The news the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a 1992 federal ban on sports betting in states where it was not already legal likely cheered the hearts of those who enjoy backing their opinion on football, basketball and the like with cold, hard cash.
But don't whip out the Ben Franklins just yet. Especially here in Texarkana.
For years wide-open betting on college and professional sports has only been legal in Nevada (three states had small-time sports-connected lottery operations). That doesn't mean it's not popular in the other 49 states—it is, insanely so—it just means the profits go to bookies (and in many cases the mob) and the states don't get a cut.
A federal law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, backed by pro and college sports, was passed in 1992 to keep things that way and guarantee the purity of sports would not be negatively impacted by the further expansion of legal gambling.
Yes, we say that with a straight face.
Anyway, New Jersey, which was the first state outside Nevada to make casino gambling legal, wanted a piece of the sports betting gold rush. So it challenged the ban. And on Monday won in the nation's highest court.
Since the legal structure is already in place, Garden State gamblers will be able to get a bet down pretty soon, maybe within a couple of weeks. Mississippi also seems well on its way to legal sports gambling. But elsewhere? It will happen, but it's going to be a while.
States have to pass laws making sports betting legal. They have to set up rules and regulations and issue licenses. That doesn't happen overnight.
And in some states it won't happen at all. Not for a very long time, if at all.
Texas lawmakers have a longstanding hostility to legal gambling. Aside from horse racing and the lottery, the state has turned it's nose up at the prospect of casino gambling revenue even as Texans rush to drop their cash at the tables in less-restrictive states. Maybe elected officials will see sports gambling in a different light, but don't bet on it.
And Arkansas? Well, aside from the lottery and charitable bingo, the state's two racetracks pretty much have a monopoly on gambling. They have parimutuel and offtrack betting and casinos—excuse us, "video games of skill." If sports betting comes to Arkansas we expect Oaklawn and Southland to use all their influence to get an exclusive on that as well. Arkansas residents will probably be allowed to set up an account and call their bets in or play online, just like they can now with racing action.
But legal sports betting parlors in Texarkana? Probably not in the foreseeable future. The more likely first step in our area will be state-sponsored, sports-related lottery games, sort of like the old football and baseball parlay cards. That would bring in a lot of revenue but it's not the same as backing a team and sweating that night's game.
So don't cry for the local bookies. They won't be going away anytime soon.