Everyone is talking about legalizing online gambling, particularly sports betting. Those for it claim the benefits of increased revenue, more jobs and a stimulus to flagging economies. The nay-sayers cite social problems like addictive and underage gambling. An aspect not as much touched upon is the benefits that will accrue to the sports themselves as a result of a legalized sports betting regime.

Benefits Of Legal Sports Betting
(Photo: Washington Times)

It’s coming ready or not

Legalized sports betting refers to bringing the activity under the jurisdiction and control of an authority empowered by the American nation or a state thereof. As such, the gambling industry in US is currently booming, if you like a mix of slots and sports betting you should check out the many sites popping up, providing games of chance. These gambling and sports betting sites are reputed, but are licensed and regulated at offshore jurisdictions. The benefits therefore do not accrue to the American state.

Milestone Events in Sports Betting in America

  • In 1992 the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) outlawed
    sports betting nationwide, excluding a few states.
  •  Around 2013, following a Department of Justice opinion on The Wire Act, a few
    states like Nevada and New Jersey legalized intra-state online gambling and
    established a regulated mechanism.

Benefits of Legal Sports Betting

There are several ways in which sports themselves can benefit from the legalization of sports betting. Some of the more important reasons are discusses below.

Integrity

Integrity in sports refers in one aspect to the issue of sports persons intentionally performing below par for the sake of monetary inducement through betting or otherwise. Over the decades there have been several cases where the guilt of players has been established.

  • In 1998, four North-western University football players were indicted for lying to a federal grand jury when they testified they had not placed wagers on their own games in 1994. 
  • In May 2009 a federal grand jury in Detroit indicted six former University of Toledo athletes on charges of conspiracy to commit sports bribery. 

Sports betting is rampant in the United States, as it is everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, a significantly large volume is channeled through underground agencies that are completely unregulated. There are no records available on who has bet how much on what event. This makes it extremely difficult for authorities to investigate allegations of match fixing. 

A legal framework for sports betting under state regulation would help in the following manner.

  • Once such a mechanism is available, public at large would shift to it from the unregulated options. Punters would be protected by the law in case the bookmaker played foul. 
  • As a result of this shift, the illegally functioning unregulated operators would lose business and become unviable.
  • The licensed and regulated betting shops and sites would have to maintain records that would reveal unnatural betting patterns and help the investigators connect suspected sporting actions with such patterns.

Sponsorship Money

Providing sports betting services is a massive, growing and profitable business. It is highly competitive as well. In the United Kingdom, where sports betting is legal and regulated the gambling companies have hefty advertising budgets. These have reportedly grown by 50% in the last three years. Sponsorship of sports is also set to take of vertically. Already, major horse racing festivals are sponsored by online betting sites. The Guardian ran an article a few months back that stated more than half the Premiere League clubs will have gambling sponsors for the 2019-20 season. 

So much funds coming directly to the teams or venues can only be good for sports, because present financing is not enough.

  • University of Connecticut reported a more than $40 million athletics deficit in 2018.
  • In 2018 Washington State University Vice President Stacy Pearson complained, “The entire University has to work to reduce this deficit, and it can’t be done if Athletics continues to spend millions into deficit each year.”

Big sponsorship money will come in only if USA legalizes sports betting federally and not piece-wise in a few states. Mechanisms can be created to channel the funds where they are most needed like colleges and arenas. 

Increased Viewership

Consider this fact cited in a recent Nielsen study: “The average NFL fan who is a non-bettor watches about 15-16 games a year. The average NFL fan who is a bettor watches 45-50 games a year.” This simply quantifies a common sense conclusion. Americans that are not currently much interested in sports are likely to follow sporting events more once they get interested in sports betting. 

Punters do not randomly select bets on which to wager. Once you are caught in the intricacies of the activity you will start checking out statistics of past games, assessing current form and get fully involved in the latest happenings on and off the field. Punters not only watch the actual games but also the plethora of programs in which experts analyse past performances and make predictions.

Live betting or in-play betting is one of the most exciting forms of sports betting. Odds are posted on events that unfold as the game is in progress. It could be who will score the next basket, or who will be next in the penalty box or how many runs will be scored off the next ball. In order to place wagers on live betting you have to be watching the game. 

It is clear that legalization of sports betting will increase viewership. This will benefit sports in a number of ways.

  • With the increase in TRPs, the ad revenues will go up and sports event organizers will get more money for telecasting rights. We have already seen earlier, how the increase in funding will benefit sports.
  • The increase in viewing will also lead to a reduction in the cost of viewing. Channels with telecasting rights on sporting events will be able to reduce their charges. This will create a multiplier effect and again increase viewership.

Direct Fees

In some of the proposals under consideration for legalization of sports betting there is a provision for a fee of 1% of the betting revenue to be paid to the association that manages the sport. This may not eventually go through, but it seems to be on the table.

What is to Come?

It is clear that legalization of sports betting in America will not happen in the next few months, maybe not even in a year.

  • There is still stiff opposition from certain influential quarters.
  • The legislators have issues of higher priority to deal with.

But the trend of the opinion is unmistakably favorable.

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