Show me the money: the potential impact of NCAA v. Christie on the Super Bowl

 

Behind the Fourth of July, Super Bowl Sunday is the most celebrated American holiday; sure, it is not technically a holiday, but who are we kidding.  As millions of people gather around a TV to watch the big game, billions of dollars are bet on the game- an estimated $4.76 billion to be exact.  Super Bowl bettors can wager money on the results of coin toss to the color of Gatorade that will shower the Super Bowl winning coach, and everything in between.  Someone will be cashing in after the game- whether it is the bettor or the bookie- but the NFL and every state, except Nevada, will not see a piece of the $4.76 billion pie.  This is because nearly 97% of the betting is done illegally off the books.[1]  The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which prohibits states from legalizing sports gambling with the exception of Nevada, prevents the other 49 states and the NFL from earning revenue from the betting that takes place on the Super Bowl.[2]

 

Recently, PASPA’s authority has been challenged by New Jersey in its attempt to legalize sports betting at casinos and race tracks in the State.  In 2012, the New Jersey Legislature enacted law that repealed the State’s prohibition on sports gambling.  Following this legislation, the NCAA, the NFL, the NBA, the MLB, and the NHL sued New Jersey arguing that the PASPA preempted New Jersey’s new sports gambling law.[3]  The complainants won and sports gambling remained illegal in New Jersey, but in 2014 the New Jersey Legislature passed a similar law that repealed the prohibition on sports gambling in the State.  Immediately after the second prohibition repeal, the NCAA and the four major sports leagues sued New Jersey again and won; the story is not done, however, as this Supreme Court heard NCAA v. Christie and a decision is expected sometime in the spring.[4]

 

The Supreme Court’s decision could make it legal for states to legalize sports gambling and allow the NFL to regulate bets being placed on its games.  This decision will come at an interesting time for the NFL as television ratings continue to decline and player safety issues continue to be front page headlines.  Fantasy sports and gambling are the largest pillars that support the NFL’s current television ratings, so the NFL would only benefit from regulating gambling.  The Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Sliver, in the past few years has been open to legalizing gambling; the NBA would then collect a commission on the bets placed on its games.[5]  Sliver knows that the betting will always take place illegally -out reach of the NBA and the individual states where the games are played- so what is harm in regulating an activity that will occur regardless if it is legal or illegal.[6]  Sliver has had experience expanding the NBA overseas, in countries where sports gambling is legal.  In some cases, the sport league in a foreign country will collect 5% commission on all bets placed on the games.[7] If the NFL were to collect a 2% commission on the estimated Super Bowl betting, it would result in an addition $95 million dollars in revenue.  Furthermore, the NFL could have betting terminals at stadiums and applications on smart phones that would allow fans to bet on the games.

 

Betting on NFL games will happen whether or not the sports gambling is legal in the United States.  If the Supreme Courts] rules in New Jersey’s favor this spring, the NFL would be foolish not to endorse and regulate NFL sponsored gambling.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] David Purdum, Americans expected to wager $4.76 billion on Super Bowl LII, ESPN (Jan. 30, 2018) http://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/22261485/americans-expected-bet-476-billion-super-bowl-lii

[2] Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, 28 U.S.C. x1307 (1992)

[3] NCAA v. Christie, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183395 * (2012).

[4] NCAA v. Christie, 137 S. Ct. 2327 (Jun. 27, 2017).

[5] David Purdum, “I’m not pro sports gambling. I’m just a realist”, ESPN (Nov. 30, 2017) http://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/12262502/gambling-issue-adam-silver-wants-sports-gambling-legalized-other-leagues-join-him.

 

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

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