Sports Betting and the Super Bowl: US Legality Special

Published February 1, 2015 by Amir G

Sports Betting and the Super Bowl: US Legality Special

With illegal Super Bowl bets estimated at around $3.8 billion this year, the question of US sports betting is raised once again. Why is US sports betting outlawed and when will Americans be able to bet freely on their own sports?

The issue of sports betting in America has been ongoing for years and it presents a tough question that in itself contains some funny contradictions. It is a fact that America is a superpower in terms of sports, with millions of Americans watching the Big Four leagues: MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA.

The popularity of these leagues is not confined to the US only as it crosses borders and watched by millions all over the world. And here's another interesting fact: People around the world who watch these leagues actually place bets on the games using online sportsbooks, while Americans simply can't (legally).

The PASPA Barrier

The 1992 "Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act" (PASPA) effectively outlawed sports betting in the US with exemptions for sports lotteries in Montana, Delaware, Oregon and Nevada which had licensed sports pools. The big professional leagues were among the strongest lobbying forces for the passing of the PASPA.

The reasons in a nutshell were a fear of the leagues' reputation which will be harmed and the integrity which could be compromised, as sports betting introduces the dimension of match fixing and other non-kosher activities. New Jersey was one of the combative states looking to change the PASPA but so far the efforts did not go far.

Is Sports Betting in America Inevitable?

In November 2014, the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that legalized sports betting is just a matter of time in the US. Silver talked about the huge potential of revenues that America is missing as long as it does not legalize sports betting; more so, Silver warned that there are Americans who resort to illegal gambling.

One good example for the contrast between America and Europe is the English Premier League, one of the most popular leagues in the world. Just across the pond millions bet on Premier League matches every week. Some of the biggest football clubs have huge contracts with online bookmakers who are licensed and regulated.

The Fantasy Sports Case

The popularity of fantasy sports could be a good case for actual sports betting regulation in the US, as the number of active players ranges anywhere from 25 to 30 million. The Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) has defined fantasy sports as a game of skill and not of chance – the explanation being that players can use knowledge about the sports in order to win.

The weird and funny part is that the explanation is correct when it comes to actual sports betting as well. Fantasy sports bets are of course placed based on imaginary sports leagues and teams, but these are based on real-life leagues and are aimed at being as realistic as can be.

The Super Bowl – A Peak for Illegal Gambling

The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates that Americans will make $3.8 billion in illegal bets on the upcoming Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. This, according to AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman, is proof that the ban on sports betting is failing.

The irony is strong in this case as millions of people can bet on tonight's Super Bowl at prominent bookies like William Hill Sports and Winner Sports, while Americans themselves are left in the dark.

What's in the Future for US Sports Betting?

The November 2013 regulation of iGaming in Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada was a positive step towards gambling as a whole that signaled that there is some moderation in the hardline stance against different forms of gambling in the greater US. Yet, the way to legalized sports betting in America is still long as many strong forces with political and financial power oppose the idea.

Perhaps in the future, US lawmakers and powerful lobbyists will learn from the UK that a regulated sports betting market with effective measures to prevent problem gambling can bring big revenues to the coffers as well as joy to people's hearts.

Mentioned in this article

See also

Betting on NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl

PASPA’s Demise May Give Rise to $8B Sports Betting Industry by 2030

Fantasy and Real Sports Betting: The US Question

US Approves Nationwide Sports Betting, Ending Nevada Monopoly

Massachusetts Examines Legality of Fantasy Sports Betting


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