Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum knows firsthand the tremendous positive impact legal sports gambling can have on the sport of boxing.
Under Arum’s guidance, Top Rank, Inc., a professional boxing promotion company founded in 1973 and based in Las Vegas, has become unarguably the industry leader in promoting professional prizefights.
“People love to gamble on sports,” Arum told Gambling.com “It’s one thing to root in a vacuum for one fighter over another. It’s another to have a real stake on how the fight will turn out by having a bet on one of the fighters.”
Arum has promoted some of the biggest names the boxing world has ever seen, including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.
His company was the promoter on record for most of the fight game’s biggest box office smashes ever, and Arum sees new opportunities for both the sport to grow as a whole overall as well as the number of places that can now attract big fights to their locations.
Arum knows more about the ins and outs of professional boxing than just about any other single human being on the planet, so when Arum says he’s excited to see where boxing is headed after the United States Supreme Court struck down a 25-year federal ban on sports gambling earlier this year, it’s safe to say he probably knows what he’s talking about.
“I really think the kind of business that’s going to be done now with legal sports gambling is going to be absolutely tremendous,” said Arum. “I think most people don’t want to break the law when they bet. Now they have the opportunity to bet legally [in more places], and I think they are going to flood the place putting in bets.”
Arum said the 6-3 ruling in favor of New Jersey and other states who wanted to allow sports gambling as a way to encourage tourism and tax revenue would also help the average boxing betting fans out there who had just wanted to place bets for entertainment purposes but were left without a reasonable way to do so.
“Most of the population in this country has been gambling on sports illegally for many, many years,” said Arum. “It was only in Las Vegas, Nevada where sports gambling really was permitted. The interest was monumental during the NFL season, the casinos were loaded and exploded with people legally gambling on football.”
Arum, who has promoted hundreds of fights over the years and many in Las Vegas, said having boxing matches in places where people were legally permitted to wager on them made the promotions that much bigger and better than they would be otherwise.
“When I do a major boxing match in Nevada, part of the excitement and the enthusiasm is that people are allowed to bet on the fights, whether it’s on who is going to win or the round or whether it’s a knockout or a decision. All of that really creates interest.”
Arum said the 1992 federal law prohibiting states like New Jersey from allowing sports gambling had unintended consequences both at the state level as well as at the level of the individual.
He said cities like Atlantic City, which had gambling but not sports gambling, missed out on the kinds of interest and revenue cities like Las Vegas enjoyed, and that people in the surrounding areas were left with expensive and difficult choices to make if they wanted to gamble.
“People in New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York who didn’t come to Las Vegas either had to gamble internationally online, which is illegal, or had to put bets in with illegal bookmakers which is dicey,” said Arum. “And when people would struggle, the collection was basically based on somebody breaking somebody’s leg. It was not a healthy environment.”
Arum said since the SCOTUS ruling have fast-tracked their efforts to allow legal sports gambling, states such as New Jersey have a leg up on providing opportunities for more bigtime fights in the future. Moreover, he said letting states decide was a net positive to all stakeholders.
“I was there for a fight recently on Aug. 25 and they showed the sportsbook that the Ocean Resort Casino is building and believe me it is more lavish than the sportsbook in casinos in Las Vegas. And when I do fights now in Atlantic City, like when I do fights in Las Vegas, people will come and bet on the fights. That will add to the excitement and interest.”
I had another theory, one I couldn’t help but float out to someone who knows more about boxing than I could ever hope to know. To me, the more people who are allowed to bet on fights, the more people who might potentially be inclined by such exposure to becoming full-fledged boxing fans.
“I absolutely agree with you,” said Arum, whose business only grows stronger with a strong and thriving fanbase.