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Top 10 reasons to legalize sports betting

21 November 2016

Sports betting at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Sports betting at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. (photo by Tom Lianza)

Last month marked the 24th anniversary of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a bill that, according to the American Gaming Association, has done little but increase the number of illegal bets placed since its inception in 1992 and caused many a sports bettor heartache.

Since 2009, New Jersey has made attempts to legalize sports betting in the state by filing lawsuits claiming PASPA's unconstitutionality, proposing amendments to the New Jersey State Constitution and more. This month, five more states joined the battle. Attorneys General of Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wisconsin and New Jersey submitted a brief to the Supreme Court advocating for the repeal of PASPA.

Casino City is always willing to fight the good fight when it comes to reasonable, beneficial regulation. With that in mind, here are some of the top 10 reasons, as put forth by the American Gaming Association, as to why sports betting should be regulated and legalized.

10. PASPA created $150B illegal sports betting market
That's an estimated $150 billion annually, by the way.

According to the American Gaming Association, nearly 97% of the $4.2 billion bet on last year's Super Bowl were wagered illegally. Only $115 million was bet legally on the game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.

The U.S., along with China, is the largest illegal sports betting market in the world. A report from the International Center for Sport Security estimates that America lost around $1 billion in bets in the illegal market during 2011. Compared to China's estimated $1.3 billion lost that same year, it's not far off. Clearly, it's time for some reform.

Since PASPA's inception, trillions of dollars have been wagered illegally on sports betting. While you consider where that money could be going, let us point you to the next item on the list.

9. Tax revenue would benefit local communities
Currently, illegal bets made on sports are shuffled either underground or to the offshore industry mentioned above. Since these operators are avoiding taxes, none of the money has a chance to benefit local communities. Revenue from legal betting could potentially go toward to public safety and youth programs, neighborhood development and other forms of local aid, as is currently the case with casinos across the U.S.

8. Law enforcement leaders recommend repeal
The American Gaming Association's Illegal Gambling Advisory Board, composing of leaders from federal state and local levels, stated that the current handling of sports betting by the U.S. isn't working.

"The problem with the U.S. system is you don't know what you don't know," said Paul Scotney, Director of the U.K.-based Sports and Integrity Services, during the first-ever Law Enforcement Summit on illegal sports betting on 16 June 2016. Conversely, he said, in the U.K. "there is simply no demand for a black market" due to its transparent and legalized sports betting.

7. Regulation works in other places
As with the uncool kids in class being the last to pick up on a new trend, the U.S. doesn't seem to have realized that regulation actually works.

In countries like Australia, Ireland and the U.K., legal betting markets are appropriately regulated and match fixing is at an all-time low, thanks to access to betting evidence.

The bad news is that the U.S. is late to the party. The good news? Now that other countries have made mistakes, we can learn from them. They've done all the hard work for us. What we're left with is a pretty good idea of how sports betting can be effectively regulated.

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern (photo by Kevin Maloney)

6. Betting drives ratings
According to the AGA, more NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament brackets will be completed this year — over 70 million — than ballots have been cast for any presidential candidate, including during this year's election. This year, an impressive $9.2 billion was bet on the March Madness. Despite PASPA's ban, Americans continue to bet on sports, with no signs of slowing down.

A report from the AGA shows that adults who bet on NFL games watched 19 more of those games per season than adults who did zero betting. The game-bettors also drove up ratings by more than double across major broadcast and cable networks, which is significant since NFL ratings are down this season.

5. Strengthen the integrity of games
One of the risks of illegal sports betting is that games or matches can be easy to manipulate. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime noted in a report that "it is more difficult to investigate allegations of match fixing where betting is illegal" as a result of poor record-keeping. The report also states that Australia, Ireland and the U.K., places with robustly regulated betting markets, have had success righting the wrongs of match fixing.

Local law enforcement can more easily protect consumers under a regulated system that provides access to more information.

4. More viewers would bet on games if legalized
Were sports betting legalized, the number of NFL viewers who place bets would likely go from 40 million to 57 million, according to the AGA. The report goes on to show that sports bettors would grow from 25% of NFL viewership to 36% viewership. That's about 57 million additional viewers. Sports bettors also watch more frequently and are more likely to engage with matches on social media.

3. Sports betting and professional sports can coexist
The NHL recently made the decision to expand into Las Vegas. Pro sports leagues are behind the idea of legalizing sports betting, viewing it as the important component of viewership that it is.

AGA's President and CEO, Geoff Freeman, said as much in a statement: "The NHL's decision is the latest signal that professional sports leagues are increasingly comfortable with legal, regulated sports betting. It's time for a new approach to sports betting that eliminates the federal prohibition and recognizes what the NHL, NBA and others have acknowledged through the rise of daily fantasy sports: Today's fans are seeking greater engagement with the sports, teams and players they enjoy."

2. Protect the people
PASPA, though well-meaning, failed to consider more than one side of sports betting. Issues like problem gambling and match fixing have more or less gone unnoticed as a result of these pesky unregulated markets. Those who would fall prey to compulsive gambling and fraud may not know they're being fleeced. False operations can be difficult to detect, and it is precisely the lack of regulation that makes these sites flourish.

With that in mind, creating a legal framework for sports betting and taking those at risk under our wing only seems to make sense from where we're standing. Transparency is key — and illegal gambling markets don’t allow for it.

1. The people want change
Fans in any sphere want to engage with their hobby in a fun and modern way; sports are no exception.

AGA says 80% of football fans (that's American football, mind you) say it's time to change laws on sports betting.

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern publicly announced in 2015: "There should be federal legislation that says, 'Let's go all the way' and have betting on sports. It's OK. It's going to be properly regulated. . . . I think that gives a way for states to make more money, for leagues to be compensated for their intellectual property, and for the federal government to take [away] illegally bet money and put it through the federal coffers."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wrote in the New York Times in 2014, "I believe sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated."

Abby Messick

Abby served as an associate editor for the Casino City editorial team for three years, between 2015 and 2018.
Abby Messick
Abby served as an associate editor for the Casino City editorial team for three years, between 2015 and 2018.