Sunday May 27, 2012 : NEW JERSEY'S CHALLENGE TO P.A.S.P.A. STUDIED (Update)
It is likely that the federal government, the NFL or both will oppose changes to a restrictive federal law
Tim Dahlberg, a top sports columnist for the Associated Press news agency, wrote an insightful opinion piece over the weekend on forthcoming challenges to the federal Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act, which restricts sports betting to just four US states.
Dahl notes that the New Jersey challenge recently voiced by Gov. Chris Christie could see the wider availability of sports wagering, although this may not be achieved until 2014…and it will only be after opposition from the federal government, the NFL or both.
"The federal government will almost certainly take Christie up on that challenge. So, too, likely will the NFL, which views betting on games with the same kind of antiquated logic it used to trot out every time the issue of concussions came up," Dahl observes.
"But times have changed, as was evident last season when Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn was Patriots' owner Robert Kraft's personal guest at a game, where the two went over plans to build a lavish casino next to the stadium where New England plays.
“The league has also branched off into other forms of gambling, including partnerships with state lotteries that make team owners millions of dollars from people who can afford it the least.
"Feel free to throw your money away on Patriots scratch cards that are almost always sure losers. Play the slots in casinos built on team-owned land. But don't even think about trying to add some enjoyment to a game by betting on your team to win."
Dahl comments that such attitudes are the ultimate in hypocrisy, though hardly surprising.
"The NFL – which had at least one bookmaker among its founding owners – has taken a harsh stand against sports betting for a good half century now, even while the reasons to justify its opposition have largely vanished.
"The main fear was always that unsavory types would hang around players, and that the fix might be in. But any gambler will tell you it's almost impossible to try and fix any game when bets are made through legal sports books who constantly monitor any swing in the action," he notes.
Joe Asher, CEO of Brandywine Bookmakers, a William Hill plc subsidiary, told Dahl: "Right now over 99 percent of sports betting is unregulated and untaxed. It's a market dominated by criminals. There's no way you're going to stop an illegal sports betting market from thriving other than to legalize it."
Dahl notes that already all but two US states have some form of gambling, so it's no longer a social issue, and Asher agrees, saying:
"It's part of the American culture, it's why we watch sports. Creating a legal market for sports betting so that it is regulated; so that it is taxed; and so that legitimate businesses are involved is, of course, a good thing. The sooner that happens, the better for everyone involved."
However, Dahl opines that having sports betting legalised in New Jersey by the fall of 2012, as Gov. Christie has predicted, is unlikely, although the New Jersey challenge will move things along and represents strong opposition to both federal and NFL positions.
"That's a good thing, because there should be nothing criminal about making a bet," Dahl concludes. "Wall Street traders do the same thing every day, only they're betting on companies instead of teams.
"Take the business out of back rooms and street corners. Legitimize it like in England. Opposition will be fierce, and there's still a long way to go. But I'm laying 7-5 it just might happen."