Betting laws and US sports

Sports betting is a multibillion-dollar business. But it was rare in the US until recently. Read on to find out about the relationship between sport and gambling

  (photo credit: PR)
(photo credit: PR)

How Changes in Betting Laws Have Changed US Sport

Figure 1 Betting on American football is now legal in many states

Up until 2018 most people in the US were unable to bet on sports events. In a land that is home to the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Stanley Cup, even the biggest fan would be unable to legally place a bet on his or her team to win.

That is not to say that people all over the country didn’t bet illegally. But, until the Supreme Court overturned a federal statute that for 26 years had restricted sports betting, very few people outside Las Vegas ever had the opportunity to partake in legal online sports betting.

But that Professional and Amateur Sports Act (PASPA) ruling changed everything. Now individual states could decide whether they wanted to allow legal betting. There are different regulation levels across the US now, but around half the population live in a place where they can bet on their local team.

Why Did Betting Laws Change?

PASPA arrived in 1992 to protect the integrity of sport and also take away the option of betting for the majority of the population. Only four states were exempt and leagues such as the NFL actively discouraged sports betting and made sure that everyone knew how distanced it was from gambling of any kind.

But the leagues and the sports associations knew that sports betting had continued illegally. The argument was that by legalizing betting, the criminality surrounding the underground industry would disappear, there would be huge amounts of money raised in taxes, and that a fully regulated gambling industry would be the best way to deal with something that was always going to happen anyway.

What Has Changed?

The regulations are being eased all over the country, with more and more states taking a look at their sports betting laws and seeing how they can change. Some states, such as New Jersey, were very quick to see how betting could prosper after the Supreme Court’s decision. But others are still formulating a way of selling the concept to citizens that have always been told that betting is illegal.

There are different levels to what is now allowed across the US. Some states will allow online betting, but not by mobile device – and some still require a bet to be made in person at a fully regulated and licensed premises. There is a long way to go until sports betting in America looks like it does in much of Europe, but it is the leagues themselves that are driving the conversation a lot of the time.

Figure 2 Mobile betting is big business in Europe - and will be in the States too

Betting and the Major Leagues

In scenes similar to the fantasy sports explosion of around five years ago, bookmakers and sports betting companies are suddenly springing up everywhere. Established companies from Europe are breaking into this hitherto untapped market and making sure that their presence is noted.

There has been a huge increase in television advertising in the last two or three years and individual sportsbooks and bookmakers have brokered deals with leagues and teams to have a presence inside stadiums. This all depends on where the teams are located, of course. The Green Bay Packers probably won’t be allowing betting firms at Lambeau Field any time soon, as Wisconsin has failed to change any of its betting laws.

The Future of Sports Betting in the US

It is likely that we will see more betting involved with sports in the US. Experts believe that the models from the UK and Australia will be followed, allowing more betting involvement and sponsorship into the major leagues. There has been some kickback in recent years, with soccer in the UK especially, but that may take a little longer to reach the US.

There are already links between broadcasters and betting companies, with the latest odds being shown on screen during live games – and that kind of cross-promotion is surely only to increase.

When a majority of the country is fine with betting converging with sports, it is unlikely that things will ever go back to the way they were. It seems to be sport authorities in the US have now understood that they should at least have a say on such a huge money making industry.

This article was written in cooperation with Dan Roberts