Experts also try to handicap the New Jersey sports betting case
Legal Sports Report

A Borgata Sportsbook, An NBA Pivot And What Else We Learned From A Week Of Sports Betting Conferences

sports betting conferences
The potential for legal sports betting in the US had the attention of many folks this week, with events going on in New York City and Washington DC.

The first-ever Sports Betting USA conference spanned two days in NYC, bringing together experts and people who wanted to learn more about the industry. In DC, an event on Capitol Hill was supposed to serve as a means to educate and lobby policymakers.

It all came just weeks before oral arguments take place in the New Jersey sports betting case in the US Supreme Court, which raises the prospect of drastically altering the landscape for the legality of sports wagering.

So what did we learn this week? There was no shortage of news and head-turning statements from the two events.

Borgata sportsbook?

Perhaps the biggest material piece of news was the revelation that MGM Resorts International was going to build a sportsbook at its New Jersey property, Borgata.

Of course, sports betting isn’t legal yet in New Jersey, but being a first mover in the state with an actual sportsbook would be a huge advantage. The outlay of cash — $7 million — is pocket change for MGM. And in a worst-case scenario, it just becomes a sports bar or a fantasy sports lounge. (The latter is coming to Resorts AC, which already has an online fantasy sports wagering product.)

Borgata is already the top land-based casino in Atlantic City, and it’s also one of the top NJ online casinos. Now it’s looking to get ahead of the game on sports betting.

Legal Sports Report has reached out to MGM, and will hope to have more details in the near future.

The NBA shifts

The NBA going from passive spectator to an active participant in the regulation of sports betting is one of the biggest storylines of the week.

Last year, the pro basketball league said it wouldn’t lobby Congress for regulation. Now it says it will. That’s a big deal.

Yahoo’s Daniel Roberts had more on the NBA’s position:

“Our general position on sports betting is that it should be legal and regulated, pursuant to a federal framework that has minimum safeguards,” said NBA VP and assistant general counsel Dan Spillane. “We have advisors in DC, we have legislation that we’ve been pulling together, talking with other stakeholders in this area.

It’s a slow process… When the leagues were all just unanimously opposed to it, it really wasn’t, I think, a practical discussion to have, and now it is… I think that there will be a little bit more clarity, and people will be more open, especially members of Congress, to talking about potential legislation once the [NJ] case is resolved one way or another.”

Full story and more comments from Spillane here.

The NBA also appears to favor a model in which leagues could “opt out” of a federal sports betting law, meaning wagers on games in that sport (or perhaps for colleges, in the case of the NCAA) would not be legal.

More on the NBA

One NBA owner, Ted Leonsis of the Washington Wizards, didn’t mince words:

“What are we afraid of? A regulated, transparent system will be needed to engage consumers in an area where they are already spending money. We are not naïve that these are delicate situation and that’s where there is a need for smart monitoring of these systems. My belief is that if we have a good partnership we can create more jobs and improve the economy.”

The American Gaming Association has been working on this front already.

“The AGA welcomes the NBA’s active engagement on this important issue, and shares their commitment to integrity and rigorous regulation. We look forward to working together,” AGA president Geoff Freeman told LSR after the revelation.

What will it all lead to at the federal level? That remains to be seen.

Handicapping the SCOTUS case

It was a big week for predicting what would happen in the Supreme Court case that involves the federal sports betting ban, PASPA. On one side is New Jersey trying to offer sports wagering. On the other is the NCAA and the major US pro sports leagues, the NBA included, trying to stop them.

Here’s a sampling:

  • Kevin Braig, a partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP, believes the leagues are 2-to-1 favorites.
  • Sports law expert Daniel Wallach said he believes New Jersey is the favorite.
  • Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said it’s “highly unlikely” that the court rules in the leagues’ favor.

The only thing most seem to agree with is this is not a slam dunk for the leagues.

While the case will be heard in December, we still won’t find out how SCOTUS will rule until some time in 2018.

Sports betting drives engagement

We all know bettors watch more games, and more of the games that they watch. But how much does it move the needle? We actually got some data:

Want more?

Leagues, of course, already know about the engagement they get from both fantasy sports and betting, whether they admit it or not. But this kind of data solidifies how much of a factor it is. And this is without sports gambling being widely legal in the US!

Image credit: Johnny Shryock for Sportradar/Revolution

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Dustin Gouker
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Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer — including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.