Sports betting is one of the oldest forms of gambling in existence – if not the oldest – but its legality in the United States is a decidedly more recent phenomenon. In 2018, the supreme court struck down an old ruling known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1962 (PASPA) that effectively outlawed sports betting on a federal level. Since then, 37 states have legalized sports betting with more set to join them in the very near future, and the reception has been even bigger than expected with billions of dollars of new revenue coming in, which is a whole new stream of tax revenue for these states.
Whether you’re pro gambling or not, there’s no doubt that the legalization of sports betting can only be seen as a good thing. People were doing it regardless, but doing so illegally and without contributing to the economy. No less importantly, prior to legalization, sports betting was not, in any real way, regulated in the United States. Bookies weren’t answerable to anyone and bettors could be all too easily exploited.
The question, though, is that now that sports betting has been legalized in two-thirds of the country, how exactly should it be and can it be regulated?
This sort of regulation is, as the name suggests, about the sportsbooks regulating themselves, perhaps by forming a federation of sorts of bookies, and creating a regulatory body. This is very common with more reputable online casinos already, so if you’re going to bet on sports at this time, it’s a great idea to do so through one of these casinos until such a time as more official regulations are introduced. Sports betting, after all, doesn’t require much to set up so there are probably far, far more shady bookies out there than online casinos, so they especially need to be regulated and aren’t quite there yet.
Having some sort of official, governmental regulation is definitely the way of the future, but the question is how to do it. The most logical and most practical way, obviously, would be on a state level. This would require passing legislation on a state by state level in each of the states that offer legal sports betting and would probably involve requiring all sports books, both online and in the real world, registering as a business with all that means. There are already such things in place for the purposes of taxation and the like, but this would take it further to make sure that sportsbooks are maintaining certain standards of practice in terms of fairness, transparency and trustworthiness. This would be enforceable by law and would submit those who break these regulations to harsh fines and even criminal proceedings.
Though state regulation is most likely and will probably be most effective, there is something to be said for regulating sports betting and all forms of gambling on a federal level. This will ensure a consistency in laws across the nation and would require a single act rather than multiple legislations across nearly forty states to pass through their individual state legislature.
It would also be the smart thing to do, as it was on a federal level that PASPA was struck down, leaving a major vacuum in its place. Of course, the reason that the supreme court struck PASPA down was specifically because of the unconstitutionality of enacting such a thing on a federal level. Still, some smaller, more targeted laws being passed on a federal level would greatly help with the regulation of sports betting across the country.
The Ideal Solution
It goes without saying that the best way to regulate sports betting would be a mixture of the above three methods. This would consist of enacting a few more general laws on a federal level that would be wide enough to allow states to implement specific laws that would regulate and police sports books in that state. Unlike PASPA this would not be about prohibiting sports betting, but about making sure that customers are protected from unethical practices by bookies, online casinos and other sports betting sites.
At the same time, establishing a self-regulating committee that various bookies and other betting sites should register with would also be crucial. While federal and state laws would provide solid ways to punish unethical and illegal practices, they would be less successful at guaranteeing that bettors won’t be ripped off in the first place. A self-regulatory body would be a stamp of approval for all customers of a particular bookie or betting site that they can safely and securely deposit their money with them, and that all business practices would be above board.
Either way, it is early days yet so the next few years should prove very interesting for creating the future of sports betting in the USA.