May 14, 2018, in Murphy vs National Collegiate Athletic Association, the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which banned commercial sports betting in most states, violated the 10thAmendment to the United States Constitution.
The Supreme Court majority argued the lawillegally empowered the federal government to order certain states to take specific actions to disallow sports gambling. In one opinion, the Supreme Court opened the biggest possible expansion of legalized betting in the US in years.
States are now set loose to pass laws allowing whatever sports betting seems most lucrative to them, and this is the real bottom line…states starting with New Jersey want their piece of an estimated $150 billion annual haul in illegal sports betting. By legalizing sports betting, or as proponents call it “regulating” sports betting, state legislatures get the chance to funnel funds to their own coffers. And no question there’s a lot of moola out there with legal and illegal sports wagering biggest per year with the run up to the Super Bowl and during March Madness.
So far, states are supposedly considering licensing a limited number of companies to offer sports betting, within a limited number of forums. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and Mississippi will all likely open sports betting in the next twelve to twenty-four months. At this point, maybe 20 states are considering sports betting. More will jump on the new gravy train – for the record, gambling has been legal in Nevada since 1931, so even Nevada gambling houses will benefit as gambling goes mainstream.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has been the most stalwart in its opposition to legalized sports wagering. “Our highest priorities in any conversation about sports wagering are maintaining the integrity of competition and student-athlete well-being,” said Mark Emmert, NCAA president. “Sports wagering can adversely impact student-athletes and undermine the games they play. We are committed to ensuring that laws and regulations promote a safe and fair environment for the nearly half a million students who play college athletics.” Well said, but what now?
Along with the NCAA, at least until recently, professional leagues—NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL—have also been wary of sports wagering. They rightly remember the 1919 Black Sox scandal in which eight Chicago White Sox players were accused of losing on purpose, i.e. fixing the outcome of, the World Series, so the Cincinnati Reds would win and the players would earn gambling payouts. The Black Sox Eight were all banned from professional baseball and the Hall of Fame, a forerunner of Cincinnati Reds major leagues hit leader Pete Rose’s sports betting and subsequent 1989 banishment for life from major league baseball and the Hall of Fame.
The NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL seemed to support upholding the 1992 PASPA, supposedly fearing for the integrity of their sports—a legitimate consideration—until the NBA and MLB waffled in the end. But this said, none of the professional leagues are really threatened financially by the ruling and may even gain from it.
And the MLB and NBA are open to legalized sports betting. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver became the first professional sports executive to suggest that sports betting should be legal. In November 2014, Silver wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times supporting sports wagering. MLB allows betting on Toronto Blue Jay games in Ontario. The NFL ignores betting on games played in London.
Fantasy sports sights have become a huge movement in the past five years. So far, fantasy sports are legally considered games of skill - not chance - if they can be won by successfully utilizing superior knowledge of the players involved. But pay-to-play sites take a piece of every payout, about $35 average per player per month.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 included “carve out” language that clarified the legality of fantasy sports. It was passed by Congress and signed into law on October 13, 2006. FanDuel and Draftkings the biggest online sites.
FanDuel, 2009, and DraftKings, 2012, used that carve-out to create daily online fantasy sports games with cash prizes sometimes as high as $2 million. In 2017, the two accounted for about 90 percent of the $320 million in revenue generated by fantasy sports. Question now is, will fantasy sports players switch to online sports betting sites sure to be developed in the wake of the Murphy vs. NCAA ruling?
Already the NBA and NHL invest in fantasy sports (gambling?) websites—The NBA partnered with FanDuel, while Major League Baseball and the NHL joined DraftKings.
Sports betting is like gambling kindergarten. It’s the easiest and quickest way for children and youth to begin gambling because it taps into athletics opportunities that are ubiquitous. Sports wagering, like most gambling, especially lotteries, tend to “tax” the poor rather than those with higher incomes, becoming a burden on already financially stressed families. And sports wagering robs the game, the sheer joy of competition, of its beauty, something sports has enjoyed back to the first Greek Olympics and before. People who get in deep, whether via fantasy sports sites or social gambling, testify to the change in their attitudes about the game, which goes from who is best and who wins to what has to happen for me to make good on my bet?
Most importantly, sports betting is a direct threat to the integrity of free and fair competition between individuals or teams on the court, course, field, pitch, or any other sports format. Without the sense that competition is indeed fair, played by the rules of good sportsmanship such that the best man or best woman or best team wins, sports becomes a charade, a silly act like professional wrestling. Sports becomes a joke.
And let no one believe that somehow athletes, coaches, umpires and referees today have somehow become morally stronger since the Black Sox. No one is above the overwhelming temptation money presents. Murphy vs. NCAA was ill-advised to say the least, and our culture and many families will pay the price.
Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2018
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