Online sports bettors were given a glimmer of hope twice in the last week that there could eventually be legal sports betting in their backyard; first with President Donald Trump's radio interview on Super Bowl Sunday, and second with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's recent comments at a Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York.
Federal Legislation Against National Sports Betting
In 1992, the U.S. Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which banned sports betting in America while grandfathering in four states — Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon — that had already offered some form of sports wagering. Only Nevada offers traditional straight up sports betting inside its casinos.
So unless living in Nevada or visiting Las Vegas, American bettors hoping to wager on games in the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL, the four major U.S. sports leagues, are out of luck. That’s why many turn to betting with online sportsbooks, an area for which Sportsbook Review serves as a betting industry watchdog.
Sports Commissioners & Their Stances on Sports Betting
NBA commissioner Adam Silver went on record with an op-ed column in the New York Times in favor of legalized sports betting in the USA. Silver is aware how much money flows offshore, how beneficial legalized and regulated gambling would be to his and other leagues, not to mention help cash-strapped states that have been trying to legalize sports betting. Nearly all states already offer lotteries and have some form of legal casinos but still no sports betting.
Silver had been on an island among the four major sports commissioners. The NFL and Roger Goodell remain against regulated gambling despite the league being aligned with daily fantasy sports leagues – which some American courts have called gambling. According to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, certain fantasy sports games may be excluded from the definition of gambling, because they do not require a "bet" or "wager."
The NHL’s Gary Bettman also has been anti-gambling, but the NHL will become the first U.S. sports league to have a team in Las Vegas, starting in the 2017-18 season. The NHL already has hired a monitor to watch for suspicious gambling activity, which can be an early warning of cheating in the sport.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred had been relatively neutral on the gambling issue but is considered much more progressive than his predecessor, Bud Selig. Baseball’s popularity also is lagging behind that of the NFL and NBA largely because of gambling reasons.
Manfred has been very aggressive in ways to improve his sport’s popularity and appeal to a younger demographic. This week, Manfred confirmed that he is re-thinking MLB’s long-held stance against gambling. “There is this buzz out there in terms of people feeling that there may be an opportunity here for additional legalized sports betting. Whether it's legalized here or not, it's happening out there.”
When fans bet on games, Manfred continued, it “can be a form of fan engagement, it can fuel the popularity of a sport. We all understand that.”
Major League Baseball has the summer months of June, July and August essentially all to itself, with no NFL, NBA or NHL regular-season games, and thus it would likely see a huge boost in popularity should gambling be legalized. The younger demographic that MLB is targeting has a short attention span in general, but betting on any game has proven to keep people more engaged.
It’s no coincidence that Manfred is re-examining his position with Donald Trump now in the White House. Trump is a former owner of Atlantic City casinos, has spoken previously about legalizing gambling and said on Super Bowl Sunday that he would be willing to sit down with the right parties and discuss the issue. Because Trump is a Republican and his party controls the House and Senate, a gambling bill likely would be passed if the president wanted it. Some of Trump’s cabinet appointments were highly controversial, but they squeaked through the confirmation process because of the Republican-controlled Congress.
However, one of the largest Republican donors in the United States is casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has a net worth around $30 billion. He is adamantly opposed to legalized online gambling because that would hurt his business. Adelson is influential enough to sway important party members.
Currently all four major U.S. sports leagues are plaintiffs in an ongoing New Jersey sports betting case, which would create an unregulated environment at the state level. Several states, including Mississippi, West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana and Wisconsin have joined New Jersey's effort.
New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved legalized sports betting in 2011, but a trial judge and, later, a federal appeals court ruled against the state. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether it will take up the states' challenge to a federal ban. Marijuana is banned federally as well but now legal recreationally in seven states and medically in 28.