Sports Betting in the US – How we finally got ‘Legal’
The United States has an undeniable obsession with sports and thanks to some recent changes to an archaic law we can now gamble on them too.
That law, known the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (or PASPA), made very little sense, but is the sole reason that for much of the past 25 years betting on sports, legally at least, was only possible in a handful of US states. I bet you can guess one of those! Yep, Nevada.
In 1992, then-President George Bush enacted this law, PASPA, which basically prevented those non-exempt states from authorizing any form of gambling on sports – crazy, right?! The law was originally intended to prevent match-fixing and corruption across pro leagues such as the NBA, MLB and NFL, fearing gambling would “change the nature of sporting events from wholesome entertainment for all ages.” Oh, how times have changed.
That change came in May 2018, when the sports betting industry hit the jackpot, so to speak, following the US Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn PASPA. This very welcome decision essentially meant each individual state would now have the right to decide whether it would allow sports betting, regardless of the position held by other states which may be anti-gambling, like Utah for instance. Needless to say a global pandemic and economic hardship has somewhat sped up the process in those states that weren’t initially sold on the idea. Hellooo New York and Governor Cuomo!
Basically, all states are now free to decide whether their citizens may gamble on professional sports or not. As a result, some states have already implemented measures to make sports gambling ‘legal’ and easily accessible to people within state lines. Some, such as early adopters New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Indiana and Illinois, are already operating under a legal and regulated online sports betting framework. Other states, such as New York (currently in-person only betting) and Massachusetts, will soon follow.
During the nearly 26 years of PASPAs existence, legal sports betting in Nevada understandably went through the roof, rising 172%, from just under $2.0 billion per year to almost $5b. Concerningly though, the American Gaming Association estimated that the national illegal sports gambling market (mostly via offshore operators) grew from $80 billion to $150 billion by the time PASPA was repealed in 2018 – illegal gambling turnover having nearly doubled in less than 20 years. Essentially gamblers were forced offshore in order to bet, which is easily done in the digital age, and in turn costing the state coffers a lot of money in lost taxes and revenues.
The fact there were large sums of money being bet in other jurisdictions proved that there was, and still is, huge demand for online betting. These new, regulated markets now allow the various states to take their pound of flesh, stemming the flow of money offshore, never to be seen again.
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Bettors who have previously relied on shady offshore bookies or sportsbooks should now seriously consider signing up to one of the many new online options available – assuming they’re in a legal state of course. There is absolutely no need to still be making risky transactions in a foreign country with less than reputable banks, as U.S. bettors are now protected by FDIC-insured financial institutions, meaning it is now safe and very secure to deposit and place bets with licensed operators. In these early years of the sports betting boom the competition for players is hot, so the power is well and truly in the hands of the customer.
Not only can bettors now ‘legally’ bet in the US, but consumers no longer need to go to a physical sportsbook to place single bets on sporting events either – although some states still require it. While the excitement of a casino-type venue is impossible to replicate, online sports betting allows you to bet from almost any location within a legal state, and the convenience of being able to tail the best sports betting picks from the comfort of your couch also has its advantages.
While it’s certainly a move in the right direction, we’re still very much in the first inning of the sports betting revolution and have a way to go until online sports betting is widely adopted across the United States. In fact, the majority of states still don’t have a framework in place for legal sports betting within their limits – something that is likely to be fast-tracked as economies look to repair the damage done by the global 2020 Coronavirus pandemic.