Risky Business

The role gambling plays in sports and its legality

More stories from Jon Fortier

The Final Whistle
May 15, 2019

Bets are often made on big sporting events such as the Super Bowl which was held Saturday.

The Super Bowl has been played, the bets have been tallied and money has been lost or gained. Due to a judgement passed by the United States Supreme Court last May, sports betting may soon be coming to a state near you. It is currently legal to place wagers on sports in Nevada, New Mexico, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island.  With the increase in states that allow sports betting comes plenty of controversy.

There is the major concern of players betting on their own teams. This is most notable with ex-Cincinnati Reds player, Pete Rose. This is still one of the most debated decisions in the sports world. He is the all-time hit leader in the MLB and was banned from baseball for life in 1989 for betting on games. He did this over a span of 15 years as a player and a manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

Perhaps the biggest concern with sports gambling is protection for the consumer. There are several integrity provisions in place to prevent sports books from committing illegal acts in the industry, but it is not a perfect science.

On Sunday, Gladys Knight sang the national anthem and the duration of the song came in at just over two minutes. The over/under for the prop bet was 1 minute and 50 seconds. Betonline.ag clocked the anthem at 1 minute and 49 seconds, which would mean that the under bet would have won. The reasoning for the duration by Betonline.ag was that there was fine print that the anthem time would end after the first time Knight said brave. Knight ended up singing brave several times which misled bettors about the actual time.

This event only highlights the concern of consumer protection. Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, has formulated a four-part plan for the requirements of sports betting. First, there must be substantial consumer protections. Second, sports leagues must be able to protect their intellectual property from those that try to steal and misuse it. Third, Fans must have access to official and reliable league data. Finally, law enforcement must have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary to protect the fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad.

There is also the issue of sports leagues getting a piece of the pie. Many leagues, most notably the NBA, have proposed a profit-sharing plan. League executives have been lobbying congress to include a .25 percent fee on all bets placed to make extra revenue.

“It obviously helps the leagues in providing compensation to us for our product,” Senior Vice President of the MLB Brian Seeley said.

Sports betting faces an uncertain future with no real regulations in place yet. There are currently no plans to legalize it in Wisconsin, but it is inevitable. The issues of betting by players and consumer protection will be further amplified by the growing trend of legal sports betting.

Fortier can be reached at [email protected]