It's always seemed strange that in the 'land of the free' vices such as drinking and gambling have faced such harsh discrimination throughout history. Alcohol prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933, which made bootleg moonshine a much sought-after commodity and eventually led to the reinstatement of booze.
Sports betting, on the other hand, has faced a harder and longer road to legality, with restrictions still in place across most states. Now, industry insiders claim it's time for sports betting to be made legal in the US and finally let gamblers bet on their favourite teams with the best online sportsbooks!
One of loudest voices in the campaign to legalise sports betting in all US states belongs to Adam Silver – the head honcho of the NBA. Silver publicly voiced his opinion in an New York Times op-ed in 2014 in favour of online sports betting in the US. As the commissioner for the NBA, he has significant influence in the industry.
As such, his recent statement is making waves:
"Sports betting will be legal in the US in the next few years."
As things stand, it's illegal to take bets outside the states of Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana. In an interview with Sports Business Journal's John Ourand, Silver explains that the pressure from gamblers across the United States is so strong that the demand simply has to break the dam that currently deems it illegal to bet on sports.
NBA commish Silver on gambling: "My sense is the law will change in the next few years in the United States."— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) July 18, 2017
One potential obstacle to legalising sports betting in the USA stems from concerns over the integrity of games and the risk of match fixing. At the recent 'GameChangers: Creating the Future of Sports' conference in New York, Silver met with the commissioners of the other three main North American sports leagues.
The meetings were scheduled by Silver in hopes to quell murmurs of concern about his statements and predictions. Silver was met with mix results. MLB baseball head, Rob Manfred, supports Silver's view, suggesting that the questions about match fixing are overhyped:
"There's a difference between someone betting on whether the next ball is a strike and betting on the outcome of a game."
The NFL's commissioner, Roger Goodell, refused to comment on the bodies' sports betting outlook, though the NHL's spokesman, Gary Bettman, seemed upbeat about legalising online sports betting and has no concerns surrounding the Las Vegas Golden Knights' foray into the league when the new seasons starts:
"We're a small part of betting compared to football and basketball, so I don't worry about fixing games."
It's also a fact that any prospective match-fixing bets could easily be placed on the black market, or made by overseas agents in jurisdictions where gambling is legal. However, many experts suggest that the real reason behind why sports gambling remains illegal in most states is the risk to problem gamblers.
The American Gaming Association (AGA) continues to work tirelessly towards the goal of legalising betting in the United States. The body has joined forces with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Association to create the American Sports Betting Coalition (ASBC).
The ASBC was designed to repeal the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). A spokesperson for the AGA commented that the ASBC will foster an "all-inclusive advocacy campaign focused on ending the ban, with backing from parties pushing for wider regulation of sports betting in the US".
The news follows on from the fact that the Supreme US Court has permitted the state of New Jersey to present an appeal to legalise placing bets on professional and college sports at casinos and race courses. The hearing will kick off sometime later this year in October with New Jersey's Govennor, Chris Christie leading the defense.
The landscape behind this isn't straightforward, since the NBA, along with other major US sports leagues, is a member of a body that has twice sued New Jersey to prevent them from actioning their proposal. Curiously, Silver appears to challenge the view of the NBA as a whole.
The fact that the Supreme Court is willing to entertain New Jersey this coming October is in itself a significant breakthrough for sports betting in the US. Indeed, only two percent of petitions made to the Supreme Court are accepted. Regardless of the New Jersey outcome, it appears the NBA's commissioner, Adam Silver, is right: punters on the edge of their seats can expect US sports betting to be legalised by 2020!