Legalized sports betting in USA will have global ramifications

The dust is still to settle around the US Supreme Court after its historic decision that could lead to a widespread legalization of sports betting across the USA. The news was greeted with joy from advocates who have long been campaigning for a relaxation in America’s gambling rules, and particularly from those in states such as Nevada and New Jersey who already have a vested interest in the industry.

The decision has not legalized sports betting per se – this would be outside the power and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. What it has done, however, is to overturn a 1992 Federal statute that prohibited states from allowing sports gambling. The law was deemed a violation of constitutional principles, and its removal leaves the door open for states to make their own decision as to whether or not to allow sports betting.

Growing popularity in the online age

Today, we can do anything and everything over the internet, and the online world is a place that cares little for state or national borders. As such, online bookmaker sites, have seen an increase in popularity everywhere. The US has been no exception, but the nature of the modern world is such that even this is something of an irrelevance – sports betting sites across Europe, and particularly in the UK have been accepting wagers on NFL, MBA, NBA and so on for years.

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And it is online that the bulk of the action will take place for those states that decide to legalize sports betting – don’t expect to see a sudden slew of betting shops appearing in towns and cities across America, as you do in England! But it is not just the US that will be affected by the change in law and attitude to sports betting. Economists predict that the aftershock will be felt across the globe, particularly in Asia.

Broader implications

Like drinking and smoking, gambling is one of those things that some people will always find a way to do, regardless of whether or not it is legal. This has long been the case in the US, with the illegal gambling market believed to be worth around $150 billion every year. Bringing sports betting “above the table” will mean better accountability and more tax dollars. But that could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Gambling is hugely popular in Asia, where different countries have different rules. This inevitably means some cross-border wagering, but this in turn leads to currency difficulties. Of course, the international currency of choice is always the US dollar, but as US legislation currently stands, American financial institutions are effectively prohibited from processing payments that relate to gambling, unless they are from one of the country’s legal casinos in, for example, Las Vegas or Atlantic City. This has had the effect of driving Asia’s online gambling dollars underground.

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A new world in which the restrictions are lifted could have significant implications for the Asian banks, as it will make it far easier for their gamers and gamblers to process payments. However, it will also back those Asian governments that do not allow gambling into something of a corner. Essentially, they will face a choice of either following America’s lead and moderating their stance, or of taking a hardline approach and potentially losing a lucrative revenue stream, as the big money gamblers simply go to the US.

Ultimately, money talks, and the fact that even China has been piloting its own sports lottery gives a good indication of the way the global winds are blowing. The next decade or so will prove to be an interesting time for gamblers, both in the US and further afield.


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