MORE LEGAL SPORTS BETTING ON THE HORIZON?

The major professional sports leagues in the United States and the NCAA have long taken the position that sports betting on individual games, currently legal only in Nevada, could corrupt their sports, pointing to such cases in point as the infamous fix of the 1919 World Series and periodic point-shaving scandals in college basketball.  Never mind that a massive amount of verboten gambling goes on without government regulation or tax collection.

The Wall Street Journal (April 1-2, 2017) published an article on this subject, which I’ve excepted from.  The gist of the piece is that the professional sports leagues in the United States, with the possible exception of the NFL, are receptive to legalizing sports betting because of declining television ratings that impact their revenue streams from broadcast rights.  The leagues include the NBA, PGA, MLB, and Major League Soccer.  Even the NFL has softened its stance and is in the process of having the Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas.  The NCAA is the sole holdout that is adamantly opposed to legalizing sports betting.

The sports leagues see new sources of revenue from sports betting “through licensing deals and contracts for real-time sports data, which the leagues could sell to sports-book operators and other gambling sites.”  The NBA has already launched a fantasy game called NBA InPlay.

Moreover, sports betting encourages fan involvement.  According to the Journal, “Gamblers are more engaged with sports than casual fans.  A September Nielsen study conducted for the American Gaming Association found that bettors watch NFL games on average for 91 minutes, versus 79 minutes for nongamblers, and they watch about 35 games per season, compared with 16 for nonbettors.”

In 2014, New Jersey legalized sports betting at racetracks and casinos.  The NCAA sued to block the law and won at the federal district and appellate levels.  The Supreme Court is deciding whether to hear the case.  President Donald Trump went on record in 2015 as saying he is not opposed to sports betting because “it is happening anyway.”

The big commercial losers in legalized U. S. sports betting would be offshore operators who take in “tens of billions of dollars in bets from U. S. customers.”

The view here is that U. S. horse racing would gain more from legalized sports betting than it would lose.  For example, the most popular genre of sports betting in Europe is in-game betting using mobile technology, and horse racing is attractive for this kind of play.  In addition, sports bets could be crafted based on the outcomes of horse races.  Finally, illegal sports betting is pervasive in the United States, so legalizing it would only recognize what is already going on.

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