Gambling on sports: The flood gates are open By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports March 20, 2019 at 5:59 pm The national gaming narrative is being kidnapped by the legalization of sports gambling. It has been less than a year since the Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 is unconstitutional. Sports betting has leaped from the exclusive territory of Nevada casinos onto the national stage like an Olympic long-jumper. Since that momentous ruling, six states and two Indian tribes in New Mexico have legalized sports betting and begun taking wagers. Currently, 77 bills to legalize wagering on sports have been introduced in 29 states and the District of Columbia. The details differ greatly from state to state and each state is planning to use its sports betting windfall to fit its needs. Each state must address at least three separate issues – who, where and what to charge for the privilege of accepting wagers. The potential operators are casino companies, the lottery and companies exclusively dedicated to sports betting. The locations will depend on the type of entity chosen to conduct the wagering. Besides casinos, the other possibilities include bars, fraternal organizations, truck stops, grocery stores and restaurants. Those are locations that currently have slot machines or keno games in many states making them a logical choice for sports betting. Free standing kiosks are also a possibility. At the moment, Rhode Island and Nevada are the only states that permit sports betting kiosks. For any state looking at options, kiosks operated by the state lottery are certain to be very attractive. The tax rates discussed vary widely. The rates imposed by the states that have already legalized sports betting run the gamut from 34 percent of win imposed by Pennsylvania to the more reasonable 12 percent Mississippi charges. The competition is going to be intense between the lotteries and the casinos. Casino companies are lobbying heavily for the privilege at every opportunity. To further strengthen their bid, large casino companies have been very active forming partnerships with the major wagering companies, such as William Hill, Ladbrokes, FanDuel and DraftKings. The alliance of the largest casino companies and largest sports betting companies may seem unbeatable. But in some states, lotteries are proving to be very influential and strong candidates for bookmaking licenses. Legalized sports betting is beginning to affect the media and national sports culture significantly. Action Network was formed to provide data and discussion on sports. It is averaging almost 2 million unique visitors a month. According to the network, the stories that get the most hits are ones that deal with news about betting lines. Action Network has several products including a podcast hosted by “Stuckey.” Stuckey opens his show by saying, “What’s up, degenerate nation?” Turner Broadcasting is putting a studio in Caesars Palace, NESN and ESPN are creating programming. ESPN has a daily show called the Daily Wager and it is just the beginning. Anita Marks, a contributor to the Daily Wager, said the on-air personalities will be discussing anything and everything that could be the subject of a wager. But significantly Ms. Marks said, “The ultimate game plan is for ESPN to turn this into a gambling channel, maybe in the next few years,” Sports gambling channels are perfectly logical in a world of specialized television channels. Commentators will be discussing betting as fluently as they discuss plays, players and scores now. It is also certain that the conversation will find its way to the playing field and the locker room. The long-term impact on the culture of sports will be profound and long-lasting. Whether one sees the culture acceptance of gambling on sports as good or bad is irrelevant. It cannot be stopped; once betting on the games becomes as common as it surely will, even laws banning betting would have little impact. The process is not unlike the growth of technology, it is part of a self-driven positive feedback loop; whatever works continues and expands, that which does not work disappears. There is no central locus of control or controller. Instead, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of moving parts interacting and reacting in ways that are impossible to predict or control. Like tattoos, skateboards, rap music and reality TV, sports and sports gambling is a cultural phenomenon, a trend that will run its own natural course. It is just in its infancy and there is a lot of growth to come. We are going to get our first real taste of the possibilities with March Madness. According to the American Gaming Association 40 million people will fill out tournament brackets predicting the winners and losers in each round of play. The AGA said $8.5 billion will be wager by some 47 million people, one out of every five adults in the country. As significant as those numbers are, by this time next year twice as many Americans will be within a few minutes’ drive of a place to make a legal wager on March Madness 2020. The flood gates are open.