Going legal – what’s the incentive for US sports bettors?

According to one recent interview among many regarding PASPA, the viewership for sports in the US would be down by a considerable third if you removed sports betting from the equation. It’s a bold claim, but one worth a second look when you take into account the vast sums of money wagered on sports in the US. On NFL and college football alone, $60bn worth of bets were placed last season, with a mere $2bn of that figure done so via legitimate outlets.

Does that put the illegal bookies in the driving seat in a post-PASPA world? Perhaps not entirely, but they might continue to have a firm grip on the steering wheel. They cite convenience, less red tape and paperwork and simply better odds as giving them the edge over any potential competition from legal betting providers.

One such ‘illegal’ bookie even went so far as to suggest that regulating the industry would take his business a step closer to ‘mainstream America’. His customers, he said, already consider him to be a ‘normal guy with an interest in sports’. “I help people enjoy sports,” he noted. “I am not in the league of even a small-time pot dealer. Those people have a stigma.”

He has a point. The majority of people betting on sports are doing so illegally and are apparently comfortable with it, whether by design or accident. Will they, therefore, welcome a regulated industry that some say will offer inferior odds and comes tightly wrapped in multiple strands of bureaucracy? At the very least some of them will take a little convincing.

What is important, however, is that the post-PASPA betting landscape offers a safe environment for bettors, one where the only risk to their stake relies on the outcome of the game rather than the integrity of the guy taking who’s taking their money. America needs a sports betting business that is transparent, open to scrutiny, fair and socially responsible.

There isn’t any evidence to suggest that’s not already the case, even given its current status as operating on the wrong side of the law. But similarly, there’s no evidence the other way either.