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Got Your Bet Down?

2010 July 29
by Skip Sauer

Yesterday the New York Times reported that a bill to legalize internet gambling is making progress in Congress.  I would love to be able to get a legal bet down from my living room on derby day, the Super Bowl, or any football weekend, for that matter.

Legislation of this sort has been pending, but stalled for a number of years as anti-gambling forces have held the upper hand.  But the current financial crisis changes the political dynamic considerably, and history suggests that legalization has a legitimate shot.  I briefly describe the historical connection in my contribution to the the  Times’ “Room for Debate” column, on the issue, “Should Internet Gambling Be Legalized?”

My contribution sticks to the history, which I studied in my 2001 paper, “The Political Economy of Gambling Regulation (here’s a link to the working paper version for those without access to the journal).”  If history repeats itself, I might be able to get my bets down on the Derby more easily in the future.

Update:  As Harmy notes in the comments, US sports leagues are taking some of the fun out of the legislation.  ESPN’s report on the bill notes  (last sentence) that it includes some safeguards, and that “users cannot bet on the NFL or MLB.”  Presumably the NBA is involved also.

7 Responses
  1. bevo permalink
    July 29, 2010

    Isn’t this bill in response to a WTO ruling against the United States? Isn’t a Caribbean nation asking for removal of copyright protection on certain intellectual property as part of the ruling?

  2. July 29, 2010

    bevo,
    I don’t know about the copyright issue but, but the WTO ruling is out there, and has been ignored. The precipitating event of the legislation is the perceived need to government revenue, in my view.

  3. Harmy G permalink
    July 29, 2010

    I’m read that they are making sure that sports betting is NOT included with the other forms of gambling. See the end of this article: http://espn.go.com/sports/fantasy/blog/_/name/poker/id/5419695/hr-2267-moves-forward

  4. Skip Sauer permalink*
    July 29, 2010

    Thanks; I’ll link that in an update to the post.

  5. Dennis permalink
    July 30, 2010

    What are the reasons that the NFL, MLB and other professional sports leagues would object to fans being able to bet on games online? Is the concern that it makes it easier for players to bet on games?

    Or is it that they want a cut of the action and have not yet figured out how to get it?

  6. Skip Sauer permalink*
    July 30, 2010

    English soccer clubs get it through sponsorships and the like. On Arsenal’s website, they link to a bookmaker for every match, with an enticement such as “get 8-1 odds on Van Persie scoring the first goal in a 2-0 Arsenal win over Liverpool!” So yea, I don’t get the NFL’s stance. The ban does make it easier, I suppose, to keep the likes of Pete Rose out of the Cooperstown. But legal or not, you would think MLB had better control of such situations.

  7. Nick permalink
    August 1, 2010

    It does seem strange that it’s perfectly legal for me, in the UK, to bet on American sports when you guys can’t.

    Presumably the US leagues don’t see any of that revenue either.

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