Despite a federal ban, Nevada excluded, on sports gambling the numbers continue to grow and betting on Major League Baseball is becoming all the rage.
The average person associates sports gambling with football and that’s understandable as Super Bowl 51, featuring the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, took in an estimated $4.7 billion, which is up almost 11 percent from Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Now factor in March Madness and we have an additional $9.2 billion being wagered via offshore sportsbooks, office pools, and local bookmakers with only a fraction attributed to the legal sportsbooks in Nevada only.
In total, the American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates that $154 billion is being bet on sports throughout the year and the overwhelming amount of that money is wagered illegally. So why is something that is so widely practiced by Americans, illegal in the first place? Allow me to introduce you to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) which was initially created to protect the integrity of “the game”. This was a bad idea whose time should never have come but legislators know as much about sports gambling as a head of lettuce. However, this was pre-internet and the only thing that went viral in those days was meningitis. The average American didn’t bet on games and fantasy sports consisted of hot bikini-clad women wrestling in a tub of oil. Tablets were made out of stone and a mobile device was something old people wore when their bladders wore out. When Joe Q. Public wanted to make a bet on the Super Bowl he had to know a guy who knew a guy.
But times have indeed changed and so have the social mores concerning sports gambling. The internet exploded and now Americans are simply not content to merely watch a game but now wish to become invested in it. Patriarchal stands by league commissioners, like the one NFL czar Roger Goodell has taken against the purported evils of sports gambling, have become both absurd and ironic. Absurd of course, because the only fans watching the Cleveland Browns play the Jacksonville Jaguars on a Sunday afternoon hail from those areas, while the vast majority stays tuned solely due to their vested financial interest. And ironic because those same people who are watching the game because of their wagers spike the television ratings which turn into increased commercial revenue for the league. Oh, and now the NFL has awarded a franchise relocation from San Diego to, of all places - Las Vegas! It would be comical if it weren’t so insulting but when Roger digs in he burrows deep, right or wrong.
Big Betting on the Big Leagues
It used to be that sports gambling in the States consisted overwhelmingly of football and basketball with hockey as the province of our neighbors in the Great White North. America’s Pastime was almost an afterthought as baseball was marginalized as a sport with which to make a bet on and watch solely for the purpose of making a few bucks on a lazy summer afternoon or evening. But once again, times are changing and according to the AGA nearly $36.5 billion will be wagered on baseball this year and 97 percent of that pot will come from illegal betting. Americans will use offshore sportsbooks and local bookmakers while a mere pittance will be wagered legally in Nevada sportsbooks. Major League Baseball has not only become part of the sports gambling landscape but has etched itself as a major player. Almost 25 percent of all legal and illegal wagering will occur on the Boys of Summer which makes betting baseball not only big business but increasingly popular as a televised sport.
The time has clearly come for PASPA to be overturned and allow Americans to bet legally and not like criminals. The tax revenue generated by the legalization of sports gambling would be a boon to the economy and would allow consumer protections as an added value to those who are not educated about the difference between trusted offshore sportsbooks and those of the nefarious variety. Geoff Freeman, President and CEO of the AGA, said it best, “The amount wagered illegally on professional baseball is another sign the federal ban on sports betting has become an utter failure. It’s time for Washington to stop depriving states of critical tax revenue and allow them to reap the rewards of a regulated market.”