Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Will America Ever Follow Europe's Lead in Allowing Gambling?

Americans have always loved to wager on sports. With over $450 billion invested in gambling illegally here in the United Sates but $3.9 billion collected via Nevada Sports Books, it's clear gambling permeates every aspect of our culture and money is being left on the table as far as generating incremental tax revenue for states and the Federal Government.

Unfortunately, we may be victims of puritanical legislators and our own social mores. Regardless, there has been no change in the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (created in 1992), which restricts where betting can occur and which types of events can be covered.

Today, Nevada is the only state with a large betting market. Although other states, including Delaware, Oregon and Montana now allow betting on specific events like NFL games, but no other league games including the NBA, NHL or MLB.

New Jersey is at the Forefront of the Fight to Legalize Wagering on Sports

New Jersey is presently challenging the PASPA including legislation in Federal court in an attempt to stave off the continued collapse of Atlantic City. But Atlantic City is crumbling quickly and it has made little dent in Nevada's dominant position as the only tangible outlet for gamblers here in the U.S. And all major sports leagues in the U.S. are fighting New Jersey's efforts, including the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.

The Justice Department seems to vacillate between allowing some handful of online casinos in America and blocking others. Today, Nevada is the only state with a large betting market.

Although other states, including Delaware, Oregon and Montana now allow betting on specific events like NFL games, but no other leagues, including the NBA. Despite this, dozens of sports betting sites like SportsBetting and BetUSA are open for US bettors and pay taxes on their earnings outside of the United States.

The NBA May be Softening its Position

The NBA appears to be at least softening its position on betting. Since it's inception as an organized league the NBA has held the position that legal betting would threaten and destroy the integrity of the league by encouraging price fixing and/or "spot" fixing.

But, the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has voiced groundbreaking almost "positive" about Sports Betting in the U.S. its at least potential relationship with the league.

The former commissioner David Stern was vehemently apposed to any legalized gambling and accused the state of New Jersey of trying to manipulate public opinion and ignoring gambling's potential negative impact on the integrity of the NBA.

But, the NBA, like other professional sports leagues is waking up to the realization that legalized gambling, especially like what is allowed in the UK, may not have as "negative' an impact on the league as what is anticipated at present.

  • First, that legal betting is no more likely to increase the level of illegal activities than what may or may not be occurring now.

  • Second, that gambling does in many cases have a positive impact on the interest in the league and any/all sports activities in general and that the league could possibly generate significant income by embracing legalized gambling in some form.

The NBA seems to recognizes today's smartphone in hand consumers are in some cases now streaming games on their phones, talking/texting with other about games and these "invested" consumers will pay much more attention to games where the outcome drives some vested financial interest.

The NFL and Roger Goodell Still Vehemently Opposed to Gambling in any Shape, Fashion or Form

As for the National Football League, the scenario is not as positive. It's driven by tradition and the Commissioner, Roger Goodell's position that gambling of any type will have a negative impact on the NFL. The league poured a great deal of resources into backing the original PASPA legislation in 1992 and it's stubbornly clinging to its adversarial position to gambling.

The NFL is in fact a "victim" of its own popularity. It does not weigh or seem to care that billions are wagered on the Super Bowl and league games. Goodell is continuing to use the NFL's popularity to wage a PR battle against legalization and has made it clear he sees no positive correlations with the league and legalized gambling of any type.

It may take a leadership change at the top of the NFL (Goodell) to really move the ball forward on legalized gambling here in the U.S. Goodell is not popular with players within the league or many fans.

He is perceived as an "old school" traditionalist with feet of clay and it may take the election of a much younger "digital savvy" commissioner to really move the NFL and legalized gambling forward here in the U.S.

The NFL is only part of the picture - each league has it's own perspective and the states and Federal Government all have unique positions, driven in part by a constantly shifting cast of legislators with their own vested interests.

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