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The other day, a young man was talking to a friend on his smartphone, explaining his system of parlay betting online. I flashed back 20 years to young men playing the market with day-trading software. Back then, wide ownership of personal computers, at work or home, was less than two decades old, and the World Wide Web with graphic interface web browsers was about a decade old. Then and now, people were gambling, hopefully playing with disposable income rather than running up debt or betting the rent. The sporting young man was talking about legal sports betting via smartphone app, and therein lies our tale.
We all know that Pete Rose, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, has been banned from baseball and Cooperstown for betting on baseball. Major League Baseball had a terrible scandal in 1919, when Chicago White Sox players were accused of throwing the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, to benefit a gambling syndicate. The National Football League has occasionally suspended players for up to an entire season, but not personally banned them for betting on their sport and their team. The National Basketball Association had weathered accusations and a serious investigation into a referee fixing games by point-shaving, getting the point difference between the teams to fit a betting position. In 1948, hockey was rocked with a game-fixing investigation that led to the lifetime ban of two star players.
With all that bad history, the leagues struck strong poses against gambling outside Las Vegas and especially online. Congress got into the game with the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, banning sports betting Then times changed. In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law effectively banning sports bookmaking outside of locations where it was already legal. Justice Alito delivered the 6-3 majority opinion in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.
ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, KAGAN, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined, and in which BREYER, J., joined as to all but Part VI–B. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion. BREYER, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. GINSBURG, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOTOMAYOR, J., joined, and in which BREYER, J., joined in part.
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Opinion of the Court
Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not. PASPA “regulate[s] state governments’ regulation” of their citizens, New York, 505 U. S., at 166. The Constitution gives Congress no such power.
The NBA commissioner was quick to roll out an official partnership with major league bookies, MGM Resorts, that very year. All the other major sports are now officially aligned with one or more nationally advertising sports betting businesses. The only limitations are state laws, making the business more or less attractive in each state.
The NFL expects to see over a billion dollars in new revenue over the next decade, just from sports betting partnership money. FanDuel and the NFL proudly promote their partnership. DraftKings and the NHL swap brand badges on each others’ advertising. The NBA and FanDuel expanded their partnership this year. Fox, a major media company, has gone into the bookmaking business for itself, pairing its sports broadcasting deals with FoxBet. Their sports broadcast team is featured in their betting advertising. Oh, and Major League Baseball partnered with MGM as the ink dried on the Supreme Court’s opinion.
This set of partnerships became especially visible in the 2021 season, as everyone is scrabbling to come back from the government and self-inflicted economic damage of the past year and a half. Sure, there are pious public service spots about knowing when to walk away and getting help with gambling addiction. These have as much meaning as state disclaimers about lottery play. The house always wins, and the sports leagues and big bookmakers are together in seeking dollars through an app sitting on your phone.
The leagues and bookies are especially interested in raking in the money from both more attention to more games and longer odds. That is what parley betting does, as fantasy leagues had already done. Fantasy leagues involve teams made of real players on multiple teams, so you want to know what is happening in more games, caring about individual performances each week. Parlay bets involve bets on more than one game. They promise very high payouts on winners, but are offered because the odds are so long. The winner every week: the professional sports league and their bookmaker partner.
Now that Major League Baseball officially partners with BetMGM, it is time for Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. to welcome Charlie Hustle back and personally shake his hand at his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It’s the sporting thing to do.Published in