We’ve seen this before: Chris Christie pushed for legalized sports gambling in the state of New Jersey in 2012, and he lost. Now he’s cleared the way for New Jersey to take sports bets again, and the leagues are fighting back . . . again. The leagues are most likely fighting a futile battle — Adam Silver even admitted as much — as states search for new taxable revenue. It’s likely gambling will be one of the answers.
Even if New Jersey wins the appeal, the leagues could hold the proverbial hammer. The NFL could make sure no more Super Bowls are held at Jets and Giants home MetLife Stadium. The NCAA would surely remove in-state football bowls or basketball playoff games. MLB and the NBA don’t have teams in New Jersey, but Philadelphia is nearby. Could that city be prevented from holding All-Star festivities?
It’s odd that the NFL seems to be leading the charge because the NFL benefits from increased fan engagement through gambling. Fantasy football is obvious, but the NFL’s television partners make veiled (and not-so-veiled) references to point spreads all the time. Europe has embraced legalized gambling, with some venues even hosting gambling services in-house, while avoiding point-shaving incidents like the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. There have been some gambling scandals involved in tennis, but that isn’t a team sport.
The leagues may not win in court, but there are ancillary ways they can stifle sports gambling. Other states may be wary of getting on the leagues’ bad side.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.