Betting on the Bulls in number 23’s house By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports September 13, 2020 at 8:27 pm Basketball legend Michael Jordan has been in the news recently, you might have heard. It started in April, with the premiere of the first episode of a documentary on his basketball career, The Last Dance. Jordan played basketball for the Chicago Bulls in the 1980s and 90s and, as any sports fan knows, wore jersey number 23, except for a brief period just after his return in 1995 when he wore 45. He was always more popular than virtually any other athlete of his time. His name and his smile sold shoes, Gatorade, hamburgers, cars, and breakfast cereals. Jordan apparently has not lost his charm; the documentary was in 10 parts and each episode averaged 6.5 million viewers. The second Jordan storyline came earlier this month when an agreement between Jordan and DraftKings was announced. Jordan is to be a special advisor to DraftKings’ board of directors and has an unspecified equity position with the company. The deal is a sign of our times and the changes taking place in the sports betting landscape. DraftKings” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by World Poker Tour Keeping up with developments in sports betting of late has become difficult, to put it mildly. Before the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) on May 14, 2018, legal sports betting in this country was confined to Nevada; gambling online through offshore bookies was at least two decades old by then, of course, but it was not really an option for the average sports fan, and it was absolutely not an option for the media, advertisers, or organized sports leagues. The PASPA repeal was a watershed moment in the history of gambling. It opened the door for possibly the most dramatic shift in attitude that the gaming industry has ever seen. All of a sudden, gambling – at least sports gambling – is acceptable to both do and discuss in public. Previous expansions of gaming have always been loudly met with objections to the fact of gambling itself. In the debates years ago on possible legalization, gambling was described as a destroyer of lives, an activity that increased crime, poverty, and divorce. It was only when a state desperately needed the tax revenues, jobs, and economic activity that gaming could provide that legalization became a real possibility. The expansion of casino gaming from just Nevada and New Jersey that began in 1988 has resulted in commercial casinos in 23 states and Indian casinos in 30 states, but it took a long time. Contrast that with the fact that, in just over two years since the PASPA repeal, sports betting is now either legal or pending in 22 states and the District of Columbia. And the debates surrounding sports betting are quite different than those around the expansion of casino gaming, as well. In casino gaming, setting limits on gambling was always an overriding principle. Time was rarely important to the lawmakers; Massachusetts took 8 years to get three casinos open, and one license is still in limbo. It sometimes seemed as if lawmakers and regulators took pleasure in making it difficult to build and operate a casino. By contrast, time is a key element in the discussions over sports betting, not restrictions. All the parties involved are in a hurry to get up and running. Limitations, restrictions, and roadblocks have been kept to a minimum. Bookies are not characterized as mobsters bent on defrauding the public, and the act of making a wager is portrayed as merely an expression of enthusiasm and loyalty for a sport, team, or player, not a moral flaw. Of course, sports betting is benefitting from the expansion of casinos. The plethora of casinos, and their cultural normalization, has helped to change attitudes toward gaming, making it easier for sports wagering to find acceptance. Sports betting also benefits from acceptance by the public and lawmakers about using gaming as a source of public revenues. There is another major difference between casino gaming and sports betting: the number of constituents. In casino gambling, there are only a few interested parties – casino companies, lawmakers, regulators, and opponents. Sports betting has many more interested and participating parties. A partial list thereof includes casinos, bookmakers, sports leagues, sports media, the teams themselves, and the hybrid companies formed to take advantage of the opportunities. DraftKings is an example of those opportunistic hybrid companies. DraftKings began as a means to take advantage of fantasy sports and the internet. The company ran up against a legal brick wall after a legal brick wall until the Supreme Court handed it a new chance. Now as sports betting spreads, DraftKings is a major player. It is, however, far from the only player. The major casino companies have a presence, as well, sometimes by themselves and sometimes in partnership with a betting company, such as the agreement between William Hill and Caesars. In some states, betting companies can get a license and take bets, but in most states, they have to have a bricks-and-mortar casino license to do so. Thus DraftKings, FanDuel, William Hill, and others are eager to sign deals with casino licensees. The betting and casino companies are forming other partnerships as well, with media companies, sports leagues, sports teams – even, recently, with universities. The leagues have gone from being vocal, litigious opponents of all forms of gambling and all gamblers, to willing, even eager, partners. And as the leagues have changed their attitudes, so have the individual teams. Both see an opportunity to get a piece of the pie. Leagues, teams, and universities are selling partnerships, data, and naming rights, in some cases even okaying wagering inside of their stadiums and ballparks. Illinois, for example, has authorized wagering within the home venues of its pro football, basketball, hockey, and baseball stadiums. In some states, you will not be able to make a wager at an official book in a stadium, but you will be able to sit in your seat and place a bet remotely through your mobile device. In Illinois, you will have both choices. And there you are. You can now make a legal bet in Michael’s house. DraftKings could not have found a more powerful name in sports in Chicago than Michael Jordan. Being able to now bet with Michael on a Bulls game, in his house, is a stunning development. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries – in other words, barely thirty years ago – casinos, and gambling, were viewed, by and large, as distasteful, if not outright evil, and, if permitted, they should be hidden away and isolated as much as possible to protect the vulnerable among the citizens. In these days of everything goes sports betting, the exact opposite is true. I am not arguing for a return to the old moral and legal environment, nor am I condemning the current shift in values. But I must admit to being somewhat shocked by the difference in attitudes.