Just when bookies thought the US was finally catching up with the UK in legalizing online sports betting, a new judgment was made. Mid-January this year, the US Justice Department released a new statement saying the decision to legalize some forms of online gambling in 2011 was wrong.
Online sports betting remains illegal at the federal level, but is currently permitted in New Jersey, Nevada, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Prior to the Justice Department’s new ruling, UK sports bookies had been suffering because of retrogressive US laws. If you want to get a bit of background on these laws you can read more in this article.
Let’s start with the obvious. With sports betting being illegal in many US states, bookies profits throughout the country take the big hit. Surprisingly, US sports fans gamble billions of dollars every year albeit in the black market.
Americans wager over $4.5 billion every February as the Super Bowl is held. But out of the amount, only 3% is gambled legally. The rest is done throughout backdoor websites. Most UK bookies work in legitimate ways and often have to deny US bettors access to their services.
The result is that top bookmakers like William Hill and Bet365 miss out on profits in the US while illegitimate companies earn them. According to the American Gaming Association, the specific amount of money wagered illegally stand at $150 billion.
Perennial Legal Challenges
Sports betting in the US has been on a roller-coaster for decades. At one time, it was a grey area. Bookmakers could offer sports betting services throughout the country.
Last year, the Supreme Court offered some reprieve to UK bookmakers, backing New Jersey, paving the way for states to legalize sports betting. Williamhill quickly jumped at the new opportunity, even sponsoring a sports team for the first time in years.
Despite January’s rule, UK bookmakers have hope in that the future looks bright for sports betting in the US. Nevada is no longer the only state that has progressive betting laws. Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island New Jersey, West Virginia, Mississippi and New Mexico are offering legal sports betting.
However, bookmakers have little to celebrate about until states actually legalize betting. US states have shown interest in betting before only to somehow fail to support betting at all. But political differences amongst local legislators stalled the project.
Players Scared and Misinformed
The federal government can’t decide whether to legalize sports betting or not. States have the power to set and change betting laws every year. The media reports all kinds of news about betting depending on what laws are changed. Consequently, millions of US betting fans don’t know where they stand and what they can and cannot do.
Before each state can agree on when to adopt progressive betting laws, US players will continue to suffer. The most daring among them use VPNs and virtual currencies to create accounts on UK bookmaker sites. Some settle on illegitimate US bookies, but most just stay back with no idea of how to bet on sports.
Increased Expenses on Compliance
The fact that betting is legal in some states and illegal in others is disadvantageous to bookies more than you may think. Foreign betting companies, for instance, pay more for licenses to operate in the US. They then have to invest more in measures to ensure only allowed players can bet. If that’s not enough, sports stakeholders keep filing suits that get pieces of the lawsuit.
The NBA, for example, has made it clear it will demand at least 1% of all profits garnered by NBA related bets. Their reasons? The league is the reason NBA betting will be possible in the first place. Another reason is to compensate for all the risks the league has to incur once betting becomes legalized.
You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that what the NBA and other organizations are doing is a threat to all UK bookmakers in the US. A 1% cut on profits earned from every US sport could mean huge financial losses to betting companies.
Surprisingly, the opposite of supporting betting companies would likely lead to financial windfalls for everyone involved. Simply take a look at England’s Premier League. Nearly half of the league is sponsored by betting companies, earning the teams involved millions of pounds every year.
The history of US sports betting is full of ups and downs. Nothing really shows the future will be smooth. UK bookmakers are obviously hopeful things will continue to improve, but uncertainties keep holding them against investing heavily.
The biggest uncertainty lies in whether the US will ever legalize online sports betting countrywide. So far, online betting is legal in states where land-based bookmaking is allowed. And even then, the companies can’t allow non-state players to participate.
If countrywide online betting remains a grey area, UK bookmakers will have to rely on land-based betting companies for profits. Another challenge is the issue of leagues and other stakeholders demanding betting profits. Others issues like fights from the media and advocacy groups also add uncertainties to the issue of betting in North America.
The US is one of the world’s largest markets. But when it comes to betting, the country’s government has been extremely reluctant in taking advantages that comes with sports wagering. Foreign bookmakers that wish to invest in the US betting markets suffer the most as a result. They have to deal with expensive compliance laws, harassments from some leagues and inabilities to attract enough players.