There will come a day when sports gambling is as regular as buying a lottery ticket. The legalization of sports gambling will have huge ramifications on the economy and the business models of all sports leagues. That day hasn’t arrived yet but we are getting closer to it.
Several sports leagues are positioning themselves upfront and behind the scenes, waiting to reap all the benefits headed their way. All sports have benefited from gambling for ages, but no sport has drawn more gamblers to their games than the sport of football. For so long, gambling has been such a taboo subject. It’s been treated as a criminal activity that potentially compromises the integrity of your league. Yet it can be argued that the monster that is the NFL, was created by illegal gambling on games. Millions of people watch NFL games with something personally at stake. One can only imagine how much more money and interest can be created for games when sports gambling is fully legalized and accessible for all. It may draw in even more viewers if casual fans can simply place a bet from home on any game or team they want to.
The XFL and other fledgling leagues have openly talked about gambling and have stressed that it will be a huge part of the draw to their leagues. With phone apps that are designed and focused on gambling and fantasy football. The idea is that it will enable fans to gamble on every single play with a simple click on their phones. In 2019, the landscape for sports wagering is not quite clear. There are several states where you can’t gamble and some where you can only gamble on your phone if you are in a legalized state or at specific resorts. There are ways of working around this for all gamblers, but in order for a league to benefit at full potential, the legalization of it will be key.
Starting up in 2020, like the XFL is, may benefit them. Oliver Luck even mentioned gambling and the timeline of 2020 as being beneficial in the league’s city announcement press conference back on December 5th.
As of January 2019, Full scale legalized sports betting is only available currently in 8 states. New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Mississippi, and West Virginia. New Jersey can be thanked for getting the ball rolling on this one. Their supreme court victory opened the door for states to legalize gambling if they wish to do so. The Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Several members from both parties of the United States Congress are pushing for legalized gambling.
Both proposed spring pro football leagues have currently only 1 team that has legalized gambling in it’s state. The New York XFL franchise which plays in New Jersey. New York is on deck with 4 legalized gambling site locations and a bill that is supposed to be re-introduced in 2019 to fully legalize gambling statewide. Las Vegas is the home of the AAF’s first two championship games and gambling has been legal in that state for more than half a century. What about all the other markets in these leagues?
There are several states on the waiting deck, looking to get sports betting legalized.
On December 18th, the nation’s capital Washington, D.C. legalized sports betting. The DC council voted 10-2 in favor of it. Emergency legislation was passed making the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act effective immediately. The states lottery is working on regulations and infrastructure. There is a catch to this. The new law allows for a single app model that will give DC a monopoly on sports betting in the District of Columbia. Sports betting organizations are happy that sports betting has been legalized but they feel that the single-app model is a major cause for concern. Either way, this bodes well for the XFL’s D.C. franchise. How gambling profits are divided are an issue but gambling in DC creates more interest and fan involvement. The state of Arkansas also had a sports wagering bill passed, similar to DC.
California has a voter referendum set up for 2020 as a built-in initiative. The state does have 60 tribal casinos where it is legal to gamble on games. This could play a factor in the XFL’s Los Angeles franchise. As well as the AAF’s San Diego franchise but the 2020 timeline makes year one for San Diego an impossibility.
The state of Missouri is currently in a holding pattern. The Show Me state has six bills regarding sports wagering currently in the works. Bills have been introduced to expand beyond their licensed riverboat casinos and daily fantasy companies. Legislative hearings have taken place but the bill hasn’t advanced past the committee stage at this point.
The other states where bills have or are expected to be introduced are Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. By 2020, many of these states may legalize sports wagering.
There are 19 states that have laws that prohibit full blown sports betting. No bills have been publicly announced or introduced or devoted to sports betting legalization. The states are some key football states with teams in the XFL and the AAF. The states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington State, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Utah’s anti gambling stance is written into the state’s constitution. It remains to be seen if any changes are made to an existing state policy in the future. It certainly doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to happening.
Football hot beds like Florida, Alabama and Texas seem to be in a holding pattern. Florida has plenty of Indian casinos, but the general assembly has made no move to legalize sports betting. Alabama has had no discussions among their lawmakers about sports betting. Texas is surprisingly in the same boat. They would be one of the biggest gaming states in the nation but no law makers have been championing it.
By 2020, it’s safe to assume that many new states will have legalized sports gambling. It could be more than half the countries states. How successful the current legalized states are, will help determine that. There are a few law makers who feel that states will lose money like Nebraska’s Governor Pete Ricketts. If the current legalized states dispel that notion and create financial windfalls for their states. That could change a state’s stance on sports wagering. Other naysayers in government are against it from a morality standpoint, while others feel that gambling will be too difficult to regulate properly. There are certainly hurdles to overcome in 2019 but by 2020, the picture should become clearer.
There is no doubt that XFL founder Vince McMahon is putting all of his chips in the middle of the table with his financial commitment of over 500 million dollars. The league is banking on a TV rights/streaming deal that will net them exposure and create multiple revenue streams. However, their best bet may be on the sports gambling landscape by 2020.
Mike was one of the original XFLBoard.com Team Reporters in 2001. We welcome him back to the XFLBoard and look forward to his insightful contributions.