January 31, 2017
By Darren Heitner
There is a good reason why Sporting News, one of America's oldest sports publications founded in 1886, is covering the point spread for Super Bowl 51. It is because there is genuine interest among many who will watch the game, whether they are in Nevada (where betting on the outcome of sporting events is legal) or not.
$4.7 billion will be bet on Super Bowl 51, with a whopping $4.5 billion (97%) of such wagers being placed illegally, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA). The estimate would mark an 11% increase from Super Bowl 50.
The AGA represents the $240 billion U.S. casino industry and has been a vocal advocate for a change of federal law, which currently precludes states (other than Nevada) from allowing individuals to wager on the outcomes of individual games. It has cited to a September 2016 report, which concluded that legalized and regulated sports betting is a necessary condition to preserve and protect the integrity of sports, not a detriment to the integrity of sports.
Yet, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell has remained steady in his position that the league enforce the current federal law that largely prohibits sports betting throughout the U.S., which was originally implemented to protect the integrity professional and amateur sports. Even though the Oakland Raiders appear destined to move to Las Vegas, Goodell has not wavered on his belief that the federal law should remain in place..
"As we mark the 25th anniversary of a failed law, it’s time for Washington to get out of the way and lift the federal prohibition that pushes sports fans to a rapidly growing illegal betting market," said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA. "A regulated marketplace would generate tax revenue and jobs, protect consumers and leverage cutting-edge technology to strengthen the integrity of the games we all love."
Meanwhile, there are a variety of efforts to change the current landscape that largely precludes individuals in the U.S. from betting legally, albeit through a case that may ultimately not be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, while several states are considering pieces of legislation that have a long way to go before coming to governors' desks.
The pending litigation concerns the State of New Jersey, which passed a law in 2014 that would have allowed sports betting; however, legal challenges have frustrated such efforts. After defeat on appeal, New Jersey remains hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear its case that seeks to repeal the federal prohibition on sports betting, finding that it is unconstitutional on its face.
Meanwhile, in January 2017 alone, three states have started to consider legislation that would legalize sports betting. Those states -- New York, Michigan and South Carolina -- would still struggle to show how they could properly legalize sports wagering while the federal prohibition is in place. But it is a sign that states are growing frustrated with the federal ban.
In the meantime, news sources will continue to provide odds on the Super Bowl and individuals will bet on the game, whether it is legal or not.
Darren Heitner the Founder of South Florida-based HEITNER LEGAL, P.L.L.C. and Sports Agent Blog. He authored the book, How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know.