U.S. Sports Betting

Here are several samples of my work covering sports betting for GamblingCompliance:

Mayweather-McGregor Betting Handle Tops $60m In Nevada


Despite predictions the betting handle on the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight would top $100m, a Nevada gaming official says early betting estimates based on a sample of sportsbooks came in lower than expected.

“Our estimate … is in excess of $60m,” Michael Lawton, senior research analyst with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, told GamblingCompliance.

Sports-betting handle and revenue figures for August will be released next month.

However, sportsbooks in Las Vegas — William Hill and Station Casinos — easily took in more money on Saturday than they did for Mayweather’s May 2, 2015 fight against Manny Pacquiao.

“It was very, very strong in terms of handle,” said Art Manteris, vice president of race and sports book at Station Casinos. “It’s going to surpass any other boxing match, including Pacquiao-Mayweather.”

Mayweather-Pacquiao generated an estimated handle of $50m.

“The Mayweather-McGregor fight was the most we have written on a fight and a non-Super Bowl event,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill US.

Bogdanovich attributed the high level of interest by gamblers in the fight to a combination of Mayweather being “one of the greatest boxers of all time and McGregor being at the top of UFC.”

“Both fighters are huge in their sports,” he said. “McGregor has drawn a lot of action for his previous UFC fights.”

Manteris described Mayweather, with a record of 50-0, as one of boxing’s all time best fighters.

He said that Station Casinos has done very well off of Mayweather because the “public likes to bet against him.”

The fight ended when Mayweather won by a technical knockout at 1:05 of the 10th round.

As of 4:30pm on Saturday, the fight had already attracted twice the handle and 50 percent more tickets, or unique bets, than the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight at William Hill in Nevada, the company said.

William Hill said 40 percent of the money wagered was placed on McGregor, while 60 percent favored Mayweather.

On Monday, a customer picked up a check at Hooters Casino Hotel in Las Vegas for $1.45m, which included their $1.2m original stake, plus $242,000 in net win.

“We are thrilled to pay it. We needed the same result,” said Bogdanovich.

Ciaran O’Brien, a spokesman for William Hill in London, said the fight was a “record breaking event for us in Las Vegas and the United Kingdom.”

O’Brien added that the Mayweather win “was an outstanding result.”

Ladbrokes Coral CEO Jim Mullen said the cash being wagered on the fight in the UK was virtually unprecedented for an event other than Britain’s famed Grand National horse race or a major international soccer tournament.

“The number of low-value, high-frequency bets on McGregor, if McGregor had won, there would have been a few tears falling over the weekend,” Mullen told analysts on an earnings conference call Thursday.

“It was probably — it wasn’t probably, it was the biggest betting event of the year outside the Grand National,” Ladbrokes Coral CEO Jim Mullen said.

How William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral and other British bookmakers did financially off the Mayweather-McGregor fight will not be known until they release their earnings for the second half of the year.

In Las Vegas, Bogdanovich compared betting interest in the fight to that of the National Football League’s Super Bowl weekend.

The Super Bowl is the only individual event where betting handle is tracked by the Nevada Gambling Control Board, which issues monthly revenue reports.

Since 2014, the Super Bowl has easily surpassed the $100m mark in handle, with $138.48m wagered on the New England Patriots 34 to 28 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Other $100m handles were:

  • 2016 – Super Bowl 50 (Denver Broncos-Carolina Panthers) — $132.5m
  • 2015 – Super Bowl 49 (New England Patriots-Seattle Seahawks) — $115.98m
  • 2014 – Super Bowl 48 (Seattle Seahawks-Denver Broncos) — $119.4m

Although Mayweather announced his retirement following Saturday’s fight, Manteris told GamblingCompliance he has posted odds on a rematch.

As of Thursday, Mayweather is a 1-7 favorite and McGregor is at 5-1 in a rematch that must take place before December 31, 2018.

But will the enthusiasm for boxing carrying over to the Canelo Alvarez versus Gennady Golovkin middleweight unification fight on September 16 in Las Vegas?

“That will also be a great betting fight,” said Manteris.

Still, Manteris said there is no doubt that there “is a void to fill without Mayweather.”

“I hope one of these guys emerges as a star. Mayweather has big shoes to fill,” he said.

New Jersey Cites States’ Rights In U.S. Supreme Court Filing


New Jersey on Tuesday filed an initial brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the federal ban on sports betting, arguing that the law exceeds Congress’ authority by compelling states to prohibit wagering on sports.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear New Jersey’s argument to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) and legalize wagering on sports within its borders by late fall or early winter.

The question that New Jersey has presented to the high court, according to gaming attorney Daniel Wallach, is a relatively narrow one: Does a federal statute that prohibits states from modifying or repealing their own laws regulating private conduct violate the 10th Amendment anti-commandeering principal?

PASPA compels states to prohibit sports wagering, and therefore, exceeds Congress’ authority, the New Jersey brief states.

“Given the narrow scope of the question presented, it is not a foregone conclusion that the high court will issue a broad referendum on PASPA,” said Wallach, an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“However, if the justices don’t seize on the opportunity now to address PASPA, it will invite continuous challenges. It is certainly possible that the high court invalidates PASPA in its totality. That remains in play,” Wallach told GamblingCompliance.

Jeff Ifrah, founder of the Ifrah law firm in Washington, D.C., agreed, saying he was hopeful the justices would look at PASPA in its entirety.

“State law governs gambling,” Ifrah said. “PASPA is a very unusual thing.”

“Our constitutional structure does not permit Congress to regulate interstate commerce in that manner,” the New Jersey filing said. “Under our Constitution, if Congress wishes for sports wagering to be illegal, it must make the activity unlawful itself. It cannot compel States to do so.”

New Jersey’s 78-page filing was submitted Tuesday, the deadline to file briefs in the case.

Besides New Jersey’s brief, two others were also filed: One by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which along with the state is a defendant in the case, and the other — an amicus brief — by the Pacific Legal Foundation.

As New Jersey readies to argue its case before the Supreme Court, neither Wallach nor Ifrah expect the state’s efforts to backfire — a situation in which the high court would not only maintain the PASPA wagering ban on New Jersey but also extend the ban to Nevada.

“I don’t really see that happening,” Ifrah said. “Maybe, they don’t even address the issue of Congress prohibiting states from decriminalizing activity within their borders.”

Ifrah said the Supreme Court could rule instead that the country’s professional and collegiate sports leagues, which are plaintiffs in the case, do not have standing to bring the case.

In the event of such a ruling, the case would be sent back to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which has already ruled twice against New Jersey.

That would leave it up to the U.S. Department of Justice to decide whether to pursue the case.

Ifrah said it is the federal government’s role, and not the leagues’, to challenge New Jersey’s efforts at legalizing sports betting.

“Since when do we have private businesses prosecuting the law against New Jersey,” Ifrah said.

Wallach, meantime, had a prediction to offer.

“If you’re asking me if I believe New Jersey will be able to accept sports bets in time for the start of the 2018 NFL season, I would say there is an extremely high likelihood of that happening,” he said.

U.S. Supreme Court Case A Predicament For Sports Leagues


If the U.S. Supreme Court rules New Jersey can offer legal sports betting, the four major U.S. professional sports leagues may not be pleased with the outcome but they are likely to be prepared for that outcome, a panel of experts said Tuesday.

David Purdum, a gambling reporter with ESPN, said if the leagues were to lose their case, they “would relinquish all control of sports betting.”

Currently, the leagues have control by being able to go to court to block any proposed expansion of sports betting in the U.S. That is lost if the Supreme Court overturns the federal ban on wagering on sports.

Purdum said the best-case scenario for the leagues would be a “direct and significant revenue stream” from legal sports betting in the U.S. The catch, Purdum said, is the leagues will want to avoid the appearance of making that direct connection to gambling.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear New Jersey’s challenge to the scope of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) by late fall or early winter.

Purdum added that he did not think a loss would be the worst case scenario for professional sports leagues. He believes they are worried about a patch work, or state-by-state, system of regulations with no revenues for the leagues.

“It still comes back to they want to make money,” Purdum said.

Andrew Brandt, director of the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law at Villanova University, said on the legal front, the Supreme Court taking this case is a big deal.

The court decided to take up the case despite the U.S. solicitor general’s opposition and the Supreme Court’s denial in 2014 to consider an earlier version of this case.

Brandt said “evolving” was the word he kept hearing when it came to the position of the four major professional sports leagues — the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) — on sports betting.

“We are only three years from [former Dallas Cowboys quarterback] Tony Romo being told he couldn’t attend a fantasy sports conference in Las Vegas,” Brandt said. “Not because it was Vegas, but because it was held in a casino.”

“We are at a different point today,” Brandt said.

Both Brandt and Purdum participated Tuesday in a webinar presented by Clarion Gaming on preparing for the Supreme Court’s New Jersey decision and options for the sports industry.

Moderator Daniel Wallach, a gaming attorney with Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, asked if Nevada should be concerned that the court could decide not only to maintain a wagering ban on New Jersey but also extend the betting prohibition to the Silver State.

Wallach called it the “doomsday scenario,” where the court kills an industry.

He cited an article by Ryan Rodenberg, who teaches at Florida State University and is considered an expert on PASPA, that said the Supreme Court might simply eliminate the exemptions from PASPA instead of overturning the federal ban.

Under PASPA, which Congress passed in 1992, Nevada is completely exempt from the federal sports-betting ban and Delaware, Montana and Oregon are partially exempt.

Beyond those four states, evidence from Congress indicates Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming also are exempt from PASPA in varying degrees, according to Rodenberg’s article in the Duke Law Review.

Purdum acknowledged the doomsday scenario as a possibility, but from a practical standpoint it is unlikely that the justices would decide to take away an industry that generated $4.5bn in bets last year.

“There will be some type of compromise and a ruling will come down the middle,” Purdum said.

Until there is a decision, the four major professional sports leagues have been reluctant to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision to take the case.

But the commissioners of the NBA and MLB, along with Major League Soccer (MLS), have said they need to be in a position to try to shape what a future regulatory scheme for sports betting might look like, even as both the NBA and MLB continue to oppose New Jersey’s efforts in court.

“There will be some point when they can’t straddle the issue anymore,” Brandt said.

Brandt expects the NFL to reach that point in about three years, when the Raiders complete their move from Oakland to Las Vegas.

“I think the NFL understands their predicament,” Brandt said. “Commissioner Roger Goodell praises Nevada’s gaming regulations, while fighting those exact same regulations New Jersey has proposed.”

Brandt, a former vice president with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, said people associated with the NFL he has spoke to about the Raiders move to Las Vegas were concerned about whether the market was large enough to support a team or whether it is just a tourist market.

They also expressed their concern if there was long-term support for the team, he said.

All those issues, Brandt said, were more important than gambling and casinos, which “to me was an astounding response.”

Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL, which includes a new franchise in Las Vegas, recently told reporters: “We’re a small part of betting compared to football and basketball … I don’t worry about fixing games.”

Purdum reminded opponents of legalized sports betting that whether legal or not there are going to be scandals in the future.

“It’s time to move past that and have something more pragmatic,” Purdum said.

More States Expected To Prepare For Sports Betting


More states will begin to pave the way for an expanded sports-betting market as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear New Jersey’s challenge to a federal ban later this year or early next, a panel of experts said Wednesday.

Dan Shapiro, vice president of strategy and business development with William Hill in Las Vegas, said that should the Supreme Court overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), there are two states that could very quickly begin to offer sports betting.

“If that does happen, New Jersey could pretty quickly implement sports betting,” Shapiro said.

In Delaware, the state lottery already offers parlay betting on football games at the state’s three racinos and some 100 retailers. Should PASPA be overturned, Shapiro expected Delaware to be prepared to offer a sports-betting product by the start of the 2018 NFL season.

Both New Jersey and Delaware already have sports-betting laws on their books.

But as of Wednesday, 13 further states had bills pending that would legalize sports betting, subject to PASPA being overturned, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA).

“I’m sure there will be more by the Supreme Court hearing,” Shapiro said.

Will Green, senior director of research with the AGA, agreed that state lawmakers are set to become more aggressive when it comes to legalizing sports betting.

He noted that Connecticut was also prepared should PASPA be overturned.

Last month, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed a bill with provisions that allow the state to move forward on sports-betting regulation.

The bill, which authorized a third casino in the state, called on the “commissioner of Consumer Protection to adopt regulations … to regulate wagering on sporting events to the extent permitted by state and federal law.”

Both Shapiro and Green participated Wednesday in a webinar on the opportunities for sports betting inside and out of Nevada.

When asked how sports betting in the U.S. compares to other jurisdictions, Shapiro simply said that in this country, “99 percent of sports betting is illegal.”

Nevada is the only state with a full offering of sports betting, with Delaware, Montana and Oregon partially exempt from PASPA.

But on Super Bowl 51 and basketball’s March Madness combined, the AGA estimates Americans bet $15bn, with 97 percent of that total being bet illegally.

Green estimated the value of the U.S. illegal market to be $150bn in handle annually. He said that massive number proves there is “demand for sports betting” and that “it’s a very popular activity.”

The AGA also estimated legal sports betting to be worth $5bn in federal, state and local taxes and $10bn-$11bn in gross gaming revenue.

“From our perspective, the market could be bigger,” William Hill’s Shapiro said. “Nobody really knows, but we know it’s a huge, huge market.”

The hour-long discussion also touched on political obstacles and how Nevada’s sports-betting regulations could be used as a model for other states.

“The biggest political roadblock is overturning PASPA,” said Dan Kustelski, co-founder of Chalkline Sports, a provider of mobile sports-betting services based in Tennessee.

But Kustelski said reaching a consensus on any bill could also be a challenge at the state level, especially in California where the issue is becoming a hot topic for Indian gaming tribes, racing interests and card rooms that make up the state’s gaming industry.

Still, the AGA’s Green said that public opposition to legal sports betting has declined over time.

A recent survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for the AGA found that a solid majority (55 percent) of Americans believe it is time to end the federal sports-betting ban, while nearly six in ten (57 percent) Americans agree that regulated sports betting would protect consumers.

William Hill’s Shapiro said a lot depends on the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling in the New Jersey sports-betting case, but the views of the U.S.’ major sports leagues have evolved since PASPA was passed in 1992.

The National Hockey League’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, begin play in September.

Meanwhile, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will be relocating to Las Vegas in time for the 2020 football season.

Shapiro attributed the leagues’ shifting views toward gambling changing to their working relationship partnering with daily fantasy sports (DFS) companies.

Kustelski agreed, but said the professional sports leagues are still “trying to figure out how they can monetize” sports betting.