When the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) was approved by US lawmakers, all major US sports leagues supported the measure. They argued at the time that legalized sports gambling would only lead to greater integrity issues, a fallacy of mindset that is void of logic. In 2018, when the Supreme Court told lawmakers and the sports leagues they were wrong, the NFL, NBA, MLB and others changed course and, now, are completely behind sports gambling. During the ongoing SBC Digital North America conference, the subject of integrity has come up and the input from the leagues shows how far they have come in the past three years.
Sports Integrity Always a Concern
Representatives from several sports leagues are participating in a panel, Leaders in Sports Betting Track, sponsored by Sportradar on the subject of integrity in sports. All of them, in addition to other leagues that weren’t represented, echo the same sentiment. Legalizing sports gambling helps increase exposure and awareness and is helping to provide resources to promote a more transparent, fair market. NBA Senior Director of International Fantasy & Gaming Kuljeet Sindhar said it best when he asserted that sports gambling prohibition helped the underground market expand, adding that the introduction of the digital age allowed the league to recognize that “perceived threats to our game through sports betting were taking place with or without legalized, regulated sports betting in the US.”
Sportradar sponsoring this particular track is fitting, given the company’s dedication to cracking down on sports integrity and match-fixing. The company has started offering its fraud detection services for free to regulators and leagues, and continues to develop new methods to clean up sports. Another panelist in the seminar, Joseph Solosky of NASCAR, works closely with Sportradar in addressing integrity and the organization’s Managing Director of Sports Betting adds that the topic has been the “number one priority” of the organization since it signed a deal with the company in 2018.
Missed Opportunities But New Chances Arrive
In supporting PASPA’s approval in 1992, sports leagues may have missed out on a revenue stream that could have added 26 years’ worth of additional money to their wallets. Now that sports gambling has been legalized in the US and around 30 states have opened new markets, sports leagues are busy establishing new partnerships, sponsorships and data deals that are providing new sources of value. Despite being led by seasoned businessmen and executives, the leagues weren’t able to understand the commercialization opportunities legal sports gambling could offer, but are now making up for lost time.
Jeff Fernandez, the VP of Business Development and Ventures for the New York Jets, was a panelist for the presentation, as well, and asserted, “So have we missed out on anything? Perhaps we’ve missed out a little on opportunities in the short-term, but this is a long game and I think the NFL took a thoughtful approach about how they were going to monitor consumer perception. They did a couple of deals with Caesars on the casino side and DraftKings on the fantasy side to really see what the reaction might be from their avid audience.”
Addiction and integrity are two components of the sports gambling industry that are always hot-button topics. However, that can be said about any industry and none is immune from those players who would rather game the system than play by the rules. However, legalizing sports gambling helps foster a cleaner environment that can be enjoyed by more people while offering an opportunity to proactively address those concerns.