A Reader (and Gambling Expert) Responds to My Legalization Column

| May 18th, 2018

Hi Jeff,

As a longtime fan/reader/listener of dabearsblog, I would like to offer up my experience and perspective on the recent change to sports betting laws in your country, and what results that may actually lead to in states across the U.S.A.

Sports betting has been legal in Canada for years, and in most provinces since the 90s, when offered by a provincially licensed/regulated entity.  But how it has been treated from province-to-province differs a fair bit, and the ongoing struggles to get certain sports/offers approved continues.  Following from your recent article, I would have some differing views on what the future may hold, but some points I agree with and have some further context:

“What a full sports book does is open up hundreds upon hundreds of bets per game…The active sports books around the country will take this action and the most creative ones will make the most money.”

This pre-supposes a lot.  States will want their say, and each could and will likely be very different in what they allow.  Will they have a private operator model, or will it be through the state-owned lottery…or some hybrid?  In Canada the models are very similar (with some nuance online), but in Europe there is a lot of variety.  Regardless of the operating model, what they allow to be offered in law may differ starkly.  In Canada, there are only two provinces (of 10) that today offer in-game (“live”) betting.  While most offer prop bets, the type & quantity allowed differ a fair bit.  Still not allowed throughout the country:  single-event betting.  It is still in our criminal code that you cannot bet on a single sporting event – thus, we must force parlays of at least two events.  Some states may be very conservative, if history holds.

“This will all be done digitally, of course.”

I would not be so sure.  Again, different states will handle this differently.  Even here in Canada, where sports betting has been legally offered in a regulated fashion for decades, there are provinces where you cannot bet online with a regulated operator, including the biggest province (Ontario).  Some provinces have continued to hold this overreaching puritanical belief that offering it online is far worse or more addictive than via retail stores (it is available in private convenience/pharmacy/grocery stores across the country).

Some places have even been so skittish with some forms of gambling that they pulled them out after they were offered for years.  Examples include:  Minnesota stopped allowing its lottery to offer digital scratch tickets, and in Atlantic Canada a government stopped from offering NASCAR betting after it was available for years.

“I’ll be shocked if this leads to some epidemic of gambling addicts.”

This is a good inclination.  The incidence of problem gambling among those who bet on sports here, is only about 4%.  That means those people are defined as problem gamblers, but it does not prove/indicate that sports betting is the cause of that.  In fact, many sports bettors gamble on other products, some that have been found to have much greater ties to problem tendencies (e.g. slots).

“Every state should be legally required to clearly identify where the proceeds from sports gambling will go.”

Sounds smart, in theory, but in practice most politicians are averse to it.  “Earmarking” of gambling revenue has been scant across the Canadian provinces.  Most politicians don’t want to be boxed in; and, perhaps, may not want to take away any credit for certain initiatives they think should be theirs (who doesn’t love a good photo-op).  Yes, there have been a few states that have been willing to earmark their lottery revenue, Michigan has always stood out as an example, but I believe that is the exception and not the norm.  I would expect the propensity for earmarking to closely follow what states already do with gambling revenue.

“Don’t worry about the integrity sports, especially at the professional level. At the college level? Who cares? Does big-time college sports have any integrity now? College athletics is shady and corrupt. Will this will make that worse? Probably. And if I were New Jersey, I wouldn’t touch it.”

I would generally agree with you, here.  There has been some research done on this that shows where match fixing occurs.  (hint – it is largely where the athletes are not getting paid, or they cannot trust getting paid…failing Eastern European soccer teams have been a great example)  It won’t be the major pro- sports leagues.

“Congress shouldn’t allow the leagues to collect a nickel of this money. Not a nickel.”

They will likely whine and say they need money to improve integrity protections due to increased likelihood of fixing, or some nonsense about improving responsible gambling.  But, it is malarkey.  Where gambling gets regulated, it increases the transparency of betting activity (thus, reducing likelihood of fixers being able to function – they like a cover of darkness), and also reduces the incidence of problem gambling.  The leagues have little to no role in either.  And, college sports will likely be of better integrity if its gambling is regulated and brought into the open.

Regards & Bear Down,


Bears Fan since ’85,


Source who has marketed regulated

sports betting for a Canadian lottery for years

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