Opinion: Hypocrisy Behind Sports Betting Rules

 

(Editor’s Note. Legalized gambling is an emotional issues for many Americans.  Evan Weiner offers an opinion in favor of legalized gambling on team sports events.  In these tough economic times, it is difficult to ignore the potential tax revenues available from an activity that flourishes legally offshore and illegally throughout the United States).

IT is not only Super Bowl Sunday in Indianapolis where the New York Giants and the New England Patriots vie for the National Football League’s biggest prize — the Vince Lombardi Trophy — but it is also expected to be a rather large “Super” betting day at legal sports books in Nevada.

The last time the Giants and Patriots hooked up in a Super Bowl was four years ago and bettors in Nevada plunked down a bit more than $92 million on that game, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The bettors were savvy: For only the second time in 16 years, according to the board, the football gamblers beat the house and casinos lost slightly more than $2.5 million.

But generally the house wins and Nevada Gaming Control Board records indicate that between the time the board began keeping records on Super Bowl betting in 1992 and 2011, the casinos were big winners in all but two years.

In 2001, when the Giants played Baltimore in the Super Bowl, the casinos had their best one-day outing, making a tad more than $11 million.

Part of that money ended up in Nevada state coffers.

In 2011, $87.5 million was wagered on the Green Bay-Pittsburgh game in Nevada’s 183 sports books. The casinos again made money.

Super Bowl betting revenues peaked in 2006 and have dropped about 8 percent since then. But Super Bowl Sunday remains a great day for the casinos.

This year’s Super Bowl will be closely watched by New Jersey residents for a couple of reasons. The home team is playing and New Jersey voters approved a sports book for Atlantic City casinos in the attempt to get more people to bet in local casinos.

But the will of the people may never be heard. While casinos in Nevada are taking action on the Giants-Patriots game, the “sports book” in Delaware casinos will not, even though Delaware has a variation of traditional football betting where a bettor can put money down on three or more games.

There is just one game on Sunday, the Super Bowl.

In 2009, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Football League effectively stopped the establishment of a sports book in Dover Downs and two other spots in Delaware by suing and winning a court battle.

Sports leagues have blocked sports betting in the United States by convincing politicians outside of Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon of the evils of betting. In 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act allowed just four states to have sports books. New Jersey actually would have been the fifth state if the Legislature passed a measure allowing a sports book because there was gambling in Atlantic City. But New Jersey lawmakers declined.

Last November, New Jersey residents said “Yes” to professional sports gambling in Atlantic City, but that was just the beginning of the process to offer action on sports. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch, has taken the next step and is ready to get legislation passed in the House of Representatives to make sure the people’s voice is heard on the issue. It figures to be a very steep uphill climb for Pallone.

Delaware picked up a couple million dollars in 2009 and 2010, but football parlay betting is not a big revenue producer. Oregon quit offering sports betting because the overseer of the lords of the college hardwood, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, threatened to not hold a men’s college championship basketball competition in the state. Montana has “fantasy” games, which hardly produce any prize money for participants or any meaningful revenue for the state.

Sports is not a sacred cow. It is a business and people bet on pro and college sports both legally and illegally. The whitewashing of pro football betting includes not saying anything officially about point spreads.

The point spread and the over-under betting has given football fans an interactive experience for decades, long before the term interactive was invented.

The NCAA men’s college basketball tournament is all about “brackets,” which really is a code word for betting. Politicians don’t want legalized betting on college games for integrity reasons. But there have been college basketball betting scandals without legal betting.

New Jersey and other states have been bleeding sports betting money since the inception of the Internet. If people want to bet, all they have to do is a search for off-shore betting parlors. A place like Sea Horses in Hamilton, Bermuda, will gladly establish a relationship with a bettor.

You can legally bet on NFL games in London or in Tallinn, Estonia. It seems rather silly that professional sports betting is limited, while all other types of betting are being legalized by state governments throughout the United States in search of additional revenue to close budget gaps.

There will be an awful lot of New Jersey money bet on the Giants-Patriots game on Sunday, both legally and illegally. It is time for Congress to stop being hypocritical and pass betting legislation that would allow Atlantic City sports books.

You either allow betting everywhere or you don’t.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy’s 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on “The Politics of Sports Business.” His book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available at bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.

 

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