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The robed giants of the United States Supreme Court leapt headfirst into the 21st century first thing on Monday morning when the justicesthat wiped out the federal ban on sports gambling. In other words: betting on sports is now legal, sort of.
The floodgates are certainly open for states to begin profiting from the legalization of sports betting; the various sports entities moving around chess pieces over the last few months and years should have been an indication about what was coming down the pipe. Many of these leagues did lip service towards battling the legalization of gambling, but they know the reality is it will further line their already plush coffers and create a spike of interest for even the biggest of sports leagues. (Looking at you, NFL.)
So let's run through some questions you might have about this ruling from the fan/bettor's perspective.
Why was sports betting illegal?
Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed back in 1992, making it illegal on a nationwide basis to gamble on sports. Las Vegas/Nevada was given an exemption. In other words, the federal government passed a blanket ruling that made it illegal to bet on sports anywhere but in Nevada. That ruling has been overturned.
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What did the Supreme Court decide exactly?
It's funny, but the Supreme Court doesn't care about betting on sports. What it cares about is the federal government sticking its nose in a state issue.
"The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own," the court wrote in its opinion. "Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not."
But the end result is, as American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement, a "victory" for anyone who wants to legally bet on sports. And there are a lot of them.
"Today's decision is a victory for the millions of Americans who seek to bet on sports in a safe and regulated manner," Freeman said. "Today's ruling makes it possible for states and sovereign tribal nations to give Americans what they want: an open, transparent, and responsible market for sports betting. Through smart, efficient regulation this new market will protect consumers, preserve the integrity of the games we love, empower law enforcement to fight illegal gambling, and generate new revenue for states, sporting bodies, broadcasters and many others.
"The AGA stands ready to work with all stakeholders – states, tribes, sports leagues, and law enforcement – to create a new regulatory environment that capitalizes on this opportunity to engage fans and boost local economies."
Can I now bet on sports?
Now hold on there a second, professor. You can still fly out to Vegas and bet on sports. And soon you can fly/drive/walk to New Jersey and bet on sports. But you can't just start throwing down cold, hard cash on a sporting event because of this ruling. It's still a state-by-state situation and the timing of how this plays out in each of those legislative arenas still remains TBD.
When you deal with politicians, you're inherently dealing with regulators and/or fans of regulation and with the money involved here, there will be plenty of regulations in place.
What happens to my, um, friend's local bookie?
Nothing in the immediate future, probably. It probably depends on where you are. If you have a local guy in New Jersey, it is entirely likely that said local guy will be in the crosshairs of authorities as they attempt to make all sports wagering legal. Previously bookies were just operating against the law, now they will be operating in direct competition with the financial interests of the state they are in, depending on the legality of said state. Which one do you think will draw more interest from the authorities?
But in many cases it will take some time -- multiple years -- before a state is really interested in cracking down on these situations. For now expect it to continue on unabated. Over time the opportunity to gamble legally and with easy regulation will probably greatly reduce the number of guys who take bets though.
To any bookie I may or may not have had financial dealings with over the years, let’s not worry about what tomorrow holds for our relationship, let’s just cherish the moments we have together now.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) May 14, 2018
Where will it be legal first?
New Jersey, the state who sued the leagues and took the case to the Supreme Court (thanks Chris Christie) and won.
A great day for the rights of states and their people to make their own decisions. New Jersey citizens wanted sports gambling and the federal Gov't had no right to tell them no. The Supreme Court agrees with us today. I am proud to have fought for the rights of the people of NJ.— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) May 14, 2018
Delaware should be up as soon as Jersey if not right after. They've long been considered next on deck.
Per Ryan Rodenberg of ESPN, Connecticut, Iowa, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have all enacted legislation or put legislation in place to get things going. It won't be long before sports betting is legal in these states. You think a bar where it's legal to bet on sports would be popular in New York City in the middle of March Madness?
Additionally, another 12 states -- California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina -- have something percolating to try and get in the mix on sports betting.
Oregon and Montana are sleepers to dive into the mix.
Essentially, we should see an additional five states flip the switch very quickly. Other states will move slowly on this, particularly in the Bible Belt. It's apples and oranges, but look at the speed with which marijuana legalization has changed. It's been stop/go and even with some states printing cash, others have been hesitant to dive in on it.
Utah, where they don't allow music, is probably out of luck in the immediate and long-term future on this, because, like at Bushwood, gambling is illegal.
How will I be able to bet on sports?
First up for the fine people of New Jersey will be a shiny new beacon to sports gambling at Monmouth Park, owned by William Hill. The bookmarker issued a statement immediately following the ruling saying it's ready for business "as soon as responsibly possible."
Read: ummmm, how about right now?
"We are excited, not just for ourselves, but for sports fans across the country. We've been working towards this day for a long time and take great satisfaction in the Supreme Court's decision," Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill said. "Just as we have with our 100+ locations in Nevada, we look forward to working to make legal and regulated sports betting a big winner for consumers, state governments and all interested parties across the country. If we do this the right way, the only losers will be the illegal bookies that have been operating a massive black market.
"We're going to get ready to open for business at Monmouth Park as soon as responsibly possible."
Clearly there will be some time to get things going, but as soon as New Jersey kicks the party off, you can bet there. It could be as soon as a couple of weeks.
Next stop will be more localized options. Maybe you won't be at WaWa banging on an NFL-licensed kiosk that allows you to bet on the first half over/under in the Giants game, but if it's legal to sell sunglasses at mid-mall kiosks and they sell them there, you can bet that someone will try to set up an opportunity for you to wager on sports there too.
Additionally, mobile devices will come into play; it's not difficult at all to set up a situation where you have to be within a certain geographical range in order to place a wager. Daily fantasy apps like DraftKings and FanDuel already do this.
At some point, you will probably be able to go to a sports book/bar and sit down to watch a game with friends and be able to bet on a game, just like in Vegas.
It's legal, it's just a matter of seeing how the regulation shakes out on a state-by-state basis. Think about it like this: it's 2018 and North Carolina and South Carolina have different laws on what fireworks you're allowed to sell and purchase. It's going to fall on the leadership of each individual state to decide what is and what is not legal in this realm. Conservative states will take a backseat and allow things to play out before plunging into the waters, while more aggressive states will jam their foot in the water and test out the revenue stream.
Are the sports leagues on board with this?
Kind of. The four major leagues -- NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL -- all fought the state of New Jersey over this and were acting in typical sports-league fashion, pointing out that the integrity of the game is before everything, etc., etc., yada yada yada. But now that the Supreme Court ruled the way it did, expect these sports leagues to do whatever is necessary to get their cut of the action, I MEAN, protect the integrity of the game.
All the major leagues have pointed out they want an "integrity fee" of some kind, essentially claiming the cost of protecting the sport from corruption will rise with the legalization of gambling and they should profit as a result. That's a big old pile of malarkey: nothing should change that much, since people were already capable of betting huge sums of money on sports in Las Vegas. But the amount being wagered on the games will go way up, which means the NFL wants to get its cut. (Also, who's more likely to try and influence the outcome of a game, someone with an illegal cut of the action, or someone betting a big sum legally. Come on, guys.)
Here's what NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported from the NFL side of things on NFL.com:
Maintaining the integrity of the game will be of the highest priority for the league, per Rapoport, but the NFL is unlikely to rush toward the biggest pot of dollars. It's much more likely the league will think about how this will play out over the next 10 or 20 years, rather than immediate.
That falls right in line with the NFL's long-held belief that it doesn't need to worry about making money. If our CMS would let me insert an eyeroll emoji right here, I would do it.
I would fully expect the sports leagues to take a longform approach to this though. At some point, it would not be surprising at all if the NFL or NBA or MLB created its own gambling app, serving as the "house" and taking wagers from fans/customers/patrons/whatever.
That won't likely happen right now, because it's just not legal in enough states to warrant the move. But would you feel any better or worse betting against the league itself -- or a differently-named LLC owned by the league -- about the outcome of a game than you would betting against a sports book in Vegas? The NBA isn't going to fix an outcome of a game to try and win wagers against various individuals, and the whole point of being the house is you rake in cash by charging juice.
Let's say you go to a Jets-Patriots game in the year 2025 and gambling is legal and the NFL has its own app for you bet on sports. You deposit $250 and sprinkle it around on a bunch of different things. $25 on the first score being a Jets touchdown. $25 on the over for Tom Brady (yes, he's still playing at the age of 48 in this scenario) passing yards at 325.5. $25 on the Jets to cover the first quarter. All of this makes the gameday experience more exciting, which brings more fans to games, etc. It's a massive revenue opportunity.
A bunch of billionaires are going to figure out the way to maximize the profits, you can guarantee.
I live in a legalized state, where should I be getting my gambling advice?
Friendly reminder that CBS Sports HQ gives you great wagering content every single day, including the 5pm ET show I anchor.— Nick Kostos (@TheKostos) May 14, 2018
Seriously: if you want to gamble you should be checking those things out. Use promo code "TOUCHDOWN" and you can get your first month of SportsLine for a buck, courtesy of the Pick Six Podcast. CBS Sports HQ is just free 24/7 OTT content. You should be binging on it before you go to your local sportsbook.