Most of the news in 2018, if you went back in time and told someone about it 25 years ago, would elicit the reaction that you’re not only lying, but probably ought to be institutionalized because you’ve gone off the rails mentally.
Then there’s “Donald Trump is president and sports gambling is about to be legal.”
Sure, Trump actually being president would have been pretty out there as an idea in 1993, but you could’ve seen the logical path where the guy with his name on all the Atlantic City casinos became a politician. Maybe more widespread gambling was one of his campaign platforms, as a way for the government to generate revenue.
Of course, that is not at all what happened. Instead, it was the Supreme Court striking down a law that Congress had passed 25 years ago, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, on the grounds that it violated New Jersey’s 10th Amendment rights.
While we know that there will be wagering in the Garden State, maybe not as soon as May 28, as was the original plan, but soon enough, once everyone figures out the details of how it will work. Other states are sure to follow suit.
As that happens, it’s going to be – and here’s something that will not be shocking in 2018 – a complicated mess. A federal law being tossed on 10th amendment grounds means that the following step is for states to set up their own systems to deal with an issue, and unless Congress can get together on a constitutionally-acceptable framework for some kind of sports betting regulation, there will be a wide range of possibilities for what can happen from state to state, from no betting at all to a full slate of available wagers, including ones made during games already being played. It will all have to be in-state, too, because once you get into interstate commerce, the Constitution is pretty clear on that being something Congress has to regulate.
Because different states will deal with gambling in different ways, most of the explainer pieces written this week aren’t worth the paper they aren’t printed on.
Here’s what you need to know from a statement released by Sportradar, a “sports betting and integrity services” company whose clients include the NBA, NFL, and NHL. In it, the company’s deputy president for the U.S., Dr. Laila Mintas, included some predictions, including…
“Initially, the sports betting market will be chaotic in terms of everyone settling in post-decision and determining go-forward plans.”
“It is likely that every state’s approach to regulation will be different to some degree; resulting in a complex marketplace and a need for clear strategic decisions and counsel.”
“Big media companies will likely enter the marketplace and become bookmakers or simply add turn key solutions to their current offerings as they have the existing customer base and access to those consumers’ wallets.”
Having gone over those first two, think a bit more about the third one. Betting on sports in the United States is not just going to be about going to a horse track that’s now equipped to let you throw down money on the NBA. It’s going to be, like everything else, on all of your devices. By the time everything is sorted out, assuming that Congress does not come back with a betting ban that is actually constitutional, gambling is going to be everywhere.
If you’re a fan of English soccer, you already know this. Swansea, Stoke City, and West Bromwich Albion all have just been relegated from the Premier League to the Sky Bet Championship, the second-tier league whose games are televised in England on Sky Sports, a channel available on, among other services, Sky UK satellite, which of course is a subsidiary of the Rupert Murdoch-founded Sky PLC. Sky Bet, though, is no longer owned by Sky, as Sky sold 80% of its betting wing to private equity firm CVC in 2015, then last month The Stars Group bought the whole kit-n-kaboodle for 3.4 billion quid.
The whole thing in the United States may not wind up being so direct, but there is no reason for the website where you now play fantasy football not to be the place where you wind up placing your actual bets, and it’s not like Yahoo, ESPN, and CBS don’t already have pick ‘em games set up – all they have to do is monetize it. Then there are all the legitimate bookies overseas who have wanted a piece of the U.S. market for years and just need to extend existing betting systems into this country. Then there are the leagues themselves, who can claim that if they’re not going to get the “integrity fees” that they’re trying to extort from state governments, they can at least get in on some of the action themselves, contracting out the back end while cashing in as they lend an air of legitimacy to the whole operation.
Everyone who has the ability should be rushing in, because as uncertain as the future is in this new world of sports gambling, there is one certainty that never changes: the house always wins. The race is on to be the house.