[toc]It’s time for a sports betting reality check.
Yes, New Jersey has a golden opportunity to make its case for legal sports betting in front of the Supreme Court. And yes, a dozen states have introduced legislation that would legalize sports betting if New Jersey wins its case and the federal laws governing sports betting change.
But the idea that widespread sports betting legalization will quickly follow is wishful thinking.
Only two of those states, Connecticut and Mississippi, have passed preemptive sports betting legislation.
Further, as we’ve seen with online gambling and online lottery legalization, don’t expect states to just jump into sports betting without a lot of reflection, study, and debate.
Just because a state can legalize something, doesn’t mean it will do it.
Online gaming and lottery provide a good example
A good parallel is online gambling.
The Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opened the door for states to legalize online poker, online casino, and/or online lottery within their borders in September 2011. Six years later, less than a fifth of the states have legalized online gaming and/or online lottery.
A few states jumped at the opportunity. Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey all regulated online gambling. Meanwhile, the following states passed online lottery legislation:
- Minnesota (since rescinded)
Since then only a single state has joined them. New Hampshire passed an online lottery bill this year. This despite a slew of legislation in states across the country.
Plenty of states have looked into online gaming and online lottery, but passing a bill has been difficult.
There is still an anti-gambling thread in the United States
Oppositional forces range from the usual conservatives and anti-gambling crowd to potential stakeholders, who see new forms of gambling as competition.
Even though there is gambling of some sort in 48 of the 50 states, and casinos seem to be popping up everywhere, gambling is still seen as seedy. Sports betting isn’t going to shed that characterization simply because federal laws changed either.
State legislatures are going to want to research and debate the impact on problem gambling, existing gaming, consumer protections, and so on and so forth.
Who’s going to benefit from sports betting?
On top of that, many states will have to deal with dichotomous opinions from current gaming stakeholders on how sports betting should be legalized. All those groups will all want a piece of the pie.
For instance, a state like California has:
- Tribal casinos
- Commercial card rooms
- State-run lottery
- Large horse racing industry
The point is, just because states might have the opportunity to legalize sports betting doesn’t mean they will. Nor will everyone be on the same page about how it should be implemented.
If New Jersey wins its case, expect plenty of sports betting bills to be introduced, but don’t expect too much legislative right out of the gate.