Hoosiers love their basketball. Ask anyone in Indiana and they’ll tell you that basketball isn’t just a sport; it’s a religion. The Indiana University Hoosiers’ basketball program has always been one of the best in the U.S. and the NCAA Hall of Champions is located in Indianapolis as a testament to the state’s attraction to basketball. On the NBA level, the Indiana Pacers have a massive following across the state, and all the attention given to hoops is paying off in a big way. Indiana continues to set new records with its sports gambling market, most of which is coming from basketball.In February of last year, the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) reported a handle of $187 million, a 10% increase from January. That wasn’t surprising, given the NFL Super Bowl action; however, assuming the money went to football would be wrong. The Big Game received $11.6 million in bets, while college and pro basketball accounted for over $90 million. Indiana continued to raise the bar on the sports gambling industry when the state’s sportsbooks recorded $251.4 million in November of last year, a $20-million increase over the prior month’s action. Much of that was destined for football as the NFL and college games were heating up, but, if there was any doubt of the importance of basketball in Indiana, the most recent numbers will push all of it aside. The IGC just released the latest figures on sports gambling and January was another record-setting month, the fifth consecutive month of breaking records. $348.2 million was wagered in the state last month, an increase of 11.2% over December and more than 100% over January 2020. Of that amount, $133.2 million went to hoops, making it the most money ever spent on one sport in the state. Football only got $77.6 million of the action. That’s not only good news for sportsbooks operating in the state, but it’s good news for the state’s budget, as well. With a tax of 9.5%, January gave Indiana’s government almost $2.8 million in tax revenue and, over the past 12 months, the state has received over $20 million. That’s not too bad for a local industry that has only been around since September 2019. Indiana can thank its neighbors for some of its additional wealth. Kentucky and Ohio don’t yet have sports gambling, although legislation is in the works, so gamblers in both of the states often hop over the border to place their bets. Illinois has a robust sports gambling market and is ranked fourth in terms of handle among legal states, but it doesn’t allow gambling on in-state college games. As a result, it loses some of the potential action it could be receiving and which might allow it to brag as being first or second in the sports gambling rankings.
5Dimes, the former Costa Rica-based sportsbook, is now headquartered in the Isle of Man. Following the kidnapping and murder of the company’s founder, William “Tony” Creighton, in 2019, 5Dimes wasn’t ready to give up and began looking for ways to enter the nascent U.S. market. It made a deal with U.S. authorities to help it in its quest, and just received a license in the Isle of Man. That approval gives it a foundation upon which it can build out its global footprint and marks a huge step forward to possibly entering the U.S. market.The Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission signed off on 5Dimes’ license application this month, paving the way for the sportsbook to offer online sports gambling and casino products to the local market. It doesn’t give it direct access to the U.S. market, but allows it to begin to establish itself as a global player that might eventually be able to appeal to regulators in the U.S. once it demonstrates that it conforms to their standards. As a member of the World Trade Organization and part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development White List, the Isle of Man is a great launching point for 5Dimes.Laura Varela, Creighton’s widow and member of the 5Dimes Board of Directors, said about the new Isle of Man license, “This licensure is an exciting milestone for the 5Dimes brand. The Isle of Man is a Tier-1 jurisdiction, known for its advanced approach to gambling and e-gaming legislation and its exceptional reputation in the international gaming community. The Isle of Man sets high standards for its gaming operators and players, and we look forward to upholding the same level of principles and innovation with the launch of 5Dimes.”5Dimes is now going to set up shop in the Isle of Man, planting a management and operations team there to oversee the company’s launch. Its establishment as a legitimate operator among other global sportsbooks was made possible because of the deal it worked out with U.S. authorities, which included a payment of $46.8 million to the Department of Justice. That money came from both the company’s proceeds, as well as Varela.Varela adds, “This undertaking in the Isle of Man is a first step towards relaunching the 5Dimes brand in all legalized jurisdictions around the world. We are excited to welcome back many of our loyal customers to our top-of-the-line gaming experience while keeping our eyes set on future expansion opportunities in additional legal and regulated markets in the near future.”
Despite a massive increase in sports gambling activity, fueled primarily by the addition of legal states in the U.S., there hasn’t been an increase in sports integrity issues. This is the succinct takeaway from a recent report by the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA), which indicates the figures have remained relatively unchanged over the past several years. Last year saw a bump in the number of complaints, but nothing that would indicate match-fixing in sports is running rampant.The IBIA indicates that there were 270 suspicious gambling reports lodged last year. They came from 43 countries and 15 sports, with 68 of the complaints found in the first quarter. This is a significant jump -48% – from the 183 that were reported a year earlier; however, taking into account the total number of sports contests that were played around the world, the figure is still extremely low. Soccer activity saw the biggest increase in complaints last year, increasing by 25% to 61. Tennis, which has a history of match-fixing, saw even more, with 98. Of those related to tennis, 39 were addressed by the International Tennis Integrity Agency since they didn’t involve any major competitions. Of all of the investigations launched by the IBIA, only 12 players or teams received criminal or sports sanctions due to suspicious gambling activity. The CEO of the IBIA, Khalid Ali, explains that COVID-19 may have played a role in the uptick, asserting, “2020 was a turbulent year for many sectors including the betting industry, which had to adjust its market offering due to the global sports lockdown. As a result, IBIA focused its integrity monitoring activity to take account of new sports tournaments and competitions that emerged.”However, what’s more notable is the fact that the increase in numbers from last year were on par with what had been seen in 2017 and 2018, according to Ali. That was before the U.S. began to dive into sports gambling in any sizable measure, with the U.S. Supreme Court having just overturned PASPA in May of 2018. The fact that sports integrity issues didn’t spiral out of control last year, with 20 states having launched legal sports gambling and expansion being found elsewhere in the world, would seem to indicate that the worn-out rhetoric that the legalization of sports gambling only leads to greater corruption is a myth completely busted. When taking into account all of the sports that are available, over 8,000 and counting, and the number of matches of each sport, 270 cases total isn’t even enough to indicate that there might be an issue. However, in the spirit of sports fairness, eliminating any questionable activity that could skew the outcome of games is always going to be an important task.
The second-in-command in Texas is putting his foot down. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has decided that, as long as he’s around, there won’t be any serious talk about sports gambling or casinos in the Lone Star State. Both activities have been brought to the forefront recently as methods of securing more revenue and have even found support from professional sports teams. Patrick is apparently willing to forego any attempt to allow Texans to decide their future, which is what the government is supposed to do, and told a local radio station in Lubbock, Texas, that sports gambling is “not even an issue that’s going to see the light of day” anytime soon.Patrick seems to be unaware that politicians are given their positions to help support and form policies that are created by the wishes of the people they represent. They’re not in positions of power to assert their own will or desires. However, he admits that he’s not in favor of any type of gambling and there’s little chance he will start dancing to a different beat in the near future.Patrick isn’t alone in his distaste for generating more revenue for Texas and asserts that many state senators are against gambling expansion, as well. With Republicans outweighing Democrats 18-13 in the Senate, they, along with Patrick, can control what happens, even if public support for gambling were to be found. Mark P. Jones, a political science expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute seconds that notion, telling Casino.org, “As the undisputed leader of the Texas Senate who controls its agenda with an iron hand, Patrick is better positioned than anyone in Texas to ensure that gambling legislation does not see the light of day in 2021.”According to some reviews, up to $2.5 billion could currently be leaving Texas each year to be spent on gambling activity outside the state. Simple math at a 10% tax rate shows how much additional revenue could be given to the Texas government, which could be used to improve education, roadways and much more. As things go right now, Texas lawmakers are essentially throwing away perfectly good money, the same way they would if they took a $10 bill out of their wallet and threw it into the gutter. Gamblers are going to gamble and there are plenty of options available to Texans outside the state.The hypocrisy of the anti-gambling stance in Texas is perplexing. The state has an established lottery, parimutuel gambling options and even bingo. If gambling were so evil, all forms would be prohibited, not just a select few. Still, Texans will likely continue to have to travel across state lines or use offshore gambling sites to place their bets, with Jones adding about the myopic politician, “I can’t imagine any scenario under which Patrick would change his mind this year. The budget situation is no longer as dire as was feared last July.”
The anti-gambling stance that runs deep in the heart of Texas might be softening. There is apparently a push to get the state to approve casino gambling that has been percolating for some time, but which began to boil more quickly late last year. There are also rumors now that legal sports gambling could come to Texas, which, although not confirmed, has already created a flurry of activity. Part of that is coming from the state’s professional sports teams, which are reportedly completely supportive of the idea of legalized gambling in the Lone Star State.The Dallas Morning News (paywall) explains that the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Mavericks and the Texas Rangers – the MLB team, not the law enforcement body – are all showing their support for sports gambling in Texas. They are expected to sign up to join a legislative effort backed by Representative Dan Huberty to introduce sports gambling legislation, which could potentially be approved before the end of the year.It’s curious how quickly some people are able to change their minds on certain topics. Before the U.S. Supreme Court bashed pro sports leagues and a handful of lawmakers when it dropped the ax on PASPA, many professional sports teams were adamantly against sports gambling, arguing that it would only foster integrity issues in the game. However, with PASPA’s demise and the revelation that states are making millions of dollars from legal sports gambling activity, more leagues and teams are now rallying to see more expansion.Despite having its name prominently featured in a gambling game (Texas Hold’em poker), Texas is not very friendly when it comes to gambling. It has repeated fought efforts to allow any type of casino or sportsbook, even though it doesn’t have a problem with lotteries. The times are changing, though, and Texas is trying to change with them; however, finding enough support for sports gambling isn’t going to be easy. The chair of the Travis County Republican Party, Matt Mackowiak, told The Dallas Morning News, “My view is that Texas is going to be one of the ten last states to allow [casino] gambling. I do think [sports gambling is] is a lighter lift, and it may be where they end up.”It all boils down to money. Some estimates have indicated that as much as $2.5 billion could be leaving the state to be spent on sports wagers elsewhere. As is already well established, sports gamblers are going to gamble whether it’s legal or not and will find a way to place their bets. By allowing sportsbooks, Texas will be able to benefit from the tax revenue, as well as better protect consumers.The executive VP and chief brand officer of the Dallas Cowboys, Charlotte Jones Anderson (also the daughter of team owner Jerry Jones), told the media outlet, “Unregulated and illegal sports gambling is already taking place in the State of Texas. Legalized sports betting would regulate the industry and generate hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue for the state, which will help fund critical programs without raising taxes.” That has been the reason why sportsbooks have been approved in other states, and will likely help convince Texans to sign off on a measure in their neck of the woods, as well.
The U.K.’s battle with the gambling industry continues to show how far regulators will go to push gambling into dark corners that no one would want to visit. The U.K. Gambling Commission (UKGC) is implementing policies and regulations that will severely handicap operators, and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is always willing to take a stab at the industry. All it takes is for one person to lodge a complaint about a gambling operator’s ad, and the ASA is ready to put the company in front of a firing squad. While there may be some ads that have crossed the lines, the latest attack, this one against sports gambling giant Ladbrokes, shows how petty the ASA can be. Ladbrokes ran an ad on on-demand video services that was introduced last October. In it, several individuals were seated at tables in a café using the Ladbrokes mobile app to place their bets. The commercial cuts to show a live horse race with a voiceover asserting, “Come starter’s orders. I’m a bag of nerves,” as the camera pans to the man’s shaking leg. That nervousness was enough for the ASA to assert that Ladbrokes was “socially irresponsible” with its ad, and the advertising watchdog slapped it on the wrist, as well as the wallet. It’s absurd to think that there could be a link between nervousness and “social irresponsibility.” Most individuals would be nervous when placing bets, regardless of the size, and some people get nervous just reading the menu at Starbucks. Ladbrokes isn’t happy about the situation, either, and said in a statement, “[We did] not believe the ad depicted socially irresponsible behaviour because the man was not shown placing a bet nor indeed talking about gambling.”The operator has support from several marketing industry insiders, including Clearcast, which oversees commercials that are put on commercial TV in the U.K. It asserts that, because the man wasn’t presented as an individual obsessed with gambling, and was still aware of his surroundings, the ASA might be reaching too far. Channel 4, a U.K. broadcaster, agrees, arguing that it fails to see how the ad could be viewed as causing emotional, financial or social harm. The ASA has a proverbial stick somewhere it shouldn’t be and seems to be willing to ignore common sense when it comes to enforcing advertising regulations. It countered the arguments by Clearcast and Channel 4 by saying that the individual depicted in the ad was seen as “preoccupied with the outcome of the race in relation to a bet he had placed.” That goes into the Thank you, Captain Obvious pile, since anyone making a wager is going to want to know the outcome of the event. However, if that is “socially irresponsible,” the ASA should simply begin prohibiting all TV commercials from now on.