were $87,431,000 while football (college and pro) was $76,896,000. Basketball accounted for slightly more than 35% of the win for sportsbooks last year.
Football was the leading sports for Nevada sportsbooks in win percentage from 2012-2016 so this could be an anomaly. It could also be the beginning of a trend as the NBA and March Madness are more popular than ever. The consolation prize for the Golden Nugget is that they can still take wagers on NCAA basketball.
NBA and 76ers on the rise
Sports betting should be a little different in every region and in every state. Football may always be the most popular sport for gamblers but basketball could be a little more popular on the east coast than Nevada. In addition to regional preferences, Atlantic City and much of southern New Jersey is considered a sports suburb for Philadelphia sports teams. TV’s are always turned into 76ers, Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers games.
The 76ers are one of the hottest up and coming teams in the NBA and the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City will certainly miss not being able to book their games. In addition to being close to Pennsylvania, New Jersey also borders New York City. Until both states legalize sports betting, New Jersey will be the only legal game in town. While Atlantic City isn’t considered a New York sports market, they certainly have Knicks fans visiting frequently. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the 4,500 Nets fans in Brooklyn that could also be visitors. The Golden Nugget will certainly miss out the action from those three teams alone.
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
Most experienced sports bettors in the United States know what they can and can’t bet on. However, we’re the exception. Believe it or not, most citizens of this country haven’t gambled on sports because legal sports betting hasn’t been easily accessible.
The mainstream sports media falls into the same category as the mainstream population. They’re often uneducated and ignorant to how legal and illegal sports betting operates. This will change as states legalize gambling.
In the meantime sportsbook staffers like Jeff Sherman at the Westgate in Las Vegas still have to explain what kind of betting is legal in the U.S.
re: 2018-19 NBA Title … we are not permitted to offer odds where LeBron might end up, so at this time it is reflected in next year’s title odds … there will be drastic changes to these after free agency (ie if LeBron does not go to Phi, Bos would then be the East fav)
— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) June 3, 2018
This tweet was made during the weekend but the mainstream media DGAF. Even national radio host Colin Cowherd, who brings sports betting “experts” on his show regularly, mentioned the odds of LeBron James going to another team as “odds from Vegas.” Someday he’ll understand that all sports betting odds aren’t generated in Las Vegas.
Offshore sportsbooks can offer proposition bets on just about anything they feel like offering. The Nevada Gaming Control Board has very tight regulations on what we’re allowed to wager on in the state. Other states that legalize gambling should have similar oversight.
Mainstream media needs to get their shit together
Ever since PASPA was struck down the mainstream sports media has decided to talk sports betting more frequently. There are some very knowledgeable people on the subject spreading the good word. However, they are few and far between. Talking heads on TV and podcasts and writers for websites are trying to discuss a topic that they don’t understand. Al Leiter is not helping MLB or MLB Network with ignorant statements like this.
— Meg Baker (@megbakertv) June 4, 2018
The hosts of these media outlets now have to discuss a topic they’ve spent little to no time researching. National radio shows still use offshore odds and point spreads and refer to them as being from “Vegas.” This creates confusion for listeners and reader who really want to know the information they can bet on.
American sports betting odds go local and mainstream
Las Vegas has always been the origin of sports betting odds in America. In recent years, the Westgate has done a great job being the point of origin for a lot of the information shared on ESPN and other networks. That could change and customers should be able to find sports betting information originating in the United States from multiple sources.
Sports betting information news should start to be distributed locally and regionally. Local media will be able to see information from the sports betting outlets in their area. Delaware media will likely tout local sportsbook operators instead of the number originating in Las Vegas and off-shore. This creates more meaningful news content for their viewers and readers.
Whether you like the way they do business or not, William Hill does a great job sharing their news with the media. Will Hill should be the first sportsbook operator in New Jersey and will take their PR stylings to the east coast. Media in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania will be educated on sports betting, in part, by William Hill.
The other incoming sportsbook operators coming to New Jersey do a poor job marketing their sportsbooks in Nevada but that could (and should) change with the large east coast betting population. It appears as though Jay Rood from MGM Resorts International will be licensed in New Jersey in time for legalization. Expect this Nevada bookmaker to share his knowledge on the betting sports as well.
The future of sports betting in media looks bright
Most of the mainstream sports media today grew up without gambling on sports or having access to point spreads, betting options, and general gambling news. There’s a bit of ignorance with the mainstream public about sports betting. If sports fans were curious about gambling they would have to learn from an illegal subculture or find information generated from Las Vegas.
The future will have more sports fans educated on sports betting. The information will be more accessible around the country. Whether the information is gained from local sports media or national sports media there should be a better understanding of sports gambling.
Today we have to listen to people like Leiter hypothesize about driving around New Jersey to make $500,000 in bets. Tomorrow we should see a new generation of media talking heads that will grow up with legal gambling accessible. This should make for a more educated media.
Oh, Jay Kornegay. You had the chance to slam the door on an absurd proposition. And instead you answered as if you were grocery shopping with your 6-year-old son and he asked for a Costco-sized crate of Fruit by the Foot.
Maybe you were taken by surprise.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act to clear the path for legalized sports betting across the nation. The focus has been on developing regulatory frameworks in states that are moving forward with legislation, such as:
- The taxation of casinos that will offer sports betting
- Paying the laughable “integrity fees” to professional leagues
Certainly betting on high school sports was never a thought for sportsbooks and oddsmakers.
That is, until Kornegay was knee-buckled by a curveball.
Will people soon be able to bet on high school sports?
The answer should have been simple: “LOL, OMG, NO! *cackling emoji*” However, Kornegay, vice president of race and sports operations for the Westgate Las Vegas Sportsbook, took … um … let’s call it a different approach.
“We don’t take bets on any amateur events outside of college events, and that would include high school sports,” Kornegay said.
That’s right. Stand your ground, Kornegay. Tell your son that 1,200 packs of Fruit by the Foot is ridiculous and unwarranted. Strike him down, don’t leave the door open for anything.
Unfortunately, Kornegay was not done, adding: “I don’t see the need.”
COME ON, J-KORN! You basically just asked your 6-year-old to provide an argument for that box of fruit snacks large enough to imprison Hannibal Lecter. Here, let me be your Hooked on Phonics and give you a read on the situation.
Should there be betting offered on prep sports?
There is no need for wagering on high school athletics. Hence why Kornegay didn’t “see” the need.
While other states are rushing to pass legislation to regulate sports betting, Nevada entered Friday as the only state that allows single-game sports betting. And even the Silver State has gaming laws that specifically prohibit sportsbooks from offering wagers on prep sports. Nevada has the industry template that 19 other states that at least have a draft of a bill have used as they shape their own gaming regulations.
Certainly some people have expressed concern over the decision of SCOTUS to allow for states to legalize sports betting. They fear gambling addictions, for example. A recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University showed that some were even worried it would open the door for increased organized crime.
Still, there is some overreaction – and overreaching.
“I am concerned with this court decision and where it may lead,” Bob Gardner, executive director of the National Federation of High School Associations, said in a statement. “Our past contains instances of wagering on high school games illegally. If that now becomes legal, does the pressure on our coaches and student-athletes grow? Maintaining the integrity of all sports is critical to the system at every level. If we think the high schools are immune to this, we are not seeing clearly. We ask that states do not include wagering on high school athletic contests in any sport as part of any legislation going forward.”
Even Bill Bradley, a two-time NBA champion with the New York Knicks (yes, they were once really good) and former New Jersey senator, is fretting. Though he may be a tad biased. After all, the federal ban ruled unconstitutional by SCOTUS is also known as the Bradley Act.
“I think the game will be corrupted,” Bradley said. “Do you really want to go to your son’s high school basketball or football game and see people in the crowd who are betting, who are not rooting for your child to win or lose, but are betting on a spread? It’ll be pervasive. It is destructive. But again, it’s the Supreme Court making a decision on very narrow grounds.”
Listen in: TheLines Podcast also hit on the topic of high school sports betting.
Purity of youth sports will prevail
Everyone take a deep breath. Find your zen. This is not happening any time soon – if at all.
Yes, there are offshore books that accept bets on Texas high school football games. But by no means is that is not a foundation from which to build an industry. So take it easy. Talking to you, USA TODAY High School Sports:
“(If) those lines are used by local illegal bookies to take wagers on high school games, why shouldn’t states allow official betting houses accept them and thereby implement some measure of discipline and regulation? There might even be a revenue share to be had for the state governing bodies (and potentially schools themselves via the state organizations).”
Nope. Oh, how quickly states would hang up the phone if this proposal came calling, like Spurs coach Gregg Popovich in a postgame interview.
Of course, there is already some corruption in youth sports, what with sneaker companies steering AAU basketball players toward certain colleges and agencies. But it’s still youth sports. If ever there was an organization that ACTUALLY cares about protecting the integrity of sports, it’s each state’s high school athletic association.
You fear gambling addiction because the public will soon be able to bet on professional and collegiate sports? Allow wagering on high school sports, which will never happen. Because state lawmakers and sportsbooks already know the dystopian outcome.
So, Jay Kornegay, let’s give you a mulligan: Will people soon be able to wager on high school sports?
“LOL, OMG, NO! *cackling emoji*”