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Legal Sports Wagering in LA? Can You Can Bet on It?

DEEGAN ON LA-The Supreme Court recently struck down a federal law that had banned commercial sports betting in most states, with the notable exception of Nevada where it has been legal since 1949.

Legislators in Sacramento are working on passing a state law that would place a measure on the 2020 ballot amending the state’s constitution and defining how to regulate sports betting in the Golden State. Los Angeles has five major sports teams with three major stadium projects in the works. Will this lead to “instance betting” on LA-hosted 2028 Summer Olympic events? 

Indian tribes are objecting to the incursion into their exclusive gambling domain. The confluence of new, state-of-the-art sports stadiums -- including an extensive overhaul of Dodger Stadium -- with “big betting” may be setting the stage for a showdown with the Indian tribes that have historically controlled legal gaming in California, with the exceptions of horse racing, card rooms, and the Lottery. 

The change to legalized sports betting would liberate fans, enabling them to hold a mobile device in their hands while sitting in a stadium betting on what they see happening on the field in front of them. It will no longer be necessary to go to Vegas to place a bet on sports. Those betting fans will be the winners; the losers will be the Indian tribes and the shadowy world of bookies. 

In Los Angeles, the stadium impact includes the renovation of Dodger Stadium, and the construction of Inglewood Stadium for the Clippers and Los Angeles Stadium for the Rams and Chargers. The new stadiums represent major statements by the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Chargers. The Staples Center, home to only the Lakers once the Clippers move into their new stadium, may look like a lightweight by comparison. 

The way we may be able to bet on sports turns on the success of a bill called SCA-6 Gambling: Sports Wagering which was introduced to the State Legislature on June 27, 2019 by State Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). If passed, it would authorize the Legislature to provide for the regulation of sports wagering. Two-thirds of the Senate and Assembly would have to vote their approval in order to be placed on the November 2020 ballot, at which time a majority of voters would have to say “yes.” The proposed bill is now working its way through committees. 

Sports and wagering are a popular combination. “Instance betting” -- placing a bet on every instance in a game (e.g., each pitch, kick, toss from a QB, free-throw, etc.) -- is already rampant in Europe, where seventy percent of all sports wagering is on outcomes as the game is being played. Different odds and payoffs for every possibility in the live game are bet on, such as, will they make a goal, will he win the point, the set, the match, etc. Each instance can be wagered.  

The problem with betting on live events is "latency" which is the broadcast signal arriving just before the goal, point, etc., or just after. Getting the information in real time versus “live” is a challenge that European broadcasters of OTT (over the top -- meaning a signal to your computer that bypasses television stations) have apparently met, hence the staggering 70% metric. 

IMG (originally known as International Management Group), a talent management company for global sports and other events, recently made a one-billion-dollar deal with the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) which administers the top-level men’s professional tennis circuit. The deal allows bettors to place wagers on tennis matches . . . not just for the matches but for every increment of them as they happen in real time. 

How will this play out, given the possibility that every point could have a bet placed on it? What does that do to the players, and do bettors suddenly become the most important constituents, rather than the viewing public, of the ATP tour? Extrapolate that tennis scenario to cover every sport and you see how rampant instance betting could become.

The three major stadium projects in the works in LA include a huge renovation of Dodger Stadium ($100 million), a new stadium for the Clippers ($1.1 billion) and a new stadium (and adjacent entertainment complex) to be shared by the Rams and the Chargers ($3 billion). That’s an aggregate of over $4 billion to provide fans with stadium experiences at the highest level. To be able to sit in your stadium seat and gamble on every instance of the game on the field in front of you may seem hallucinatory right now, but the tide may be shifting. 

The Indian tribes have decades of lobbying experience in the State Legislature to protect their on-reservation casino operations interests. This may be the fight of their current lives. Sports wagering, if brought off the reservation, would give the State the ability to slice a tax off of each wager. Both California and the Indian tribes have a lot at stake with this attempt to legalize sports wagering. 

And the impact on the 2028 Summer Olympics? There may be more winners of bets for what’s happening on the fields than there will be winners of gold, silver and bronze medals.

 

(Tim Deegan is a civic activist whose DEEGAN ON LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appear in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at timdeegan2015@gmail.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.