The European Union has regulated sports betting for ages.
It has a global framework governing the licenses, the taxation, even the sponsorship deals with sports teams, has strong customer protection and integrity regulations in place, and still leaves its member states enough wiggle room to shape the market as they see fit.
Europe is also the home of the world’s biggest and best-known sports betting groups – Betsson and Unibet in the North, Bet365, Paddy Power Betfair, William Hill, and many others in the UK, and several other bigger and smaller companies across the member states.
These groups expanded in pretty much every international market where sports betting is regulated either through partnerships with local regulated businesses or on their own.
The system put in place by the EU regulators and the bookmakers themselves works thanks to two pillars – the strong regulation on one side and the business’ self-regulation on the other. This makes the European sports betting market clear, fair, and transparent.
As you might expect, almost none of these businesses with a lot of expertise and experience have access to the United States’ sports betting market.
The US had a piece of federal legislation (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, PASPA) in place for more than two decades that effectively prohibited any and all sports betting activity in the country, seemingly to protect the integrity of sports.
As you might expect, this prohibition led to the explosive growth of “underground” betting, with estimates speaking of hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year on illegal bets (often fueling organized crime) and punters flocking to offshore betting outlets that worked in disregard of any and all regulation.
Things have changed in 2018 when the US Supreme Court repealed PASPA, leaving it up to the states themselves to decide whether they want to regulate or ban sports betting.
This has left the US sports betting market in turmoil – on one hand, sports leagues either embrace or refuse it, on the other, state governments either ban it or try to work out a legal framework that would make it work.
It’s not only the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues at stake but the growth of American sports media as well (betting has been shown to boost the viewers’ interest in following sports broadcasts).
There are currently eight US states and territories where sports betting is legal and regulated: Nevada (since 1949), New Mexico, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Rhode Island.
New York and Arkansas have passed legislation regulating the business but the services have not launched at the time of writing this article, and there is a new bill in the works in Connecticut that would regulate both gambling and sports betting in the state.
Several states are working on their own sports betting bills, and there are still states that haven’t even considered it just yet.
The fact that some of the most powerful sports leagues in the US have a mixed stance on the matter doesn’t make the case any easier. While the NBA and the MLB would support the legalization of the business for a 0.25 per cent of the handle (that’s a lot of money, estimated to reach at least $2 billion a year), the NFL still seems to resist the inevitable change. The other major leagues in the US are still divided, most of them linking their support to a cut of the money made by betting operators.
All this in spite of the fact that some major international sports betting operators are currently listing their events – players can bet on NBA matches, NHL games, the U.S. PGA Championship, and many others.
At the same time, DraftKings and FanDuel, the two biggest daily fantasy sports operators have embraced sports betting, launching their own online bookmaker services, and casino operators in the states where betting has been legalized also partner with international groups to launch their own internet-based products – one example would be the global gambling group 888 Casino that operates in New Jersey as “888 NJ Sportsbook”.
The US sports betting market is at the beginning of its road, with many quirks still to work out – but it is growing fast, becoming a major business and a source of income for the states’ purses (as well as the sports leagues embracing it).