Betting on Sports in Europe vs. USA

Sports betting is the subject of many press reports nowadays thanks to the Supreme Court hearing on the matter that took place early in December.

The case heard by the US’ the highest federal court is often referred to as “Christie vs. NCAA”, with New Jersey governor Chris Christie seeking the right to legalize sports betting in the state he represents, arguing that the federal law that bans betting on sports – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 – is unconstitutional because it interferes with the individual states’ rights.

Sports betting, and gambling in general, are divisive subjects with heavy names on both sides of the debate. The business’ opponents usually argue that legal betting can threaten the integrity of sports that the PASPA is meant to safeguard, while its supporters point to Europe as an example for how the collaboration of the regulators and the industry makes the betting business safe, and how the PASPA has given birth to a massive underground betting business in the US that works without any oversight. So, let us dive a bit deeper into the matter and see how things are different in the US and the European Union.

Europe: regulation and oversight

Pretty much every popular form of gambling, both online and in real life, is regulated within the European Union. Locals can play their favorite games at Royal Vegas casino online or visit one of the numerous land-based gambling venues, betting shops, and other establishments that offer one of the many forms of legal gambling. Sports betting as a business is at its home in Europe – some of the biggest betting groups are either British or Scandinavian, with a handful of smaller companies coming from Germany and Poland dominating the market.

Sports betting is legal and regulated in the European Union with a strong set of laws governing it. Besides, the biggest “players” in the industry have formed groups like EGBA (European Gaming and Betting Association), an industry body based in Bruxelles, Belgium, that works with the authorities to build a better and more comprehensive gambling regulation and the ESSA (Sports Betting Integrity) that gathers all major sports betting businesses in Europe to safeguard the integrity of sports. The ESSA has a two-tier mechanism to do so: a powerful internal control system implemented by all its members and an early warning system to detect any dubious betting patterns that can detect money laundering and match-fixing activities before the events bet on even take place.

Sports betting is a major business in Europe and beyond, with a turnover of more than $100 billion each year.

USA: Blanket ban

Land-based gambling is legal on a federal level in the US, with individual states having the freedom to regulate or ban the business. This refers to all forms of gambling in land-based venues with the exception of sports betting, which is banned in all but three states (two of them only have sports pools, with Nevada being the only one where “proper” sports betting is taking place).

This ban has led to the emergence of a massive underground betting market, estimated to have a turnover of billions each year, along with offshore betting websites that accept wagers from US-based punters. All this with no oversight from the local authorities and no tax income for the states, not to mention the lack of customer protection that makes betting on sports a risky business for users. Plus, given the nature of the “business”, the risk of it having a negative influence on the integrity of sports is almost a certainty.

For years, the sports leagues and the regulators were clearly against legal sports betting in the US, but things are changing – sports leagues might find that it’s in their interest, too, for the business to be regulated instead of running rampant without any control.

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