Last night, perfectly timed during the midst of March Madness (and for the very first time, mass adoption of March Madness betting in America), 60 Minutes asked, “Will legalized sports betting curtail corruption or encourage it?”
The feature paints the new American sports betting landscape in broad strokes. The overarching theme (in part because it’s March Madness) was, to paraphrase The Simpsons, “Won’t somebody think of the children?” Or more specifically, in this case, the college athletes.
The fix is in
The feature sets an ominous tone at the start by invoking the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Black Sox betting scandal. However, as it relates to potential corruption, most of the focus is (rightfully) around college athletics.
This is something we’ve previously written about at TheLines: Taking a more measured approach toward college sports.
The moral arbiter of the feature is Mike Hamrick, former UNLV athletic director, who now serves the same role at Marshall University. Marshall is in West Virginia, one of the legal sports betting states. Hamrick’s concerns seem mostly about protecting his athletes:
There’s people that will do what they need to do to make a buck at the expense of an 18- or 19-year-old kid.
While game fixing isn’t out of the question (particularly in a more manageable sport like college basketball, where one player can impact a game more easily than football), a less obvious area for corruption is on injury intel.
Insight into injuries provides unpaid college athletes the ability to give gamblers an edge without putting the athlete in danger of actually fixing a game itself.
Hamrick claims other athletic directors have similar concerns, which makes sense. They should. This is a hard one to control at the college level and not something that European sports can be looked to for a successful template. The best answers may be to limit what college wagering is allowed, or to cross your fingers and hope a scandal doesn’t happen early and often.
Reasons for optimism
While 60 Minutes definitely took a darker slant to the piece, there were some positives. It noted that sports betting has undergone a massive shift in perception in the US, from leagues to the public in general. As it noted, pro leagues “transitioned from defense to offense” in terms of sports betting. The MGM signed deals with MLB, NBA, and NHL and Caesars inked one with the NFL.
The show also noted that sports bettors are younger and more affluent than in the past. They’re more likely to watch sports broadcasts longer if they have action on it.
One expert, Ryan Rodenberg, a law professor at FSU, predicts, by the end of this year, 15 states will have some form of legal sports betting with another 12 having laws in the process. This would be a substantial expansion of where we are today, covering over half of the country.
As in-play betting popularity increases, so will total wagering activity. As William Hill’s Joe Asher noted, 50 percent of all betting in Europe (and specifically, betting on soccer) is live/in-play action.
As usual, leave it to the NBA’s Adam Silver to be the shining light of sports betting. Silver says legal betting “dramatically” decreases risk because we access data and technology that helps identify unusual line movement. Basically, moving this into the sunlight decreases risk. Given how the increased media coverage and awareness of sports betting is already a thing, that spotlight will only get brighter.
60 Minutes ignored a Silver staple as well: How sports leagues are pushing “integrity fees” as a means to keep everything legit.
It would’ve been surprising had 60 Minutes not done a sports betting feature during March Madness. One one hand, this wasn’t so negative that it felt underwritten by Sheldon Adelson, but it was negative enough to cast some aspirations on the industry.
The focus on college sports as being corruptible isn’t outlandish. There should be concerns around college basketball for game fixing and college football for injury intelligence. You’d be naive to think otherwise.
However, to ignore that the pro sports leagues and regulated sportsbooks aren’t diligently working to ensure the integrity of their competitions does the public a disservice. Again, look at England for guidance and data points. For every Daniel Sturridge potential slip-up or fourth tier soccer league fixing scandal, there are billions in legitimate wagers every year without issue. Making mountains out of molehills may grab a few extra eyeballs for a story, but it doesn’t make the story more accurate.
The reality is, sports betting in America is a runaway train now. It’s a giant opportunity for the leagues, casinos and local governments. The positives significantly outweigh the negatives. Not recognizing that and getting on board makes you look outdated, which is precisely what a 50-plus-year-old TV news magazine is in 2019.
With Selection Sunday now in the books, we’re just a day away from First Four play kicking off March Madness season, that annual celebratory period replete with significant diminished workplace productivity, plenty of friendly rivalry and no shortage of imbibing.
Yes, beginning late Sunday night, “bracketology” underwent its annual elevation to official springtime religion for millions of sports fans across the globe.
While brackets are furiously completed in conventional fashion over the early part of this week, TheLines wanted to change up the paradigm just a tad. We completed a bracket of our own, but took a slightly different approach.
For the purposes of this article, we utilized sportsbooks as our exclusive guide for navigating the 68-team tournament. In other words, we went with the assumption that the oddsmakers have each of the first-round matchups pegged correctly in terms of the spread/straight-up winners. All favored teams automatically advance to the second round.
Then, we continue determining winners in each matchup in subsequent rounds based on each team’s futures odds as currently set on DraftKings Sportsbook. We used FanDuel Sportsbook odds as a tiebreaker wherever needed.Bracket
The point spread for each favored first-round team appears in parenthesis next to that team on the bracket with a “-” preceding it.
Moving on to the second round and beyond, futures odds appear in parenthesis next to each team with a “+” preceding it.
Point spreads represent the oddsmakers’ prediction on the projected margin of victory for the favored team.
Bettors placing a point-spread bet on the favorite need that team to win by more than the predicted margin of victory to cash in. If the favored team wins by less than that amount or loses outright, the bettor fails to cash.
Bettors placing a point-spread bet on the underdog need that team to lose by less than the projected margin of victory for the favorite or win the game outright to cash in.
Futures odds represent the oddsmakers’ prediction on the team’s chances of winning the entire tournament. The smaller the number listed as the team futures odds, the greater the chance of that team winning the entire tournament.
Fittingly, Duke has the smallest futures odds at +220. Gonzaga checks in second at +575, Virginia is listed at +650 and North Carolina has +750 odds. Each of those teams opens March Madness seeded at the top of each of their respective regional brackets.
As per our approach to this bracket, they would also ultimately make up our Final Four.
The number constituting a team’s futures odds represents the amount a bettor stands to win on a standard wager of $100 if that team ultimately is crowned national champion.
Where are oddsmakers and the selection committee diverging?
One major takeaway from this sports betting-centered approach to filling out a bracket is unearthing potential sleepers along the way.
A rather revealing practice involves comparing how oddsmakers view a team as compared to how the selection committee slotted them within their regional bracket to open March Madness. In the cases we’re about to cite, there appear to be extenuating circumstances regarding the sportsbooks’ optimism with respect to each team, which we’ve noted in each instance.
Keep the following four teams in mind when attempting to prognosticate this year’s tournament:
Virginia Tech (+3000) ranked No. 4 in East Region below No. 3 LSU (+5000)
- Four-year starting guard Justin Roberts (13.7 PPG, 5.2 APG) returns from a 12-game absence to give the Hokies an all-around boost.
Villanova (+3300) ranked No. 6 in South Region below No. 4 Kansas State (+6000) and No. 5 Wisconsin (+7000)
- Fresh off an unprecedented third straight Big East Tournament title and a 25-9 regular season record,the Wildcats seem somewhat undervalued by the selection committee as they begin their national title defense.
Iowa State (+4000) ranked No. 6 in Midwest Region below No. 4 Kansas (+6000) and same odds as No. 3 Houston and No. 5 Auburn.
- Cyclones strive to maintain late-season momentum that ultimately netted them improbable Big 12 crown.
Louisville (+8000) ranked No. 7 in East Region below No. 5 Mississippi State (+10000) and No. 6 Maryland (+15000)
- Following a one-year tournament hiatus, Cardinals look to make noise under first-year coach Chris Mack after 20-13 regular season.
The Final Four and their journey
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 NC Central/N. Dakota State
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 VCU
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 4 Virginia Tech
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Michigan State
- Final Four: Defeats No. 1 Gonzaga
- Wins Championship over No. 1 Virginia
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 Gardner-Webb
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 Ole Miss
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 4 Kansas State
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Tennessee
- Final Four: Defeats No. 1 North Carolina
- Loses Championship to No. 1 Duke
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 Farleigh-Dickinson/Prairie View A&M
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 Syracuse
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 4 Florida State
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Michigan
- Final Four: Loses to No. 1 Duke
North Carolina (+750):
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 Iona
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 Utah State
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 5 Auburn
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Kentucky
- Final Four: Loses to No. 1 Virginia
The Topgolf concept is fantastic. Golf games mixed with food and drink service take a visit to a golf driving range to another level.
Topgolf took it even further when it opened its flagship location in Las Vegas (pictured). There you’ll find multiple performance stages, massive TVs, pools with cabanas, a sportsbook window, and more.
Topgolf Las Vegas is unique among its US locations in many ways. Maybe mostly because of the sports betting window inside the facility, which has drawn praise since the opening in 2016. And a twist on this small addition to Topgolf could be coming to a venue near you.
The company sees itself as a great venue for sports fans and possibly sports bettors. PointsBet sportsbook in New Jersey recently announced a partnership to bring Topgolf fans on the east coast a little closer to sports betting.
PointsBet and Topgolf
The New Jersey Topgolf locations won’t have a dedicated window for sports betting. Rather, this partnership will be focused around PointsBet-branded bar areas at Topgolf venues. The partnership will be most active around major sporting events.
The next planned event will take place at both Topgolf Edison and Topgolf Mt. Laurel. This will be a March Madness Hole in One competition. The winner will take home a grand prize of $25,000 on March 23. Other Premium prizes and promotions will be available to participating guests at the various Topgolf-PointsBet events.
Topgolf Media President Yu Chiang Cheng says that “Partnering with PointsBet aligns our shared purpose of connecting people in meaningful ways to provide year-round sports entertainment to the local community.”
This kind of year-round branding and special event marketing will help label PointsBet as the sportsbook of choice for Topgolf customers. It’s also potentially the beginning of making Topgolf one of the best “sportsbooks” in the country.
Topgolf and sports betting
Sportsbooks and sports betting no longer have to be inside of a physical casino. Nearly 80 percent of all sports wagers in New Jersey were made online or with a mobile device. While Buffalo Wild Wings is still talking about how to get in the sports betting game, Topgolf already is.
Topgolf isn’t a sportsbook operator. Their location in Las Vegas is at MGM Grand and MGM Resorts International operates the sportsbook. The sports betting window is only open for major events and football. The window is a way for MGM Resorts to promote mobile signups as much as it’s open to take physical wagers.
Topgolf locations in New Jersey won’t have a sportsbook at all. However, sports bettors in New Jersey will be reminded that they can sign up and wager online with PointsBet. The major difference in New Jersey and Las Vegas is the physical sportsbook window for guests to place sports bets.
The majority of guests at Topgolf are sports fans even though they don’t necessarily have to play sports or be golf fans to enjoy the Topgolf games. The low-pressure and upbeat environment helps make Topgolf games approachable for non-golfers. This same environment is an excellent way to recruit new sports bettors.
Topgolf has 59 physical locations in 27 states across the country. The only other state currently with legal sports betting and a Topgolf location is Pennsylvania. Topgolf Pittsburgh is currently without a sports betting partner. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see another similar sportsbook deal when Pennsylvania legalizes mobile sports betting.
The Showtime cable network announced a new docu-series set to debut March 24. It chronicles the lives and betting of several sports bettors, bookies, and oddsmakers throughout the 2018-19 NFL season.
The show, titled “Action,” has made some news this week not just as a spotlight on the industry, but for a controversial figure highlighted in the series.
The show follows players through the ups and downs of the season, culminating with Super Bowl Sunday. The network says the “character-driven narrative delivers intimate access to a diverse cross-section of authentic and sometimes garrulous subjects within the sports gaming community, documenting the effects of legalization through their prisms.”
“Action” plays out in four parts and explores the changing face of the industry since last May’s Supreme Court ruling.
“The world of sports gambling has fascinated Hollywood for decades, but never before has a documentary captured the essence of the industry at such a pivotal period,” Showtime Sports and Event Programming President Stephen Espinoza said. “Through the lens of industry professionals and real-life gamblers within every virtual layer of the business – both legal and illegal – ‘Action’ delivers a one-of-a-kind look as sports gambling enters a brave new world.”
Controversial figures and criticism
Almost immediately after plans for the new show were released, many in the sports betting industry reacted negatively to some of the figures involved.
One of those is David “Vegas Dave” Oancea, who pled guilty in federal court in January for charges involving using phony Social Security numbers at Las Vegas casinos in transactions of more than $1.2 million. Oancea initially faced 19 felonies, but ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge by admitting to causing violations of record keeping and procedures.
The fake Social Security numbers used by properties such as Wynn and Westgate, caused casinos to file false federal currency transaction reports. As part of his plea deal, Oancea also agreed to forfeit $550,000.
Oancea claims to have won millions of dollars and runs a tout service offering his picks with several packages available beginning at $199. On his Twitter feed, Oancea describes himself as the “No. 1 sports information consultant as seen on ESPN, Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, USA Today and Forbes.”
Others in the industry quickly accused the series of hyping bettors and handicappers involved with suspect tout services.
Ughhhhhhhhhhhh. Touts galore. Including the biggest con job of all: Plea Deal Vegas Dave. https://t.co/IecTmlR3t3
— Rufus Peabody (@RufusPeabody) February 13, 2019
Chronicling an industry
Producers are hoping viewers give the show a shot and note that there are other interesting characters featured in the show. Those include professional gambler Bill Krackomberger and sports handicapper Kelly Stewart. Krackomberger, a longtime Vegas handicapper, seems ready to distance himself a bit from the inclusion of “Vegas Dave” in the show.
“I can tell you I did not film a single scene with VD [Vegas Dave] nor was I even told who was even in the show (besides Kelly) until last week,” he noted Tuesday via Twitter. “Kelly and I had zero clue he was in this show until last week.”
“Action” becomes the latest in a growing number of media offerings and content related to sports betting as the industry grows at a rapid pace. An estimated $400-$500 billion is wagered annually on sports gambling in the U.S., and that is expected to grow. Beyond legal wagering, the show also delves into illegal wagering.
Along with professional gamblers, the show also features Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, sports broadcasting icon Brent Musburger, and comedian Cousin Sal. While some bettors and handicappers may not be pleased with publicizing some of the negative sides to sports wagering, producers are hoping viewers give the series a chance as they try to show a season from all angles.
“The chorus of human stories we present in ‘Action’ will resonate far beyond the world of sports and gambling,” director Luke Korem says. “This is a subculture that reflects to an extreme the risk, reward, and uncertainty we find in our everyday lives. I’m thrilled that Showtime is allowing us to capture these stories at such a unique moment in history.”
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.