Sports Gambling: No Longer Taboo

An inevitable yet substantial decision was made Monday when The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amatuer Sports Protection Act, a 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports gambling (with the exception of Nevada). 

States are now free to offer legalized sports betting, and states like New Jersey will be quick to capitalize on this new opportunity. This decision signifies a major shift in North American sports.

Cultural Shift in Sports Coverage

For years, sports leagues and their media partners turned a blind-eye to the existence of sports gambling. From Pete Rose, to Tim Donaghy, to Boston College’s point-shaving scandal in the late 70’s – there were undeniable negative undertones connecting gambling to the disintegrity of sports.

This is why Las Vegas was shunned decade-after-decade by major professional sports leagues. The link between the gambling hotbed of North America and a potential home team was a public relations headache leagues aimed to avoid.

Yet over the past few years, the tabooness of sports gambling has dwindled. ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt has arguably helped spark this change, as many of his late-night SportsCenter segments discuss over-unders, spreads, etc. While ESPN seems to struggle finding success in major time slots, they’ve had great success with Van Pelt’s late-night SportsCenter. 

Several other sports personalities, such as Fox’s Colin Cowherd and ESPN’s Chris “The Bear” Fallica, have helped normalize these conversations.

Leagues Embracing Gambling

All four of the major professional sports leagues have dramatically altered their stances on this subject in the past few years.

The NHL granted Las Vegas an expansion team – and, if you haven’t heard, they are doing pretty well. The NFL Owners voted 31-1 in favor of the relocation of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. NBA’s Commissioner Adam Silver has been preparing the league for legalized sports gambling for years.  

Are the leagues embracing gambling as an adherence to a cultural and consumer shift, or are they simply seeking another way to monetize their respective sports?

We’ll never know for sure, but it is fair to assume both options are fairly true.

Though they would have never admitted it, legal and illegal sports gambling undoubtedly drove a portion of their business for decades. It generates interest, which garners viewers, which creates ad revenue.

Now that this taboo is seemingly eradicated, league’s can formally and strategically reach a larger portion of their target audience.

Yet these leagues profiting from legalized sports gambling creates a few hurdles.

Casinos, States and Leagues: Who gets the money? 

An underlying reason behind the constant campaigning for the legalization of sports gambling by states like New Jersey revolve around the revenue they believe they can create. A staggering $4.8 Billion was wagered at Nevada sportsbooks in 2017 alone. While the revenue states could create won’t amount to vast percentages of their grand totals, it will still serve as a vital new revenue stream.

Sports leagues, especially the NBA, hope to utilize the legalization of sports gambling to create their own new revenue stream. Yet how big of a cut will the casinos and states give these sports leagues? This is where some potential drama could abound.

A New Jersey Senator claimed the leagues would receive no cut from their casinos this morning on ESPN’s Get Up. While I believe the leagues and their commissioners will eventually find a way to monetize from standardized gambling, one has to wonder if new regulations may keep traditional sports gambler away from new outlets of legalized gambling.

Much like the legalization of marijuana in some states across America, there’s a strong likelihood that the black-market, where millions of gamblers currently operate, will continue to thrive. There’s easy access and no regulations for these individuals to deal with their bookies and other resources. Why would they adhere to new regulations where they will probably be restricted – i.e. they can’t bet on amatuer sports (NCAA) – and have to payout additional fees so that states, casinos and leagues can all profit?

Many of these questions will be answered within the next few months as states attempt to put regulations in place for legalized sports betting before football season begins.

As for me, I probably won’t partake in any sports gambling. I once thought Doug Pederson was a bad hire, that Jameis Winston would be the next great quarterback, that DeShone Kizer would be the best quarterback in last year’s draft class… the list of horrible takes could go on forever. So I’ll elect to keep my money and watch others sweat over point-spreads.

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