Another potential stumbling block for the gambling companies, lawyers and advisers say, could be opposition from Native Indian interests. Many tribal groups were granted rights to run casinos on their land in “compacts” with state governments in lieu of compensation for poor treatment in the past. Compacts are large multi-year deals that many tribes are loath to renegotiate in case states decide to raise their fees.
The managing director of Gambling Compliance said that the lobbying power of the tribes, could impact sports betting legislation in some of the US’s most populous states, including California and Florida, fearing a loss of their monopolies over gambling.
American sports tend to be long yet profitable. The potential for bets on minutiae such as the speed of a baseball pitch or the number of yards gained in football are endless. The popularity of in-play betting — known as “prop bets” in the US — has grown far quicker than many expected.
But divisions between the sports owners and gambling operators are already becoming apparent. League owners — like the National Football League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball — view sports as their intellectual property and are pushing for legislation to set minimum national standards on betting. They argue that they offer the sport and so should join in the proceeds.
Christopher Halpin, chief strategy and growth officer at the NFL, says only the federal government has the power to kill off the current offshore market.
In an ideal scenario the leagues would prefer a legal protection forcing the betting companies to pay them for responsible gaming standards and bans on certain types of bets such as whether a player will get burnout.
The five biggest leagues — for ice hockey, American football, baseball, basketball and soccer — generated total revenues of $40bn last year. Casino operators argue that by offering sports betting they are encouraging even more people to watch games.