SBD/June 28, 2017/Sports in Society

NCAA Could Face Big Test If Supreme Court Sides With New Jersey On Sports Gambling

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NCAA has a ban on holding events in states where sports betting is legal
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision yesterday to review New Jersey's sports betting case is "perhaps the most interesting stress test for the NCAA’s ban on holding events in states where sports betting is legal," according to Dan Wolken of USA TODAY. A New Jersey win "could put the NCAA in an interesting situation." It is "hard to say how many states would legalize sports betting immediately," but over time, this is a "losing issue for the NCAA, as the NHL and NFL have now tacitly admitted by moving into Las Vegas." New Jersey "isn't much of a loss for the NCAA," but if Florida or Texas or California "legalized sports gambling, does it stand to reason that the NCAA would pull its events and ignore those states?" (USA TODAY, 6/28). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel noted while there is "still a long, long way to go," this is as "significant of a development in the legalization of sports betting as there’s been in years." Most anti-gambling arguments are "just outdated," and that is why there is "far less opposition now, even from pro sports leagues." However, the "ultra-conservative NCAA may never end its opposition" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/27). SI.com's Michael McCann noted the fact that the Supreme Court "granted certiorari is suggestive that New Jersey might win." This current Court makeup is also "ideologically different from the courts that have ruled against New Jersey" (SI.com, 6/27). In Newark, Johnson & Salant note Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Wisconsin have "all joined New Jersey's effort to have the case heard by the Supreme Court" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/28). ESPN's David Purdum said the decision was an "upset" and "sets the stage for a frantic three or four months" before briefings and oral arguments. Purdum: "This is a big story" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/28).

LEAGUES IN TIGHT SPOT? PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted while the Court's decision "doesn’t mean New Jersey will win, it’s an encouraging sign." The development also "puts the NFL in an awkward spot." At a time when it has "embraced Las Vegas by allowing the Raiders to eventually move there, many think the league also secretly longs for the day when fans can play the odds via NFL.com and/or each of the various team websites, with the league acting as the bookie at most, middleman at a minimum" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 6/27). ESPN's Ryan Smith said this is the "kind of case the Supreme Court sometimes likes to sink its teeth into," as it is federal law versus state law. Smith noted the NBA and MLB have “talked about liking gambling but they want it on a federal level." Smith: "It’s easier for them to get their hands around, it’s easier for them to work with Congress to try to implement a system that benefits them and doesn't hurt their product. But when it’s on a state level ... it becomes a lot more difficult for them to control" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/27). American Gaming Association President & CEO Geoff Freeman predicted leagues will ultimately embrace legalized sports gambling. Freeman: "The leagues will see the writing on the wall." Freeman, who said he has had meetings with all the leagues, added that many have begun studying overseas sports markets where gambling is legal (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). Sports and gambling attorney Daniel Wallach said that if the court sides with New Jersey, sports betting "could open at racetracks and casinos by next June" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/28).

SPREAD THE LOVE: In Las Vegas, Todd Dewey notes the city's sports book directors "reacted favorably" to yesterday's news. MGM Resorts sports book Dir Jay Rood: "At this point, it’s sort of inevitable." Wynn Resorts sports book Dir Johnny Avello said that he "expects to see legal sports gambling in other states within the next two years." Avello: "We’re opening up a new property in Boston. It might be a good thing.” Likewise, MGM Resorts "operates properties in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mississippi and Michigan, and welcomes the chance to offer sports wagering at those locations." William Hill CEO Joe Asher, whose sports gambling firm "operates 108 of Nevada’s 196 sports books, also welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 6/28). Also in Las Vegas, Thomas Moore reports local bookmakers "aren’t worried about losing business to other states." Asher: "Nevada will be a big winner ... because all of the major Nevada casino operators have operations in other states that will benefit, and what is good for Nevada’s big casino operators is good for Nevada” (LAS VEGAS SUN, 6/28). In N.Y., Corasaniti & Drape write the Court's decision to hear the case "comes as a bit of a surprise." At stake is a "significant amount of money." In Nevada, where sports betting is legal, it is now an industry of "nearly" $5B a year (N.Y. TIMES, 6/28). ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said, "I'm not sure when the year will be when we will look back and laugh at how long it took for sports gambling to become legal, but it sure feels like we can see it from here" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/28).

GARDEN STATE OF MIND: In New Jersey, John Brennan in a front-page piece notes news of the Court's decision "drew bipartisan support among New Jersey's members of Congress" (Bergen RECORD, 6/28). New Jersey Sen. Raymond Lesniak, the lawmaker who has "led New Jersey's fight," said he now is "very confident" of the state's chances of prevailing (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/28). But a Bergen RECORD editorial states the paper is "not as optimistic as many politicians who have embraced the idea" of legalized sports gambling "with open arms." The editorial: "We understand the economic need to stabilize casinos, but we are skeptical that sports betting brings any long-term remedy" (Bergen RECORD, 6/28).
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