An Expert Weighs In On Sports Betting Legalization

With the recent Supreme Court ruling that opens the door for U.S. states to legalize sports betting as they see fit, talking heads, journalists and even lowly touts have been abuzz with speculation and opinion. The World Casino Directory has taken an unusual step: they spoke in detail with a man who actually knows what he’s talking about.

The subject of their recent, 2 part interview was AG Burnett, a lawyer with an expertise in gaming. Mr. Burnett is a partner at the prestigious firm, McDonald Carano, which has operated in Nevada for over 70 years. Among other honors and experience, he was chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board from 2012-2017. Suffice it to say, his opinion carries far more weight than that of some guy who gets paid to yell on ESPN.

Among Burnett’s insights:

It will be unnecessary and perhaps unwise for states to set up new regulatory bodies to focus on sports betting. Most states that would consider legalizing wagering on sports already have some amount of gambling and existing regulators, who should be up for the task. However, they would need to get up to speed. “There are nuances to sports betting that do require expertise, so having current gaming regulators add that expertise to their ongoing repertoire seems reasonable to me,” Burnett says.

Burnett believes that those currently operating on the fringes of the law, or in breach of it, will go one of two ways moving forward. Those who are able to transition into legal betting will flourish. Those who are unwilling or unable to, perhaps because they can not meet the requirements for a license, will be phased out. “Regulation means the illegal operators eventually become extinct, or so small that they might as well be.”

He also shoots down concerns pertaining to corruption in collegiate sports. It’s hard to say if these concerns are genuine, or if they are merely raised as a ploy by sports leagues, to open an avenue by which gaming revenue can flow into their pockets via ridiculous “integrity fees” and the like. Barnett points out that legalized betting and licensed operators prevent, rather than facilitate corruption. “The sports betting licensees are in the business of wagering; they stand to lose everything if they do it wrong and if a regulators takes their license. They have become the first line of defense in sports integrity.”

While Burnett knows that regulated and open sports betting prevents corruption, and believes that it will largely exterminate illicit betting, he also recognizes that poor implementation can open the door for organized crime back up. For example, he discusses how allowing the leagues to skim the gaming revenue will drive up the prices for players to the point where returning to the black market might be appealing. “Anything that takes from the handle is going to kill legitimate, regulated sports businesses. That will leave the illegal operators in the same position they are now: Thriving. Taking a percentage of handle is like taking a percentage of coin-in on a slot machine.”

The full interview is available here, and is essential reading for anybody interested in understanding this enormous development in the gaming world.