The US Supreme Court ruling that the federal prohibition on sports betting (PASPA) was unconstitutional will go down as one of the most pivotal moments in US gaming history.
As momentous as it is, in the wake of the ruling, everyone even peripherally involved seems to have lost their collective mind.
Can I cash in this losing ticket?
In their attempts to secure an “integrity fee,” the professional sports leagues are bombarding legislatures and the public with utterly ridiculous commentary and arguments.
Meanwhile, networks like ESPN are adding dedicated sports betting programs to their lineups, anticipating some surge in demand for sports betting programming.
The networks can expect to be disappointed.
The leagues on the other hand, they’re setting themselves for a hard fall. Whether they win or lose on getting integrity fees, they’re still going to lose.
It’s big news, but nothing is changing
The idea that the decision is going to cause every red-blooded American to run out and start betting sports is asinine.
Most people will still watch sports as fans. There’s little need for sports betting dedicated shows, and quite frankly, broadcasting that type of content is a slippery slope that could easily run afoul of responsible gaming advertising policies.
A lot of people are overlooking a simple fact: Sports betting will continue to be illegal in large swaths of the country. And even where it is legal, there will be plenty of people who feel it’s an immoral activity.
The country’s opinion of the activity isn’t going to change overnight because the Supreme Court ruled a law unconstitutional.
Furthermore, people have been betting money on sporting events illegally for a long time. That the existing infrastructure will vanish, and people will shift to legal sports books overnight is wishful thinking.
Sports betting will generate a lot of revenue for stakeholders, but don’t fall for the missive that there will be a fundamental shift in how people consume sports and their general attitudes about gambling. The stands won’t be filled with sports bettors placing in-game wagers, and every living room won’t have the latest betting lines on a split screen.
Yes, some new bettors will spring into being. And some existing bettors will shift some or all of their play to the legal market. But at the end of the day, very little is going to change when it comes to the country’s appetite to watch and bet sports. They’ll just be able to do it legally in some locales.
There are a lot of holes in the integrity fee boat
The sports leagues’ demand for an integrity fee is simply put, a house of cards.
To this point, the arguments for an integrity fee shift between unrealistic scenarios and exaggerations to outright lies.
That hasn’t stopped the leagues from trotting out former athletes and managers to act as point men for their integrity fee demands.
The integrity fee argument is resonating in some states, but by and large, legislatures haven’t shown much interest in sending a sizable percentage of sports betting revenue to the leagues, and have told them as much – some lawmakers more nicely than others.
But what happens if the leagues get their way?
Hitching your wagon to sports betting could prove costly
The answer: they’ll likely discover the reward doesn’t justify the risk.
Visit a social media site, listen to sports talk radio, or read the comment section of any sports article and you’ll find a widespread belief that the leagues tip the scales to force playoff series to go longer, or get their superstars and big market teams into the championship game.
If the leagues are directly profiting from sports betting, then they’re going to see a dramatic spike in the number of “rigged” comments, and every bad call is going to be scrutinized more closely than the Zapruder film.
Further, the rush to pass legislation is leaving important discussions like responsible gaming policies and problem gambling research and funding unaddressed.
If leagues are making money from sports betting, they also bear some of the responsibility in mitigating its harms. Don’t be surprised if the leagues find themselves on the hot seat, scrambling to address these issues down the road.
Instead of trying to fill legislation with language that benefits them financially, if the leagues were really interested in integrity, they’d be pointing out the stunning lack of responsible and problem gambling language.