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Will In-Stadium Betting Ever Be Legalised in the USA?


Sports betting is a current hot topic in the USA, due to the results of a Supreme Court judgement ruling imminently pending. Soon we'll find out whether current federal bans to sports betting will stand, or will fall, with laws surrounding sports betting turned over to individual states.

While we wait for an outcome in the case, it's interesting to pose another question: will in-stadium betting ever be legalized in the USA?

This question comprises probably a few more complexities than it appears to, so we're here to help iron them out a little.

Where is in-stadium betting legal on the ground?

Let's have a look at a couple of places where betting within stadiums is already legal around the world.

Luminee Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand

Although regional and local Muay Thai (Thai boxing) betting is rampant throughout the country, Lumpinee in Bangkok is one of the few stadiums in the country where this betting is actually legal. The stadium can fit 5000 patrons and fights are held three nights a week. The competition draws large crowds of both locals and farang (white tourists), is known as the national sport, and the betting atmosphere in the stadium is hectic and electric.

Very intimate and close to the action

Various stadiums, UK

The UK's sports betting industry has grown significantly since laws enacted in 2007 loosened up regulations, allowing for a more diverse market. In-stadium betting is legal throughout various stadiums across the UK. Different stadiums have different exclusive deals with different sports betting operators, with BD Stadia the largest in-stadium betting provider in the UK - who have struck subsidiary deals with other large operators like William Hill. These provide fun live betting events via booths and kiosks throughout the game, with the ability to collect your winnings on the ground, as well as tie-ins with their online betting operations.

Mobile betting makes in-stadium betting an inevitability

The fact is that everyone now carries a smartphone in their pockets. And plenty of folks have betting apps installed on their smartphones. Can stadiums police what thousands of people are doing on their smartphones within a stadium? Of course not. This means that unsanctioned sports betting is already happening within stadiums all over the world, including in the US.

There have been some notable attempts to stamp out this sort of behavior. There was the case of the British man being ejected from the SCG and ANZ stadiums in Australia for live betting on his laptop during matches in 2014. You can play similar free spins slots online, so maybe he should've been doing that on his laptop instead! In Bangladesh they're putting into place sports betting courts within stadiums for swift punishment for those caught betting on their phones. However, as mentioned, it can be very hard to do this effectively in real life situations.

What's happening with the new Raiders stadium?

The Raiders are again swapping home locations and are this time moving to Las Vegas in 2020. Their home ground will be the Las Vegas Stadium in Paradise, Nevada, although this is only the stadium's working title. Under the lease agreement with the Raiders, it alludes to there being no sports betting allowing within the stadium - or any other form of gambling, regardless of Nevada's laws surrounding gambling within the state.

Under the terms of the lease draft it includes "any game played with... any mechanical, electromechanical or electronic device or machine for money, property, checks, credit, or any representative of value". Surely mobile phones would fall under this category?

In Nevada, there are plenty of legal online sports betting houses, and plenty of legal online places to put bets on NFL games. If a ban on betting inside the stadium existed, then you could wager online up until you set foot in the stadium, but not after. You could exit during the break, bet, and step back inside - all legally.

However, as mentioned, this could prove very difficult to police, if people are gambling via their phones within the stadium. Is it unlikely that geo-blocking restrictions would stop tech-savvy punters from placing a bet if they wanted to.

It's more likely that mobile betting apps would be allowed in the stadium, where viewers could place bets as they watch the game, or at the very least that a blind eye would be turned to this behavior. This would mark the first time that in-stadium betting would be allowed at any NFL game.

Occasionally, NFL games are played in the UK, at Wembley Stadium, Twickenham Stadium, and in the future at the nearing-completion Northumberland Park. However, even though these stadiums have in-stadium betting facilities, they are required to shut them when any NFL games are being played.

The future of in-stadium sports betting in the US

Will we ever see sports betting booths popping up in stadiums across the US? At this point in time, it's a firm... maybe.

Sports betting itself is illegal in all but a few jurisdictions in the US, however with the case currently before the Supreme Court, we may see States have the power as to whether they allow sports betting, rather than a blanket federal ban. States in future may have the decision whether to allow in-stadium sports betting, meaning we may one day see the betting booths in stadiums like our friends over in the UK get to experience. This may also mean it's fully legal to use state-sanctioned sports betting apps while we're sitting in the stadium. In the future, these two could blend, giving a more holistic betting experience for punters.

In Deloitte's 2016 insights into a glimpse of the future, titled The Stadium as a Platform, they cover some very interesting points about how in the future, technology is going to immerse fans in the sporting experience, the team and player interactions with fans during the game, and ways for stakeholders to get more for their money (and fans too!).

Deloitte envision "Creating a "game within the game" system where fans bet virtual currency (or, using bitcoin / blockchain, real currency) on in-game events, or use stadium-provided technology for other micro-transactions", virtual reality at home giving the in-stadium experience, plus lots more.

While it's not an inevitability by any stretch of the imagination, we're willing to bet that at some point in time the fans are going to get - legally - what they've being crying out for, even if it is just through having sports betting apps legalized in the US.