The Future of Sports Betting.
Hint: It Won’t Happen at a Casino.
On May 14th, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a law that was on the books for more than 25 years. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act or, as it’s more commonly referred to, The Bradley Act because of its most forceful advocate, New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley, was enacted to protect the integrity of sporting events.
It was implemented in the aftermath of Pete Rose’s expulsion from baseball for betting on his own team’s games, and there was concern that other, similar events could transpire. Of course, sports betting was illegal before the Bradley Act, but the law stopped states from legalizing and regulating the practice. There were exceptions to the rule, Nevada, the gambling Mecca of the world, was permitted to continue facilitating sports betting. In addition, three other states — Oregon, Delaware, and Montana — were allowed to follow in Nevada’s footsteps.
For the other 46 states, the Supreme Court’s decision paved the way for legalized sports betting to enter the fray for the first time in a long time. As The Wall Street Journal reported at the time, “The ruling…clears the way for states, if they choose, to allow gambling on athletic events watched by millions of Americans.”
Such a move could provide a healthy environment for sports betting to take place. Currently, there are billions worth of illegal sports bets being placed each year, and that money could be redirected toward casinos and other betting institutions.
The Establishment is Skeptical
Hypothetically, this is true, but many casinos are skeptical. In a recent interview with the Journal, William Fasy, president of Delaware Park Casino, confessed that “sports betting wasn’t likely to be a big moneymaker.”
Many realize that the notion of traveling to a casino to place sports bets is an antiquated activity, especially for younger, mobile-first generations. The popularity of quasi-sports betting apps like DraftKings and FanDuel let users conduct head-to-head competitions, and that reoriented consumers understanding of what’s possible when it comes to sports betting.
In other words, bringing sports betting to local casinos isn’t close enough for most consumers. They need it at their fingertips.
Reporting on the state of sports betting at the time of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Adam Liptak and Kevin Draper wrote in The New York Times, “Placing bets will be done on mobile devices, fueled and endorsed by the lawmakers and sports officials who opposed it for so long.”
This assessment matches the mobile mentality that pervades modern culture. According to a February study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 77% of Americans own a smartphone. Moreover, a follow-up study found that 25% of Americans are online “almost constantly.”
Therefore, those that want to take advantage of the court’s ruling won’t be stationed at local casinos. They will be building digital platforms where users can easily participate in the sports betting.
What’s Up Ahead
To be sure, sports betting isn’t a trivial matter. It will require careful oversight and bold direction for the platforms that embrace it. The heads of Major League Baseball and the National Football League already expressed strong concerns about the impact of sports betting on the integrity of their game. Furthermore, sports betting is heavily contingent on reliable value transfers and internal integrity. For it to be successful, the system can’t be rigged, and people must be paid when they win.
Blockchain technology, which emerged in the last 18 months as a viable upgrade to our current web-based system, should be able to provide help in this regard. It gained notoriety for its role in powering popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and it can bring those same features to the sports betting arena.
For instance, the blockchain keeps a perfect, viewable record of all transactions. As a result, platforms can know who is betting and how much they earned. Anyone looking to be above board in this regard is sure to benefit. Also, blockchain-based platforms can use digital currencies to facilitate sports bets to provide services with lower fees and fast payments. Perhaps most importantly, the blockchain’s smart contracts guarantee that the winner of a bet is automatically paid at the conclusion of the competition.
In fact, several platforms are already emerging to satisfy this market. Our application MeVu, a sports betting platform on the Ethereum blockchain, offers a network where users can engage in direct, peer to peer betting on virtually anything.
The fact that it resides on the blockchain makes it particularly apt for the renewal of sports betting in the wake of its legalization. Users can bet on sports teams with a friend or as a part of a broader competition, and winnings are automatically paid out at the conclusion of the event. With auditable records and minimal regulatory interference, MeVu assuages the fears of professional sports leaders while providing a safe, fun environment for people to re-enter the sports betting arena.
As sports betting returns, casinos may not be bracing for an influx, but the mobile marketplace and the blockchain are ready for the surge.