Freeman: SC Ruling Will Protect Integrity Of Games

Monday's Supreme Court decision may have been a "good loss" for sports leagues

Tiki and Tierney
May 15, 2018 - 9:54 am

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The Supreme Court issued a landmark decision Monday, striking down a 1992 federal law that prohibited the vast majority of states from allowing sports betting. The 6-3 decision is a major win for the gaming industry, as well as New Jersey and other states that view sports gambling as a way to encourage tourism and increase tax revenue. 

“It’s a great day for the gaming industry,” American Gaming Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman said on Tiki and Tierney. “This law was created in 1992 to prohibit sports betting, and the only thing it’s done is prohibit legitimate operators (from) providing sports betting. Illegal offshore companies and corner bookies are reaping about $150 billion a year in illegal betting. As we made that case, I think people understood the failure that this law had become.”

While several sports leagues have expressed concern over the ruling, it will likely attract more fans to games.

“I think for the leagues, they had made then decision some time ago that they see great potential in sports betting,” Freeman said. “They see great market potential in terms of direct revenue from betting companies in terms of more eyeballs on the games, in terms of new ways to engage the fans. The advent of daily fantasy sports was eye-opening for everybody. I think the leagues were kind of one-foot-in, one-foot out on this case, and you saw that over the past several months as they began to engage at the state level, began to engage with order stakeholders, to build a viable gaming market. 

“I think at the end of the day this is a good loss for them,” Freeman continued. “We’re one step closer to creating a sports-betting market that will drive more fans, that I think will actually go a long way to protecting the integrity of the game, and it’s going to give the fans exactly what they’ve been looking for for quite some time.”

The 1992 ban prohibited sports betting in all but four states. Since then, attitudes toward gambling have softened.

“It’s not like our parents where you had to go to Las Vegas or Atlantic City,” Freeman said. “People can go down the road to a casino. Eighty-one percent of NFL stadiums are within an hour’s drive of a casino. The access to the business – people (are) seeing that the casino industry is not a problem. It’s not a panacea, but it’s not a problem. It’s another aspect to a viable entertainment market. We work with local community organizations. We create 1.7 million jobs in the country. It’s those kind of facts, those kinds of experiences, that help to normalize the gaming industry.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this ruling affects the NCAA, particularly college football and basketball. 

“If we’re really concerned about integrity, there is no one more vulnerable than the unpaid college athlete,” Freeman said. “So if we want to protect the integrity of college sports, then doing this in a transparent manner and having the ability to track every bet – who placed the bet, what bet they placed, when they placed it, where they placed it, what are all the bets they’ve ever placed, who the referees are – all that stuff that that goes into the algorithms, no one stands to benefit more from an integrity standpoint than the NCAA. I think we’ll make good progress there. 

“Several of the conferences are more progressive on this issue than some of the others, so I’m hopeful. The NCAA was certainly a powerful opponent back in the early ’90s. I think we’ve come a long way since then. We have conference tournaments that take place in Las Vegas, and I think everyone’s aware of the reality.”