It may be a good thing that sports betting has not yet passed the Connecticut State Legislature.
Any look at sports betting needs to first look at what potential issues can be solved with legalization, beyond just the 40-18 million in new revenues that are possible.
And with most of the discussion centered on a deal with the Indian Tribes and some level of exclusivity, the legislature and governor Ned Lamont seem to have no idea how active sports bettors well, bet on sports.
It appears those making the decision know little about sports betting, and those that do know something about sports betting are not past of the discussion.
If a law is done correctly, it will bring in needed tax revenue on something that is widely taking place anyway, and will put a dent in the illegal sports gambling market. But in order to do that, lawmakers need to know how sports bettors actually place bets.
Done poorly, a bill that grants exclusivity to one or two groups will leave millions on the table while having little to no impact on illegal sports betting.
Its not as simple as picking a winner and loser. Well, it can be, but for experienced sports bettors, and those who are likely to bring in the most in taxes, its far more complicated than that.
And understanding how bettors bet should impact how a law is written.
How sports betting works.
Every state with legal sports betting will do well during the Super Bowl and the NCAA tournament. Every casual bettor places a wages, and many have little to no idea what a money line is, never mind how and when to buy points, or bet a parlay or teaser.
Knowledgeable sports bettors can mean revenue to the state year round, and knowledgeable sports bettors are looking at the betting lines, and then shopping them.
First, a betting line is placing odds on the outcome, and adjusting payouts accordingly. Bookies, gambling sites, and casinos overall goal is to have the same amount of money bet on each side of a game, so they don’t lose money. If a game was held between the Yankees and the local high school team, the whole world would bet on the Yankees to win, and the casinos would have to pay out all the bettors, and lose money. But casinos don’t lose money.
So there is a line set of bookmakers to try and level off the money bet on each side. For example, today is June 10 and there is a game between the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers.
The current line is this at ESPN: Red Sox (-260) Rangers (+220).
This line means the Red Sox are huge favorites. To win $100 betting the Red Sox, you would have to bet $260. A lot of people think the Red Sox are going to win, so you have to risk more to make $100.
Conversely, if you were to bet $100 on the Rangers, you would win $220 if the Rangers win.
The average bettor places a bet, and awaits the outcome. But that’s not how experienced bettors place bets.
Experienced bettors shop the line. That means looking at a variety of casinos and oddmakers and seeing who gives the best odds.
For example, the screenshot above shows the odds on the game at various sports books around 4:30 on June 10. To win $100 on the Red Sox at Caesars Palace, you would need to bet $260. But to win $100, you would only need to bet $235 at BetOnline. All of these bets can be placed online, where legal. There are many other sites that are not legal, and an be bet anywhere, also offering a variety of different lines. And that is why smart bettors have accounts at multiple sports gambling sites.
Experienced sports bettors shop their bets. And this is why giving any one bookmaker exclusivity is an issue.
If the Indian tribes are granted exclusive rights to sports betting in CT, are they setting their own lines? Without competition, they can do what they like, limit offerings, and the state will be losing millions in potential revenue, and will still be losing a large amount of the betting market as experienced sports bettors stay with their bookies.
Additionally, sports betting is far more varies than even a decade ago. A quickly growing market is live betting, literally betting during games as lines change by the second.
Even now, different casinos not only have different lines, but different offerings, something that is an advantage to the consumer. Some allow you to buy a point in a basketball game, some allow you to buy 3. Some allow a max of a 5-team parlay, some 10, and some with no max bet. It all varies, and they all compete for the bettors. This is a good thing.
Exclusivity to any one or two bookmakers would result in a meaningless law. It will bring in only a fraction of the potential revenue possible, and do nothing to impact current illegal betting, which is extremely commonplace.