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Life Gets Better for Sports Bettors

On November 30, English soccer teams Newcastle United and Norwich City played to a 1–1 draw in a Premier League matchup. Although the match was a draw, the results were not much of a surprise to most football fans.

But I cared. While I was watching the match closely, Newcastle lost a player. But, they took the lead in half two and regained it with 10 minutes remaining. I paid $10 for the result.

Soon after the match was over, Leeds United won a penalty kick and beat Crystal Palace. I earned $6.25. Although I did lose a couple of dollars, it was well worth the thrill of being able to participate in two matches that I wouldn’t otherwise be enthused about.

Both matches were bet at Caesars Sportsbook, Capital One Arena. Caesars Sportsbook is a physical location that offers betting. It also features desks, computer kiosks, and patrons are able to place wagers at the kiosks while in the building.

It’s a way for sports fans to raise the stakes and try to make a little money—with more skill required and entertainment provided than picking random lottery numbers and watching some ping pong balls bounce around (though some sportsbooks do accept bets on table tennis matches). For the enjoyment of having a financial stake, even if the bet is lost, the bettor will still receive the amount that they have won. The entertainment provided by the sports drama is similar to paying for movie tickets and receiving entertainment.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Caesars Sportsbook crowded on a Tuesday afternoon. However, it had been quiet enough that people were still placing bets for college basketball and hockey. After waiting for 15 minutes to place my wager on Leeds United I registered to Caesars Sportsbook DC to bet on Norwich City during halftime. The majority of the clients were black men. There was a growing civil society among regulars who shared their betting tips and strategies. Parlays are a good option, but don’t place parlays. The payouts can be higher and the chances of winning decrease with every additional leg.

This was all pretty much impossible in Washington, D.C., before the sportsbook opened in May 2021—or basically anywhere in the country except Nevada until May 2018. This was when the Supreme Court ruled in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. New Jersey Republican Governor, Chris Christie was the one who spearheaded this lawsuit. Chris Christie was the plaintiff, and major leagues were fighting back. It was opposed by the NBA, NFL NHL, MLB, NCAA and NCAA. The Court ruled that the law deprived states of regulatory authority and overturned the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which had banned all forms of betting. Although the ruling did not allow sports betting to be legalized nationwide, it gave states the ability to make sports betting legal if necessary.

Some states have decided to make people feel like adults and allow multiple sportsbooks into their markets. They also let online bettors place wagers on any topic they choose. Some states aren’t allowing sports betting. Some states, like Washington, D.C., allow sports betting, but also have imposed complicated regulations.

The Caesars app is not allowed to be placed if you are more than two blocks from Capital One Arena. Caesars Sportsbook allows you to gamble only in Capital One Arena or the immediate area. It is possible to place a bet via your mobile phone at Capital One Arena at 9th Street NW or F Street NW. But not at Pi Pizzeria at 350 feet further west.

GambetDC is the only way you can bet on any sport from Washington, D.C. The odds of winning are much worse than the ones offered by other nonlottery betting sites, even if they manage to register on the app and website. GambetDC provided odds that the Washington Capitals would win the December 1 matchup between Chicago Blackhawks and Blackhawks. This meant that a bettors would need to wager $250 to make $100 if they won. For a 25% better return, anyone could use the Caesars Sportsbook DC App to get odds of -200. GambetDC didn’t only offer better odds in Capitals than the Caesars Sportsbook DC App, it offered even worse odds with Blackhawks (+175 vs. 150). GambetDC’s house cut is generally higher, which takes more bettors’ winnings and entertains them.

I was told by a Caesars Sportsbook employee in D.C. that this is the reason he “bet real money” in Virginia.

The Legalization Bet won

I went to Virginia’s favorite gambling spot after I settled my Leeds United wager at Caesars Sportsbook downtown. Unfortunately, they only accept and pay out cash. However, the app was able to transfer money from my bank accounts. It’s not technically a sportsbook; it’s just a pub where I can place bets—not with a sketchy bookie or with just one sportsbook but with a ton of mobile betting options: Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM, BetRivers, Caesars, FanDuel, DraftKings, Unibet, and WynnBET all operate throughout the state. Washington, D.C., does not have a lot of retail sportsbooks or a bad lottery option. But, you can find a sportbook anywhere there is cell coverage: at your favorite sports bar, in your basement, on the Metro platform, etc. Signing up is easy and most sportsbooks offer ridiculous incentives to new customers (deposit match, higher odds or free first bets, where lost bets are refunded in the form of freebies). There could be as many as 19 legal sports betting apps in Virginia. Several states have additional sportsbooks, such as my state of Michigan.

Access to more sportsbooks allows you to find the best odds of a particular team being selected. This is crucial for frequent gamblers. Different odds can make a big difference in how much you win. When a betor chooses to place a wager on the team that is likely to win, the best sportsbook for him will offer the most lucrative payout. For $100, it is possible to have $50 in difference between winnings for longshots. This is why betting guides for beginners frequently mention comparing different lines for the same game at different sportsbooks. For professional and high roller bettors, the difference can add up quickly.

With the exception of a few restrictions, there are 17 states who have managed to get all aspects of sports gambling right. For example, several states don’t allow bets on in-state college sports teams—an annoying and unnecessary restriction but one that still leaves the vast majority of the sports landscape open for bets. The states that have legalized online betting and multiple sportsbooks as of December are Arizona, Colorado and Connecticut. Nevada offers online betting through multiple apps. However, the user must register in person at a Nevada casino. New Hampshire and Oregon offer online betting using one app. Rhode Island, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island all have it. Some states allow sports betting in-person at licensed casinos.

While legalization will bring more revenue to the state, taxation on sportsbooks is different from state-to-state. In October 2021, New Jersey’s sports betting companies paid $10.6 Million in taxes. For some reason the state taxed in-person betting at 8.5 percent and online wagers at 13. percent. New York’s sportsbooks enjoy a large market, but are subject to a 51% tax on profits. The state’s corporate income tax rate is 6.5 percent for most businesses.

While it is possible to not wish for the state to be able to spend more money, taxes on betting sites can make the experience less enjoyable by reducing the odds of winning and offering fewer promotions. The reason that sportsbooks and casino should pay special taxes is not clear. Other forms of entertainment, like bowling alleys and heavily-subsidized movie productions, are also affected. Also, it’s odd that states taxes horse racing revenue but the federal government grants wealthy racehorse owners an exemption by allowing them to reduce the racehorse’s value for three years instead the seven. The state and local governments’ receipts have increased 23 percent since the pandemic, which means they are not in cash crunch. It’s still better to have betting legalized and taxed rather than having it not.

Online betting is legal for those who have access. The number of possible bets that are available can overwhelm bettors. Unibet provided Virginians with almost 90,000. There were many things they could bet on, and it was on a Friday in December. Most of the options offered were related to soccer, as some believe that there is money in betting on Gibraltar teams. All the American major sports were represented. (Norway was the favorite at +125, while Latvia and Romania brought up the rear at +250,000—yes, a $100 bet on Latvia or Romania would result in $250,000 of winnings if one of those countries managed to take the gold medal.) There were many options, including the most popular types (like who wins a championship or game, or whether the spread or total score will be higher), as well as more detailed choices. Unibet had at least 100 options to place bets on every NBA game. These included whether or not a player will score more than or less than a specific number of points, and whether or not the total score would be equal or odd. Live betting allows you to bet even during the middle of an NBA game. You can wager on who will win, which soccer team will score more corner kicks and whether or not the next basket is worth two points.

My Virginia “sportsbook” was my place to make larger wagers. I placed $20 on my home team of the Detroit Red Wings, which could win $38, and $20 on Nashville Predators. There were potential wins of $12.50 and $20. $10 on New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks, each with potential winnings up to $10.10 (because a Caesars friend had shared with me his success in betting unders on total hockey goals). Betting on these games made it more intimate as I was already watching them.

You can’t win them all

These bets would not have been possible in the majority of the country. Together, these 17 states allow for online betting via multiple sportsbooks. This accounts for nearly 40% of the population. California, Texas, Georgia and North Carolina are some of the most populous states in America that don’t offer any legal betting opportunities.

Black markets can fill in the gap when something is outlawed. Online offshore betting is also an option. These come with potential risks, as do all black markets. Because of financial regulations it may be difficult for you to deposit and withdraw with offshore sportsbooks. Oddsmakers might take a larger cut of your winnings and some offshore sites have a history of closing down or making off with your money.

But, the federal ban prohibited people from betting on any sports. Along with black market bookies, and Las Vegas-based betting through proxies, many people also bet alongside their coworkers and friends in fantasy sports leagues. In 2015, daily fantasy sports began to flourish. The federal ban also allowed for exceptions to bet on jai alai, horseracing and dogracing. While states can ban betting on these, very few do.

The sports betting industry is home to a lot of illegal activity, but it’s not impossible to find a way to stop them. American Gaming Association estimates that 22.75 million people will bet with their friends casually during the 2021 NFL Season, more than those who are expected to wager online. Even with legalization being more widespread across the country the American Gaming Association estimated that 6.7 Million people would place bets with illegal bookies this season, an increase of 13 percent over 2020.

While there have been a few cases where illegal bookies are being tried, it seems that they are less frequent than the Ohio man who admitted to running an illegal gambling ring over five years. However, he was sentenced for three years probation and received a two-year term. The legalization of sports betting will give those who bet on it more options and legal recourses for resolving disputes. If you are concerned about how betting could affect the integrity and fairness of sport, there is more information that can help oddsmakers to detect cases of improper betting.

Florida is currently attempting to legalize betting on sports. It has been a difficult and unsuccessful attempt. This story began in 2018, when Amendment 3 was passed by Florida voters with 72 percent support. Any expansion of casino gambling must be approved by 60% of the state’s voters. Republican governor is among the many supporters of legalized gambling. Ron DeSantis thought that they could bypass Amendment 3 by negotiating with the Seminole Tribe. They argued that if the server processing bets is located on tribal lands then gambling expansion would not take place in Florida.

It was expected that the Seminole tribal agreement would guarantee the state at least $6 billion of revenue over the next ten years. The government wanted to pass it. DeSantis signed the legislation within 12 days. The bill was supported by supermajorities across all the chambers. On August 6, the U.S. Department of the Interior authorized the deal without disapproval or formal approval.

West Flagler Associates had filed two federal lawsuits by the end August against West Flagler Associates. These were owners of Bonita Springs’ Bonita Springs casino and a Miami casino. The first suit alleged the pact was in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The second alleged the Secretary of Interior had exceeded her authority to approve the pact. DraftKings and FanDuel, two betting companies, teamed up in the interim to begin the process for legalizing online and in-person gambling in sports. Online betting revenues will be used for education. The ballot initiative would increase competition for Florida’s gambling money, which is why the Seminole tribe opposed it.

Online betting was launched in New Jersey on November 1st by Hard Rock Sportsbook, the app that the Seminole tribe acquired in 2007. A federal judge sided in the opponents, and said that the pact violated Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That day, the Hard Rock app was temporarily taken offline. The Seminole tribe appealed and the app was brought back up. On December 6, it was removed indefinitely. Bettors were able withdraw their funds, with all outstanding bets canceled.

Sports gambling could take root in Florida if the ballot initiative 2022 passes. It is expected that the majors in the sector will invest a lot of money on both sides. It will be up to the Seminoles to justify why sports betting is allowed in the state. It will be difficult for the initiative to move from 70% saying legalization requires a constitutional amendment in 2018, to 60% in 2022. The sports betting landscape has evolved a lot over the last few years.

Big Money

It is hard to find a better example of this rapid shift in the landscape than the attitudes taken by the professional leagues towards gambling. They went from fighting an intractable legal battle against legalization to accepting sports betting. There are official partners in sports betting and data sharing agreements with leagues and clubs. Betting apps advertise at games of hockey and soon will appear on jerseys. You may hear TV announcers say, “Let’s listen from FanDuel”, for a quick commercial during a game. There are many in-stadium betting options, like the one mentioned in Washington, D.C., which is a good way for sportsbooks to obtain a license. In some states, it’s possible to partner with professional teams.

The acceptance of sports betting has grown to the point that there is a complementing entertainment sector. Influencers are now promoting their picks via podcasts, YouTube and publications. These websites use in-depth analysis models to help beat the betting houses. There are also betting news sites which report on which pickers and systems perform best. Some journalists are devoted to covering sports betting’s business or legalization.

It’s a large industry. Online betting combined with a decline in tourism due to the pandemic saw New Jersey surpass Nevada as the state that has more annual sports bets. New Jersey had more than $1.3 billion worth of bets in October 2021. That’s a record. New Jersey sportsbooks generated $84 million revenue. Of course, a lucky few bettors come away with a profit—myself included.

As I watched to see if my hockey bets would pay off in November, Nashville cruised to an easy 6–0 win over Columbus, but my over-under bet on San Jose vs. New Jersey lost when the score became 4–2 with almost seven minutes to play. In Boston, the game I cared most about and stood the most to gain from, my Detroit Red Wings clung to a 2–1 lead in the final moments. One of the best things about live betting is that many sportsbook apps allow you to cash out before your game ends if you are worried about a comeback. However, this will only apply to a small percentage of what you would win if the bet settles successfully. After Boston got aggressive in the last minute, it was too late and I took my money. The Red Wings won the game anyway.

Between the three soccer games and the three hockey matches, I placed $70 risk, made three wins, lost two and came out with $29. The best part was that I enjoyed watching more sports.

Reason.com first published the article Life Gets Better For Sports Bettors