There is a little, very-modern shopping mall adjacent to the “Old City” in the small, picturesque seaport town of Kotor, Montenegro. The mall looks like a miniature version of the super-shopping centers found across America. But, there is one significant difference in this Montenegro mall as opposed to any mall found in New Jersey, New York or Pennsylvania.
There is a kiosk area where you can bet on professional sports.
On June 6, sportske-kladionice was taking action for a variety of sports, including the National Hockey League (NHL) semi-final matchup of the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. There was also a line on the French Open and the New York-Indiana Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) game. There was 25 different football (soccer) matches, including a Friendly National Youth tournament, Italy versus Poland and Egypt against Montenegro. Soccer matches in Argentina, Austria, Finland, Singapore and nearby Serbia were also on the betting sheet.
The NBA Miami-San Antonio finals series was part of a section that featured basketball in Italy, Serbia, Spain and Turkey. You could also have placed a bet on handball, as two German Bundesliga matches were on the board.
For American tourists who happened to walk into the mall and saw the kiosk, “Football” was listed as soccer and the betting sheet was in English. Oddly enough, there is no action on Major League Baseball (MLB) games.
While New Jersey is in a courtroom battle with the NBA, MLB, NHL, National Football League (NFL) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) over legalized sports betting in the Garden State, you can legally bet on those leagues in other countries.
New Jersey residents have voted and want legalized sports gambling.
The owners of American sports don’t want it and have somehow convinced politicians of all stripes that sports betting will compromise the integrity of their product. The court battle will start later this month as well as the argument over that issue.
Of course, there is an assortment of questions as to whether the government should be involved in sports betting, and then there is the moral issue of gambling and people’s reaction to being able to put money up on sports events. Gambling is, after all, a tax. Although, people willingly pay that tax in Nevada on sports, and many states have had games of chance for decades with state lotteries.
Politicians have tapped into gambling money as a way to finance sports venues around the country.
Apparently, the people fighting the New Jersey initiative have no problem with places like sportske-kladionice.
According to the company’s website, the Serbia-based business is more than just sports betting.
“Bookmakers LOB established 1999 and operating under the doo Podgorica Lob company. During almost 14 years of work, we have been recognized among our clients as a trusted leader among the houses and games of chance. Apart from the usual organizes betting and live betting, dog racing, bingo and poker hold ’em casino with more than 150 devices, 30 and 12 geminata roulette. We are located in all major cities in Montenegro and we have over 50 branches.”
Betting on the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB and other American events is pretty easy outside of the American borders. In London, betting shops are easily found. In Hamilton, Bermuda, a dingy looking place hosts a sports book. In Naples, Italy, just go up the hill, a walk around, and you will find a betting parlor.
American sports contribute to the big business of legalized sports betting outside of the United States. In the United Kingdom and Australia, Bet365 streams sports events and the company’s logo is on the Stoke City’s football kit in the English Premiership. You also can wager on American sport contests with Bet365.
Genting Casinos, which operates the racino in Queens at Aqueduct Raceway, has a deal with Aston Villa in the Premiership. Manchester Union, arguably the most well-known name in sports globally has bwin, an online betting company, on the team’s jersey. Bwin just ended a relationship with another well-known football squad, Real Madrid.
William Hill, the UK betting company, will be the official betting partner of both the English and Scottish clubs in the 2014 World Cup.
Of course, all of this doesn’t mean anything to the barons of North American sports. They don’t want to weaken their brand names, and they feel that allowing states to run a gambling hall based on their product is too much and legalized sports betting would compromise the integrity of their product. It really doesn’t matter to the NHL that proceeds from the Alberta hockey lottery went to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers ownership for a while. When the NBA considered setting up shop in Toronto and Vancouver, the league went after provincial sports betting.
Yet, NBA Commissioner David Stern has a casino partner as an owner in the WNBA in Connecticut.
Federal lawmakers put an end to legalized sports gambling with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. The legislation allowed Nevada to have legalized sports betting along with Oregon, Montana and Delaware. But, those states could only offer what was on the books. In the 1970s, Delaware experimented with parlay betting on NFL games. When Delaware expanded into racinos, the state wanted to offer a full-sports book. The case went to court, and Delaware lost and ended up offering what the state had in the 1970s, parlay betting on NFL games.
Now, states are ready to take on the 1992 legislation with New Jersey as the lead dog, so to speak. The New Jersey case is getting some support as the attorney generals of four states – Virginia, Georgia, West Virginia and Kansas – filed joint amici curiae (“friends of the court”) briefs to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The attorney generals claim the states have no skin in the game in this fight, but there is that pesky equal sovereignty aspect and the fact that only four states can offer some form of sports book, while 46 states cannot, thanks to the federal government.
North American sports owners are exporting the product. MLB will open the season with games in Sydney, Australia. The NFL has two games scheduled in London. The NBA is a global entity, and while the NHL won’t be playing any regular season games in Europe in 2013, the league will be more than likely sending players to the Sochi Winter Olympics next February. They are exporting the product to countries that have legalized sports books.
There is no reason not to have legalized sports betting in the U.S. It happens anyway. Whether it is good or bad for people is another question. Casinos tend to offer the most regressive tax on people who are looking to strike it rich and its addictive. Sports leagues have marketing and sponsorship partnerships with casinos, and some sports owners own casinos.
New Jersey’s voters have also spoken. This seems to be another case of some political operatives telling the voters, “Look, you really don’t know what you have done here and we, the operatives, know better than you, the people.”
Evan Weiner can be reached at email@example.com . His e-book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available at www.bickley.comand Amazon.com and his e-books, America’s Passion: How a Coal Miner’s Game Became the NFL in the 20th Century, From Peach Baskets to Dance Halls and the Not-so-Stern NBA and the reissue of the 2005 book, The Business and Politics of Sports are available at www.smashwords.com, iTunes, nook, versent books, kobo, Sony reader and Diesel.