(Hamilton, Bermuda) — As New Jersey continues to figure out how to proceed with plans to implement sports betting, people stream in and out of a Hamilton, Bermuda sports betting store front under a theater on Queen Street called Sea Horses.
The betting parlor is small, crowded and busy with bettors enjoying their ability to bet on NFL contests along with Major League Baseball games, horse racing and many other sports.
Apparently the NFL, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association have no qualms about having Bermudans and others bet on their contests. It’s a far cry from when the organizations successfully blocked Delaware from rolling out a full sports betting operation at three racinos throughout the state and when it recently began fighting New Jersey to prevent it from opening a sports book in Atlantic City casinos.
The NFL betting at Sea Horses include a full slate of NFL pre-season games and something called “NFL Futures” that include betting on which teams will win the NFL’s eight divisions, the two conference winners and the Super Bowl.
The betting sheet includes an example. If an individual puts down $20 U.S. or Bermuda dollars on the Indianapolis Colts to win the NFC (apparently Sea Horses didn’t realize Indianapolis is in the American Football Conference) and the Chicago Bears to win the AFC (apparently the Sea Horses staff doesn’t know Chicago is in the National Football Conference), that individual will win a “whopping” $7,140.
The Sea Horses website is rather vague in terms of whether Americans can open up an offshore betting account:
“Seahorses Bookmakers Bermuda is the premier Off Track Betting establishment & Sportsbook in Bermuda. We are the only venue in Bermuda to offer live daily English and American satellite horse racing, featuring a complete live SIS English service and all the top U.S. tracks, such as Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, Belmont, Saratoga, Philadelphia Park and many more.
“We also offer a comprehensive Sportsbook, providing the most competitive odds on all international sports, featuring daily lines and futures on NFL, NBA, NHL, GOLF, RUGBY, CRICKET and ENGLISH SOCCER.”
That could be a deliberate action by the bookmaker as the U.S. government has gone after offshore betting groups in the past year in an effort to try to stop people from betting on sports. Sea Horses is a legitimate betting parlor, however, and it should be noted that “Sea Horses is a Bermudian owned business licensed by The Bermuda Government.”
During my travels this year, I have run across betting on American sports games in Naples, Italy (Eurobet) and in Kotor, Montenegro. Over the years, I have seen betting parlors that take action on American sports in London, England and Tallinn, Estonia.
There is a little very-modern shopping mall that is adjacent to the “Old City” in the small but picturesque seaport city of Kotor. The mall looks like a miniature version of the super-shopping centers that litter the American landscape from ocean to ocean and the Mexican to Canadian borders.
But there is one significant difference in this Montenegro mall as opposed to any mall in New Jersey or New York or Pennsylvania. There is a kiosk area where you can bet on professional sports. On June 6, 2013, sportske-kladionice was taking action for a variety of sports including the National Hockey League 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 game.
There were also 25 different football (soccer) matches including a Friendly National Youth tournament. Italy versus Poland and Egypt against Montenegro. But that was not all as soccer matches in Argentina, Austria, Finland, Singapore and nearby Serbia were 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 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 games.
While New Jersey is in a courtroom battle with the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association 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. 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 U.S. 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. New Jersey voters have reserved the decision and now it comes down to who knows what is best for the voters: not sports leagues who don’t want it, or a judge who may or may not want to legalize betting depending on his or her interpretation of American law, but the will of the people.
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.
Gambling is also addictive and has destroyed individuals and their families. Compulsive gamblers are willing to bet it all for a chance to win it all.
Politicians have tapped into gambling money as a way to finance sports venues around the country. Gambling monies are going to balance municipal budgets.
Apparently the people fighting the New Jersey initiative have no problems 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 [sic] 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 [sic] 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, the NHL, the NFL, Major League baseball and other American events is pretty easy outside of the American borders.
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 were also able to wager on American sports contests with Bet365 online but that may have been blocked by federal authorities.
The college football season has started and the National Football League kickoffs off the regular season this week.
Millions are going to bet on the games, yet there seems to be this idea that people shouldn’t be able to bet on games. Much of the popularity of football was built on the point spread and betting on a game’s outcome.
It’s time for the sports leagues (sports teams owners do support gambling in the form of fantasy leagues when it suits them) to stop interfering with the will of the people and let sports gambling proceed legally. After all, how much money have U.S. state governments and municipalities bet on sports by building venues and offering generous tax incentives and breaks to sports owners with the hopes of sports being an economic engine?
That government bet has failed in some many areas yet the owners always prevail. Governments should be able to recoup some of that money by making gambling on games legal.
Globally you can legally bet on the NFL. Only in Nevada and Delaware (in parlay betting at Delaware’s three racetracks) can you put money on games. Time to change that.
Evan Weiner, the United States Sports Academy’s 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award winner, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has written several e-books on sports, including, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition,” which is available at www.bickley.com and Amazon.com.