Legal Wagering Erases Fear of Sports Betting, Experts Say

Author Image Article By Larry Henry GDC - Icon - Black - Info
Date IconLast Updated: 
Share On Your Network
Legal Wagering Erases Fear of Sports Betting, Experts Say
© USA Today

The nationwide growth in legal sports betting over the past five years is putting to rest the stigma once associated with gambling, some experts say.

Others see a downside to the explosive growth in sports betting, believing it could temp compulsive gamblers and might lead to a perception that games are easily rigged.

Number of Legal States Growing

In May 2018, a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, known as PASPA. The act limited betting to Nevada sportsbooks and sports lotteries in Oregon, Montana and Delaware.

Since the 2018 Supreme Court decision, sports betting has become legal and has gone live in 33 states and Washington, D.C. It is legal but not yet operational in four other states. 

Legal sports betting does not occur in the three most populated states — California, Texas and Florida — though efforts are underway in all three to legalize sports wagering. 

Mob Image ‘Hard to Overcome’

Proponents say the increase in legal sports betting has taken an enterprise formerly facilitated by organized crime out of the shadows and generated jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for state programs.

According to some observers, the national conversation about sports betting is occurring as the stigma once associated with gambling is being eroded across the country.

The stigma occurred partly because of organized crime’s connection to illegal sports betting in the U.S. and offshore. Mob figures have historically rigged sporting events by paying participants and referees to throw games and manipulating betting odds. 

At one point, then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue opposed putting a franchise in Las Vegas. The city and its gambling culture were seen as heavily associated with the Mob — which changed as corporations took over ownership of casinos a half-century ago. 

The Mob remained connected to gambling, however. Proponents say that as legal gaming has spread across the county, publicly traded casinos and online sportsbooks, whose owners include a broad spectrum of shareholders, have legitimized the industry. 

Las Vegas now is home to the NFL’s Raiders and NHL’s Golden Knights. Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics are expected to relocate to the Las Vegas Valley in the next few years. The latest expectation is that the A's will construct a ballpark where the Rat Pack-era Tropicana hotel-casino now stands on the Las Vegas Strip near the airport. The resort would be demolished. 

Best Sportsbook Promos

Sportsbook Promos Sportsbook + Promo Code
🎁 Get up to $1,250✅ Caesars - GAMBLINGFULL
🎁 Up to $1,000✅ BetMGM - GAMBLINGCOM
🎁 Bet $5, Get $150 in Bonus Bets✅ FanDuel - NO CODE NEEDED
🎁 Bet $1 Get $200✅ Bet365 - GAMBLING
🎁 Bet $5 Get $150✅ DraftKings - NO CODE NEEDED
🎁 Get up to $250✅ Betway - NO CODE NEEDED

FanDuel, a publicly traded online bookmaker, has opened a brick-and-mortar sportsbook inside downtown Las Vegas’ Fremont hotel-casino, once a Mob-connected property. The Fremont is owned by Boyd Gaming, a publicly traded Las Vegas-based entertainment company that operates hotel casinos across the U.S.

Brett Abarbanel, executive director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas  International Gaming Institute, said sports gambling’s “negative association with the Mob was hard to overcome.”

“And when you couple that with the immense love of sports that’s so prominent in our culture, it means there was a lot of stigma that was very hard to separate from both betting and sports itself,” she said on the university website. 

With PASPA’s passage in 1992, “decades of research and state effort” were required “to convince the powers that be that sports betting was something we can monitor more easily in a regulated setting,” she said.

Abarbanel said states seeking to legalize sports betting have pointed out that wagering already was going on illegally “and didn’t stop existing simply because it wasn’t allowed.”

Several pluses have become evident in states where sports wagering is legal, she said.

“It also generates tax dollars to support some of the negative externalities connected to gambling, like problem gambling and addiction,” she said. “Additional discussions have centered on job creation, and the financial prospects of bringing new industry to the state.”

Carlton Saffa, chief market officer at Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, told that the past five years have resulted in major changes in how the public views sports betting. In addition to operating a casino sportsbook, Saracen has a legal sports wagering app, BetSaracen, available to users in Arkansas.  

“We’ve seen a sea change in public policy towards, and public perception of, sports wagering,” Saffa said. is doing a multi-part series on the fifth anniversary of the repeal of PASPA, which opened the door for each state to consider online gaming. Today, States Lose the Fear of Gambling.

Problem Gambling Concerns Raised

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale told he doubts sport betting will be approved in Texas during his lifetime became of opposition from religious groups. The 72-year-old McIngvale, a Houston furniture salesman, travels out of state to place multimillion-dollar bets on sporting events.

Some sports betting opponents are worried that widespread wagering could lead to an increase in the number of compulsive gamblers.

Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said the goal is to strike a balance between the costs and benefits of sports betting.

While roughly 5% of overall gamblers might have problems setting personal limits, that number for sports bettors could be 10%, he told 

Part of the reason for the higher percentage is in the “perception of skill” among some sports bettors. They see winning bets as the result of their sports knowledge, but their losses as bad beats, Whyte said.

One way to help problem sports bettors is to make them aware of improved technology, allowing them to set limits on how much money they can wager online, Whyte said.

He said many sports bettors don’t use self-limiting tech tools “because they don’t know about them.” 

An effort is underway throughout the industry to boost public awareness, involving collaboration among sport-betting industry leaders.

FanDuel CEO Amy Howe told the company is vigilant on a range of responsible gaming measures, including “artificial intelligence capabilities to attempt to spot problem play earlier.”

“We’re funding research, mandating internal training, and working in close collaboration with our league, team and media partners to grow this industry responsibly,” she said.

Detractors also contend that an explosion in sports betting might undermine the credibility of sporting events, given that participants — and officials — can easily pick up a cellphone and secretly but legally bet on rigged outcomes or pass that information on to others. This issue has cropped up in college baseball in recent weeks, with NCAA teams in Alabama and Iowa under scrutiny.

‘Proud of the Product’

In New York, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens, told that legal wagering has not only taken sports betting out of the shadows but created a structure in which legal companies can provide assistance to compulsive gamblers. He said those problem gamblers wouldn’t receive such assistance from illegal bookies at home or offshore.

“I’m proud of the product we have,” said Addabbo, who chairs the state Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering.

The senator noted that legal sports wagering also had pumped needed tax revenue into state programs such as education. Legal sports betting in New York has generated nearly $1 billion in tax revenue for the state.

These factors have created an impression among New Yorkers that regulated sports betting is a plus, he said.

“The perception is positive,” Addabbo said.

Updated by GDC - Icon - Black - Info

Larry Henry

Last Updated Icon

Last Updated:  

Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Linkedin Icon Email Icon Copy Link Icon