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Sports Gambling: The Next Marijuana?

Betting on athletic events is now legal. The Supreme Court just said so in a 6-3 decision in Murphy et al. v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. https://supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-476_dbfi.pdf

Sports fans, of course, have been betting without the Court’s blessing for a very long time. It is estimated that around $150 billion a year is wagered illegally. That’s three times larger than the marijuana market, which is growing rapidly and providing many new job opportunities for attorneys. The legalization of that formerly taboo vice serves as an indicator of what legalized sports betting could generate for attorneys.

The U.S. gaming industry has already proven a bonanza for lawyers. Gaming law is one of today’s hottest practice areas. It has expanded far beyond the days when it was limited to Nevada and New Jersey practitioners and is now a national practice, in fact one that can be engaged in from anywhere. One of the most successful gaming attorneys conducted an extensive nationwide practice from little, out-of-the-way Ada, Oklahoma. The demand for gaming lawyers is ever-expanding and, while the practice is complex and constantly evolving, the learning curve is not that steep. Moreover, it is evolving all the time, as the Murphy case exemplifies.

Today there are close to 1,000 casinos in the U.S., split almost equally between commercial and Native American establishments. Indian casinos brought in more than $32 billion last year. Spinoff gaming businesses number in the thousands. Casinos operate in 39 states. A substantial number of them have an in-house counsel office. Virtually all engage numerous outside law firms and sole practitioners to assist them with the myriad issues they confront in a highly regulated and rapidly changing environment. Moreover, the 69 state gaming regulatory bodies (several states have more than one) https://nagra.org/general/custom.asp?page=StateProvince&DGPCrSrt=&DGPCrPg=1 also employ and engage a lot of legal talent.

At the federal level, Native American casinos and spinoffs are regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) https://nigc.gov. NIGC has both a general counsel and a compliance office in Washington, DC as well as seven regional compliance offices (Portland [OR], Sacramento, Phoenix, St. Paul, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Washington [DC] and Rapid City [SD]).

Online gaming is one of the most rapidly growing business sectors in the U.S. They include: social gaming, fantasy sports, and sweepstakes operators. This industry component has emerged so rapidly that it is largely unregulated (another instance of the “law-technology gap,” where the law has to scramble to catch up with technological innovation).

State lotteries have been around since before the formation of the nation. They played a part in financing the establishment of the first colonies and funded colonial public works projects as well as buildings at Yale and Harvard. After the Civil War, Southern states used lotteries to raise revenue. A series of scandals shut down lotteries for several decades, until the concept was revived by New Hampshire in 1964. Today, 44 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have government-operated lotteries. Lotteries are very lucrative, taking in more than $100 billion last year. New York and Massachusetts lead the nation in lottery revenue.

Parimutuel betting is primarily used in gambling on horse and greyhound racing and jai alai. Race tracks typically have in-house counsel offices. In some states, most or all race tracks are owned or controlled by one corporation, in which case the in-house counsel office is usually located at corporate headquarters. Parimutuel wagering is regulated by the state in which the racing operations are located. Government lawyers involved in regulation work either in the Attorney General’s office or in the state regulatory agency’s law office.

Several trade/professional associations represent race tracks, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing organizations.

Gaming is one of the most heavily regulated commercial activities in the U.S. That and the deep pockets of gaming organizations make this industry a very attractive and lucrative undertaking for attorneys. Also, don’t overlook opportunities with corporations that manufacture gaming equipment and gaming trade and professional associations.

Despite being around for as long as two proto-humans first wagered on who could kill a Mammoth first, gambling and gaming are dynamic, ever-evolving, and heavily influenced by technological innovation.

Sports betting will add numerous new prospective employing organizations to the current gambling universe.

For More Information
American Casino Guide http://americancasinoguide.com
American Gaming Association https://americangaming.org/
Gambling and the Law http://gamblingandthelaw.com/
International Association of Gaming Regulators https://iagr.org/
International Center for Gaming Regulation (UNLV) https://unlv.edu/icgr
International Masters of Gaming Law https://imgl.org/articles/
North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries http://naspl.org/
North American Gaming Regulators Association https://nagra.org/