No, leagues, your position in sports betting is not like running a poker tournament

Check Out This Absurd Poker Analogy About Sports Betting And Pro Leagues

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Stop the presses! Professional sports leagues and players associations have finally found common ground. They both want to benefit from legal sports betting.

“The league shares, we share the same interest in maintaining the integrity of the game,” Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association said in an interview with “There’s more common space there — no difference in terms of our interests…we do share with the league the notion that it’s somewhat unseemly that people are going to make billions of dollars on a product that we’ve created.”

What is astounding is both groups and their allies are making the case for an “integrity fee” through arguments and analogies virtually devoid of integrity.

The worst US sports betting analogy to date

The latest nonsensical analogy (and nonsense is exactly what it is) comes from the same interview. It was delivered by Marc Ganis, the co-founder of the sports consulting firm SportsCorp, Ltd.:

“The reason for it is simple—they are the ones putting on the events that are being gambled on. It’s like a casino that has a poker tournament. They take a cut of every pot, because they’re hosting it. They bring in the dealers, they provide the venues, they make sure no one’s cheating…they take the same cut of the tournament that the leagues are asking for.”

Comparing the leagues’ potential role in sports betting with a casino’s role in running a poker tournament is completely out of touch with reality.

Casinos do a hell of a lot of work for the rake and tournament fees they collect.

Casinos are responsible for providing:

  • The dealers and floor staff.
  • The gaming license sanctioning the tournament.
  • The venue, as well as the cards, chips, tables and chairs.
  • All of the oversight, from payments to game integrity to settling disputes between players and between players and the tournament.

Will the leagues and player associations:

  • Provide the space sportsbooks will be located in?
  • Provide the technical infrastructure for placing and tracking wagers?
  • Report large wagers/wins to FinCen?
  • Hire and staff the sports betting desks and kiosks?
  • Monitor every wager?
  • Implement state-mandated responsible gaming programs?
  • Facilitate payments, including the required tax documents?
  • Be responsible to gaming regulators if there is a dispute?

What the leagues will get from sports betting

The poker tournament analogy isn’t half bad if you’re explaining how the leagues will benefit from legal sports betting.

Hosting tournaments is often done at a loss to the casino. The reason casinos host poker tournaments is simple: it’s a loss leader. It increases foot traffic and engagement with existing and potential customers.

Sports betting will arguably do the same for the leagues. It will increase interest and viewership in games.

Unfortunately, the leagues are undermining this symbiotic relationship by going for a straight cash grab.

In the words of Dire Straits, the leagues want their “money for nothing.”

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Bottom line on leagues and sports betting

The leagues and their allies are trying to sell the idea that the product sportsbooks are selling is the sports and not the betting.

Going back to Roberts’ comments that opened this article, ” it’s somewhat unseemly that people are going to make billions of dollars on a product that we’ve created.”

The truth is the bet is a different product from the sport. What’s unseemly is the effort to conflate the two.

It’s actually quite simple: The sport exists without the bet and the technology and infrastructure to bet can exist without any particular sport. When football season is over, people bet on baseball. When there aren’t any baseball games they bet on European soccer. During off hours when there are no live sports they’ll even bet on virtual sports, politics or the royal wedding.

Sportsbooks are selling wagers, and those wagers are already beneficial to the leagues.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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