Fan’s guide to gambling law: Watching sports may never be the same
In the middle of a boring, late-season, meaningless Knicks game, you might one day pick up your phone in the second quarter, tap it a few times and place a bet, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision that has opened up states’ rights to offer sports gambling.
“In Europe, for example, where sports betting is legal, people can watch games and bet as they are watching them,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said before the Supreme Court decision was decided, anticipating what could be next for his league’s fans.
This impact of the ruling will not be fully felt immediately and will largely depend on how the individual states decide to regulate betting.
It could eventually be massive, with fans being able to make legal bets from their couches to gambling on aspects of the game that were once unimaginable. In the end, TV ratings could increase, advertising on gambling could become ubiquitous and franchise values may grow.
Over the past month, The Post has spoken to several experts, both on and off the record, in the field to learn how it might all work out and how this decision could ultimately change sports.
How it will work
The way you can place a legal bet in Nevada is expected to serve as the model for how sports bets will be placed when individual states adopt laws.
In Vegas, you must open an account at a casino. There, they check your credentials and you deposit funds. You are able to bet at the venue or from your phone, but, in many cases, to cash out you must still pick up your winnings in person.
In New Jersey, which won the Supreme Court ruling, you are expected soon to be able to set up accounts at casinos and racetracks that have authorization. In turn, you will eventually be able to bet using your phone, but you will need to be in the state’s parameters.
Since individual states now have the right to legalize gambling — or not — under their own rules, they each could have different guidelines.
How it will change how you watch games
Sports viewing tends to increase when fans have action on the games. This very well could result in higher ratings and the continued increase in billion-dollar TV deals for football, baseball and basketball.
“Every bit of research that I’ve ever seen is that when people have some kind of money invested in the game, whether it is fantasy sports or traditional sports betting, they just watch more minutes for more games than they would otherwise,” said Chris Grove, the managing director of Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.
ESPN and Turner have had alternative broadcasts for the college football and basketball national championships. One day, there could be a channel just looking at it from a betting point of view.
“It will either be done that way or there will be separate rights deals,” said Brian Musburger, who founded VSiN, a media platform dedicated to gambling and is located on SiriusXM, among other places. “You could still have the clean feed, where you watch Jim Nantz do the traditional play-by-play or you could switch to an alternative rights feed, VSiN or maybe a new entity that is strictly dedicated to the sports bettor. That is what we are developing for that, and that audience is only going to grow.”
All of the action could lead to a proliferation of gambling ads — much like with FanDuel and DraftKings a few years back — on broadcasts. In Australia, the incessant ads were banned during game broadcasts because it was decided children should not be inundated.
What will happen that you may not be thinking about
The aforementioned in-game betting growth is expected to be huge, according to basically everyone. Musburger said that in Europe, some operators report 70 percent of their wagering arrives after games kick off.
The ever-increasing speed in technology figures to allow this market to flourish, though it has not yet in Vegas.
“There is a learning curve,” Musburger said. “The technology is new here. I think a lot of American bettors aren’t aware.”
All kinds of betting could be in play as the ability to record data in real time proliferates. Betting on minute aspects of the game, like the length of a home run or the distance of a kick, could be wagered on.
“I think we are on the cusp of a data revolution in sports,” Grove said. “The way that data can be captured instantly and be transmitted are just exploding.”
What the leagues want
While the leagues are very careful in how they word what they want, they know legalized gambling could be a potentially lucrative business, which they want a hand in.
Prior to the court ruling, Major League Baseball already had begun lobbying states for what it hoped to accomplish. In an interview with The Post, MLB Sr. VP & Deputy General Counsel Bryan Seeley laid out what the league is looking for. While Seeley was only speaking on behalf of MLB, it is safe to assume the other leagues are looking for a similar setup.
In an ideal world, the sports leagues would like a federal law on sports gambling. This would make it much easier and tidier for them to work with as opposed to dealing with potentially 50 different states. Most experts believe this is unlikely.
If a federal law is out — and, at least in the near term, it likely is — leagues want cooperation in data sharing with venues that take sports bets so they can track any potential issues. With this, they want a 1 percent fee on all sports gambling.
Second, MLB wants a viable mobile option, because, Seeley said, it is the only way to eliminate the black market.
Third, MLB wants a say of what you can bet on. For example, considering how prospects are paid, MLB may not want it to be legal to bet on minor league baseball. Another example would be betting on if the next pitch would be a fastball, because such a wager could be so easily manipulated.
“We would like to have a seat at the table about what casinos can offer and what they can’t offer,” Seeley said.
Fourth, MLB wants its official data to be used. This is where many experts believe the leagues can make a killing — not as much with the score of games, but with more unique bets, such as how many physical steps LeBron James might take in a given game, that need to be calculated in an official manner.
“This becomes important as live in-play betting occupies a larger share of the market, which we think it will and it is what you see in Europe,” Seeley said.
While this directly should help the bottom line, it should indirectly, as well, as franchise values could increase as a result of sports betting further popularizing sports.
Could this lead to more gambling addiction issues?
There already are things, like drinking, that are legal and if done in excess can be bad for you. Gambling will fall into that category, as it can create problems for individuals and families.
What is not clear is if there is a better chance of nicking a problem before it blooms with legalized gambling as opposed to now, when you are dealing with an illegal sports bookie.
“That is real,” Musburger said. “People do have problems gambling. But if you want to gamble, there are plenty of ways to do it now. I don’t think there are really any barriers to people who are motivated to make a wager. So many things when they are brought into the light solve a lot of problems. Gambling is no different.”
However, by legalizing gambling and potentially making it more socially acceptable, more people might dip their toes in the ocean with the possibility of being dragged out to seas.
This is one of the many still-not-fully-answered questions on what Monday’s ruling will mean.
People in the gambling field fear that state legislators may overestimate the tax windfall that could result from sports betting. In turn, they may try to make fees too high and keep the black market alive.
But most think eventually it will work itself out. When it does, watching sports like you do today could be a distant memory.
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