SCOTUS now mulls a verdict and U.S. sports bettors await an epic decision

Both sides have concluded their day in court. Upon either outcome, here’s a forecast on what new and not necessarily welcome changes could impact the player.

Both sides have concluded their day in court. Upon either outcome, here's a forecast on what new and not necessarily welcome changes could impact THE PLAYER:

Beyond any reasonable doubt, there are no more appropriate words unifying both sides of the historic December 4th Supreme Court hearing reviewing Christie vs. the NCAA than "gray and cloudy". Despite optimistic claims of victory by opposing sides of the argument, it is a dark, undiscernible sky trying to predict which way the nine Supreme Court justices will vote in this issue when a verdict is expected to return as late as June 2018.

Listening to a confident New Jersey Governor Christie this week leaving the courtroom, you might believe you should immediately book a room at the Borgata in Atlantic City for next Labor Day weekend. Be among the first to legally make a bet in their posh sports wagering plaza. Then head up to either the NJ Meadowlands or Monmouth Park to watch and bet football games on giant screens while betting horses. Who knows, the ultimate fantasy dream could be comfortably making a Jets +2 or Patriots -4 bet on your iPhone within the confines of the Garden State.

Supreme Court sports betting PASPABut hold all tickets, not so fast.

At least three or four seemingly dissenting Supreme Court jurors raised specific opposition during the testimony, citing concerns that have plagued prior appellate hearings. And at various times, accounts reported the majority of courtroom discussion seemed more a case of debating federalism vs. states rights than focusing on the central issue of sports gambling itself.

Very worrisome is that the court's decision could also affect other conflicts between federal and state authorities. At Monday's argument, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said some forms of federal regulation of marijuana could be threatened by a ruling that allows sports betting. And that's just the beginning.

Deep in the overcast clouds were protecting the NCAA and the integrity of games involving the four major sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB). Overall, it could be possible that too much is on the plate to evaluate and potentially overturn. That this antiquated law has too many separate issues to resolve. The legal effect it could cause may spill over to cases having nothing to do with legalized sports wagering. But then again, what do I know or what does anyone really know right now at this juncture?

What We Do Know

A SCOTUS decision is currently as shrouded in mystery as the Over/Under outcome of most Monday Night Football games. However, it is much easier to predict what likely will be in store for bettors should an epic verdict indeed overturn PASPA and rule sports wagering legal in New Jersey and subsequently other states. The following is a summary of customs and betting rules that likely will be either mandated or regretfully, universally followed by operators:

Licensing. I am convinced all four leagues and perhaps also the NCAA, if wagering is allowed on college sports, will levy enormous lucrative fees to wager upon their games. The ironic twist is the way they will likely distance themselves in casinos and other wagering locations. Do not expect any formal co-op, advertising or marketing plans akin to scratch-off lottery tickets, etc.

Also, unlike Europe or other countries where wagering kiosks are located within stadiums, it would be discouraged to place wagering venues within or perhaps near stadiums or arenas. Only "grandfathered" Las Vegas with new sports franchises and new stadiums built in the shadows of their world tourist attraction casinos could be an obvious exception.

In all, a potential strange marriage in the beginning for the U.S., who has taken a very conservative, firm legal stance against legalizing sports wagering in the past. As an analogy, it would be a marriage where you wouldn't tell your friends much about your husband or discuss your new wife with your parents.

Taxes. As I have previously pointed out, Pennsylvania has created the new state benchmark by recently levying an outrageous 54% tax on online operators. Management of new sportsbooks can only hope billion-dollar opportunty estimates involving illegal wagering are true. They will need a big slice of a new pie to earn significant revenue with that kind of tax burden to pay. Especially within the thin profit margins they have been accustomed to accepting in Nevada as an example.

The easiest prediction is who will inevitably pay the price: the player.

Don't expect "nickel or dime lines" as customary in competitive, top offshore sportsbooks. Larger vigorish or "juice" spreads will be customary, plus lower odds to win  and wagers involving popular parlay and teaser options. It is also unclear to know whether the large menu of untraditional sports, e-sports and entertainment bets will be available should PASPA be repealed for newly legalized states. If so, bettors cannot look forward to favorable, competitive odds compared to options currently offered online by major offshore sportsbooks like Bovada, BetOnline or 5Dimes.

Online Wagering. Speaking of wagering online, that is also a huge cloudy issue to be taken up by the Supreme Court in their review of this case. Online wagering did NOT exist when PASPA was originally legislated in 1992. Will bettors be able to wager within individual state boundaries online through legalized gaming site operators? It might not be very convenient to be home on a typical NFL Sunday after losing all your funded "early game" bets. Crucial television ratings for the late games and NFL Sunday Night Football could also surely be affected.

The Ultimate Line

In closing, I will forecast a very "unofficial" and unbiased wagering line to predict the expected mid-2018 outcome of this historic hearing.

Odds for the Supreme Court of the United States to repeal PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act):

Yes  +150
No    -200

The excellent news for bettors is that the Yes odds (repeal) were estimated 200-1 (+20000) or more only a year ago. Odds for this type of mythical play were so extremely long they wouldn't even be listed or too high to be considered. This ironic twist involves the ugly vigorish should this type of bet exist. Expect that and many other limited and un-customer friendly customs favoring over taxed, profit-thin and high licensed operators should indeed U.S. sports wagering be legalized for New Jersey and other states.

For now, the courtroom is adjourned.

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