This year’s Super Bowl is less than two weeks away. There has been a lot of buzz about the HarBowl where two brothers will face each other as head coaches. Sports bettors are busy placing their bets on the point spread that is currently the San Francisco 49ers by 3.5 points over the Baltimore Ravens or choosing a side to win outright by taking the money line. More casual bettors are waiting on the exotic prop bets to show up at online sports books such as how long the Star Spangled Banner will take to sing or what color the Gatorade shower will be. These types of props cannot be offered by Las Vegas casinos because they would not have an official outcome as required by Nevada gaming laws. Las Vegas casinos do offer more traditional prop bets.
Serious bettors and those planning on attending next year’s Super Bowl have a different type of battle to watch.
The NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and NCAA have been fighting New Jersey’s law that would allow Las Vegas style sports betting in Atlantic City casinos and at the state’s racetracks. One of those racetracks is The Meadowlands, the site of next year’s Super Bowl XLVIII. If New Jersey has its way, those that attend next year’s Super Bowl would be able to bet on the game on the same property. This is not what the NFL had in mind when they named The Meadowlands site of Super Bowl XLVIII.
The sports leagues have sued the state based on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and their opposition to their sports being used as a gambling device. News comes today that the Department of Justice has joined this lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of PASPA.
Feds Join Lawsuit
The Department of Justice announced that they would be intervene in the lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of PASPA. This leaves New Jersey defending this lawsuit against five sports leagues and the Department of Justice.
While it is understandable that the feds would want to get involved, it seems likely pressure from the sports leagues helped convince them to join it. This is hypocritical of the sports leagues at best.
Las Vegas Sports TV Ratings
The leagues directly benefit from sports gambling whether they want to admit it or not. Sports bettors drive up ratings and create higher advertising rates on sporting events. This in turn makes the TV deals more valuable.
Most sports leagues have tried to some degree to separate themselves from sports gambling even though a large portion of their viewers are sports bettors. Las Vegas, the only major city in the US with legalized single game sports betting, ranked #3 in ratings for Sunday Night Football this past season. Las Vegas ranks #30 in metropolitan areas in terms of population in the US and does not have a professional sports team. The city also consistently ranks in the top 10 markets for all sporting events. No rational person can dispute that sports betting in Las Vegas causes these ratings. There are also hundreds of thousands of viewers watching these games in other cities for the sole purpose of seeing whether their bet won or lost.
How Sports Leagues Have Handled Sports Betting in Other Jurisdictions
NFL Fights Gambling in New Jersey While Ignoring Other Venues
The NFL plays two games each year outside of the United States. The Bills play an annual game in Toronto and teams rotate for the annual London game although the Jacksonville Jaguars will be the home team for the next four games there. Both cities have legalized sports betting. The NFL does not do anything to block betting on their games in either location beyond forcing the closing of Wembley Stadium betting windows during the game. These are two cities that seem likely to be next on the list for NFL teams behind Los Angeles. For some reason the NFL is OK with sports betting in Canada and Europe but not in the United States.
NHL Supports Canadian Sports Gambling
The NHL’s appearance on this lawsuit is especially interesting. There are seven NHL teams in Canada. The Vancouver Canucks license their name and logo to the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers jointly hold lotteries on NHL events. The other four Canadian NHL teams allow the local provincial governments to offer sports betting on their events through their lotteries.
Major League Baseball not Concerned with Canadian Sports Betting
Major League Baseball also allows betting on its games in Canada. Toronto Blue Jays games are included in the Ontario lottery and Montreal Expos games were allowed in Quebec before the team moved to Washington DC. This was allowed even though Major League Baseball is home to two of the most well known professional sports betting scandals in history, the throwing of the 1919 World Series and the Pete Rose betting scandal.
NBA Has History of Fighting Betting on its Games
The NBA has been more proactive towards protecting their games. When the NBA expanded into Canada, the league forced the provincial lotteries in British Columbia and Ontario to remove all NBA games from their sports lotteries. The league and teams paid a tax to cover the revenue lost from NBA wagering. British Columbia brought back NBA wagering when the Grizzlies left Vancouver for Memphis in 2001. The NBA was also outspoken against Oregon during their Sports Action Lottery. This lottery excluded Portland Trailblazers games but included all other NBA games. Oregon stopped offering Sports Action after the 2007 Super Bowl. The NBA held their All Star game in Las Vegas in 2007. One of the conditions was that sports books would not accept action on the game.
NCAA Protective of Student Athletes
The NCAA has more reason to be concerned than professional leagues. It is much easier to bribe an athlete that is not getting paid than a professional player that is receiving a pro salary. The NCAA has already stopped scheduling events in New Jersey. The NCAA did the same thing in Oregon until their dropped their sports lottery. There have also been many more accusations of points shaving within college sports than all of professional sports.
Sports Gambling Will Expand if New Jersey Prevails
As you see, each sport has its own agenda and level of gambling tolerance. Several of the leagues seem to outright embrace it idea of gambling as long as it is not in the United States. This is a double standard that will likely fall in the coming years. If New Jersey prevails in their lawsuit then the leagues will be forced to change their way. There will be professional sports teams playing within minutes of a place to bet single game wagers in New Jersey and other states are sure to follow.