For brave new world of legalized sports betting, biggest news yet to come By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports October 10, 2018 at 8:00 pm If you think the world of legalized sports betting turned upside down in 2018, just wait until next year. That’s the clear message sent Tuesday at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas during a dynamic presentation on the Sands Expo and Convention Center Special Events Stage by three close observers of the rapidly evolving action taking place in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in May to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA.) And that is a reminder that ought to be attached to the computer terminal of every anxious sports bettor, bookmaker, website maven and gaming regulator in the country. Because, frankly, we haven’t seen anything yet. At the risk of losing longtime acquaintances and very well-connected sources on this issue, no one really knows what’s going to happen even in the near future as states rush and wrestle with the complex issue of legalization while battling a variety of urges and influences. Experienced litigator Jonathan Cohn entertained and informed his audience of gaming industry business officials and regulators with a background on the law that for years limited legalized single game sports betting to Nevada. All that changed quickly when the Supreme Court ruled to toss the entire law. Cohn still seemed in a celebratory mood. “To me, winning is simple,” he said. “When you uncork the champagne, light fireworks over the Strip and toast with Leo DeCaprio, that’s a victory. And this was a victory because the entire statute of PASPA was struck down. Not just a couple words, as some people suggested, but everything. The whole thing was taken down: the restriction on states, the restriction on casinos, everything gone. We won a complete, unadulterated victory.” While some states had prepared for more than a year for the possibility of a revenue windfall from legal sports betting, others were slightly more circumspect. And most tribal gaming operations were even more suspicious that joining the sports betting gold rush might harm the exclusive compacts many Indian operators enjoy with states. Then there’s another reality: While there are billions to be made from the legal game, illegal sports wagering is still rampant. and even a highly successful legal bookmaker rarely scores more than a 5 percent net profit at the end of the year. How will sports leagues carve out their piece of the action? Through “integrity fees,” by charging for statistical data, or through some other calculus that will make it even tougher for the bookies to compete with those illegal operators and all the other gambling options Americans enjoy. Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Gaming Association, helped guide the industry’s Washington, D.C. organization through its participation as a “friend of the court” during the high court’s review of PASPA. “We won the election and now it’s time to govern, and what does that mean?” she asked. It’s a bit like juggling plates. The state and federal interests are not only not always in synch, but they also may conflict and even compete with the gaming industry’s desires, she said. Focusing on responsible gambling issues and a highly credible rollout of legalized bookmaking are essential not only to the governments and the industry, but the leagues and fans, too. And it’s too soon to tell whether everyone with skin in the game will maintain a working level of decorum. Indian Country faces even more complex challenges from the PASPA repeal, Spirit rock Consulting Managing Partner Aurene Marin told the crowd. Waiting may give non-tribal commercial operators a real advantage. Reopening compacts could unleash a political firestorm that some tribes believe will provide governments a chance to renege on their contracts. And cooler heads may find themselves wondering, will legalized sports betting pay enough dividends to offset the infrastructure costs of brick-and-mortar additions? Will it pay to partner with bookmaking giants such as William Hill US? Considering that sports bookmaking has been the gaming industry’s last pariah activity for generations, the changes are coming rapidly – if perhaps not fast enough for some developers and investors. But as fast as it’s happening today, all three agreed that the really big changes are yet to be seen. Start looking for them some time next year. And don’t forget to buckle up. The wild ride gets faster from here. Contact John L. Smith at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.