European Perspective: Legalized Gambling Part of Daily Life

Martin Green

Monday, May 14, 2018 4:31 PM UTC

Monday, May. 14, 2018 4:31 PM UTC

Brits always react with astonishment when they learn that sports betting is illegal across the vast majority of the United States.

To those of us on the "other" side of the Atlantic Ocean, legalized sports wagering is simply part of the fabric of our daily lives.

Every time you watch a big game on TV or fire up your laptop, you are bombarded with sports betting ads, and most people think nothing of it. Betting shops are located on practically every high street in the country, and you will typically go past several rival brands on your way to and from work. Brits think nothing of ducking into a bookmakers’ shop and chucking £20 on a horse race or a football match while waiting for a train.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act – which outlawed betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports – was seen as comparable to Prohibition, a bunch of Draconian madness and nanny statism that fueled a thriving black market, failed to address the problems it sought to tackle and punished responsible Americans. It was therefore unsurprising to see that Congress has seen sense, voted to strike down the PASPA and given states the go-ahead to legalize betting on sports.

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Live look at my bank account now that sports gambling is legal

— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) May 14, 2018

So, what can you expect when it is legalized? Well, for starters, a thriving industry that creates thousands of jobs and does wonders for states’ coffers. Denise Coates, the billionaire founder and boss of British gambling firm Bet365, paid herself £217 million ($295 million) last year as her company made a £525 million ($714 million) profit. The likes of William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral, Paddy Power, Betfair and Sky Bet – which was just taken over by PokerStars owner Stars Group, of Canada – are among the most successful business in the UK right now. Legalized U.S. firms have the potential to dwarf these bookmakers if sports betting is rolled out across the USA.

But for the average American, it will simply mean that sports betting will become extremely commonplace. In the UK, you go to a game, and when you get in the stadium you queue for a beer and snacks, and place a few bets with bookmakers located in the ground. Go into a bar and you will find little gaming machines. Virtual roulette is huge business in betting shops. And there is no need for any daily fantasy nonsense like Draft Kings. The real thing is 10 times more exciting.

There is no need for placing risky bets with offshore operators that delay payout and run the risk of being raided; you are paid out straight away. You don’t need to use Bitcoin for its anonymity; you can just use fiat currency and bet with impunity. Once legalized sports betting starts to mature, the operators will become increasingly sophisticated, offering all manner of exciting in-play betting options and prop bets. These are advertised to you in high-profile commercials while you are watching games on TV. Pick up a newspaper and you will find numerous sports betting ads. You simply cannot get away from it in the UK, as it is such big business.

Sports betting is the easiest thing to do, and it becomes second nature. It’s a brave new world. Welcome.

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