2nd of August 2010 Author: Johnny Karp
Poker proponent says the West Coast state could benefit from legalised online sports betting
Californian state senator Roderick Wright was in the headlines again this weekend, indicating that he supports legalised sports betting, which experts say could generate an additional $1 billion for state coffers.
Wright is perhaps better known for his attempt (currently on the back burner whilst he considers opposition comments) to licence and regulate online poker in California .
The state senator is a Democrat from Inglewood who chairs the legislative committee overseeing gambling, and he supports a lawsuit filed by New Jersey officials challenging a federal law that limits sports betting to Nevada and a few other states.
Wright told the LA Times this weekend that he might ask the California Legislature to join the suit.
"If you took the sports book in Nevada and other places, it's a pretty healthy piece of money, and we currently don't get squat,'' Wright said.'I don't know how much longer we can afford to basically be providing the revenue to all these other states from California people.''
The newspaper reports that under California law, it is a misdemeanor to bet on a sporting event.
The federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act prohibits the state from sanctioning sports betting, according to Whittier Law School professor I. Nelson Rose, an expert on gambling law.
The lawsuit by New Jersey argues that the 1992 federal law violates the U.S. Constitution by allowing betting in some states but not others. Rose said the law has "major constitutional problems.''
It is widely estimated that more than $100 billion is wagered in the U.S., legally and illegally, on sporting events each year, according to Marc Lefkowitz, an expert at the UCLA Gambling Studies Program.
About $2.6 billion is bet on sports legally in Nevada, and the state takes a share with a tax on the profits of casinos where the betting occurs, according to Frank Streshley, a senior research analyst for the Nevada Gaming Commission.
Last year, the tax brought in more than $9 million, he said.
California could reap much more, according to Professor Rose. He said California could generate more than $5 billion in legal sports betting and about $1 billion in annual revenue for the state, depending on how much the state would take from the operators it would licence.
Allowing sports betting could mean 10,000 or more jobs for California, said Breon Corcoran, managing director of the Irish bookmaking company Paddy Power, which would like to operate sports gambling in California.
"It's a curiosity to us that Nevada is really the only state where you can do [unlimited] sports betting in the U.S.,'' Corcoran said.
Lefkowitz said any effort to legalise sports betting in California would be fought by professional sports leagues that don't want the taint of gambling in states where they have franchises. Nevada and Delaware have no NFL or NBA teams, and different levels of sports betting are allowed there.
The National Football League does not want the federal or state law changed, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, because the organisation considers gambling a corrupting influence.
"We recognise that many states have many pressing economic issues, but more state-operated single-game wagering presents a threat to the long-term health and integrity of our sport,'' McCarthy said.
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