Race on for slice of lucrative US sports gambling pie

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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NEW YORK, United States (AFP) — And they're off!

The US Supreme Court's lifting of a ban on sports gambling has sparked a race to cash in on what is being seen as a multi-billion-dollar opportunity.

US states and companies are jostling to be the first to allow punters to try their luck on everything from the Super Bowl to the “March Madness” college basketball tournament.

And it may not be a question of years or months, but of days before they get their chance to lay down a bet.

Monmouth Park, a horse racing track in New Jersey, has partnered with British bookmaker William Hill and said it will begin taking sports bets at the track on May 28.

Within hours of the Supreme Court ruling, two leading fantasy sports companies — FanDuel and DraftKings — announced plans to branch out into sports wagering.

It was a lawsuit filed by New Jersey that led to the landmark US Supreme Court ruling on Monday that legalised sports gambling in states other than Nevada.

In a 6-3 ruling, the nation's top court declared unconstitutional a 1992 federal law which banned wagering on professional and university sports.

It is now up to individual states to pass legislation permitting betting on baseball, basketball, American football, ice hockey, and other sports.

Betting on horse racing has been permitted in most US states, but Nevada was essentially the only US state until now where gamblers could legally lay down money on other pastimes.

The Supreme Court left open the possibility for Congress to regulate sports gambling directly, but experts said individual states are likely to move faster on the question than Washington.

“It's possible that members of Congress will try to introduce legislation to deal with the aftermath of this decision,” said Michelle Minton, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“I don't expect that they're going to get very far,” Minton said,

Minton noted that New Jersey, home to Atlantic City, the largest US gambling hub after Las Vegas, has been “thinking about this longer than I think any other state has except for maybe Nevada”.

Jason Settlemoir, general manager of the Meadowlands Racetrack, located in New Jersey less than nine miles (15 kilometres) from Manhattan, said he expects to offer sports betting ahead of the opening of the National Football League season on September 6.

The biggest questions facing each state is how they plan to tax the business and handle online wagers.

New Jersey, in a bid to protect its Atlantic City casinos and its horse racing tracks, looks set to impose a higher tax on online bets.

Jeremi Duru, an American University professor who specialises in sports and entertainment law, said regardless of what happens, he expects Nevada to remain a major player on the gambling scene.

While Major League Baseball expressed concern that the court ruling could have “profound effects” on the game, National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver had long been a supporter of legalising sports betting.

Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, welcomed the Supreme Court move and said it puts the United States in line with more than 100 other countries where sports gambling is permitted.

“It doubled the value of professional sports franchises in a heartbeat, in a second,” Cuban told ESPN.

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