CINCINNATI -- Legal to bet on the Reds and Bengals?
Just don't bet on it happening anytime soon.
When the Supreme Court overturned a New Jersey state law that made it illegal to bet on contests that involved humans (such as NFL, NBA, MLB and other sports), it came as a surprise to a lot of people.
But if it did, it was because they weren't paying attention.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) had been targeted by President Trump's longtime ally Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey. Christie, in an effort to boost New Jersey's tax base, had long wanted his state to allow gambling on sporting events and New Jersey moved to have PASPA overturned.
Whether Trump did it by design or just chance, when he nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court instead of the next leading candidate, Judge Thomas Hardiman from the 3rd Circuit, it almost greenlighted an ultimate win for Christie v. NCAA (the official title of the New Jersey case while Christie was still governor).
If Trump had selected Hardiman to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the bench, he would have had to recuse himself from Christie v. NCAA, since the 3rd Circuit had already heard the case. Though Monday's decision was 6-3 in New Jersey's favor, with Justice Elena Kagan joining the majority, the specter of a 4-4 split might have led Christie to lobby Trump for Gorsuch's selection. Who knows?
According to playusa.com, which monitors states with legalized gambling and casinos, it cost the state of New Jersey $8 million to litigate the case.
The Supreme Court had agreed to take the case before Gorsuch was nominated, confirmed and sworn in. Those who took the time to check how Gorsuch had ruled while on the 10th Circuit, and before, would have seen that he's a states' rights advocate. And make no mistake: As much as the court's ruling this week was about this case in particular, it is also about states' rights.
And what the ruling does is open the door for all 50 states to allow legal betting on all leagues, professional and college, immediately.
But that doesn't mean it's going to happen soon.
Kentucky, of course, has no legalized casino gambling. But Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who doesn't care for casino gambling, isn't dismissing the idea of the Commonwealth embracing sports wagering. Maybe he sees a way out of his budget troubles with Monday's ruling.
Indiana and Ohio both have casino gambling, and it could get very interesting in Ohio in this election year. The current attorney general, Mike DeWine, now the Republican nominee for governor, has been steadfastly against any kind of expansion of Ohio's gambling laws. And candidate DeWine isn't straying, so far, from that stance. But DeWine actually supported Christie's attempt to overturn PASPA, filing a document of support with the Supreme Court.
Current Ohio Gov. John Kasich appears lukewarm to an expansion of current gambling laws to include teams and leagues. And Democratic nominee for governor Richard Cordray says only that gambling expansion should be studied further.
There could be a loophole in Ohio's current laws that would permit legal casino gambling to allow for sports wagering. But the language is at best hazy, linking Ohio to what neighboring states do with their casinos.
Among those neighboring states is West Virginia, which already has passed a law legalizing sports wagering, pending the outcome of this week's Supreme Court ruling. Ohio and Indiana's state legislatures have not taken such action. And it could be more than a year, given the timing of the court's decision and the legislative schedules in both statehouses. So don't be surprised if nothing is in place before late 2020.
Meanwhile, the leagues affected by Monday's ruling have all but resigned themselves to the fact that their reality is changing. A fierce opponent of PASPA's undoing is the NCAA. On Monday, its chief legal counsel, Don Remy, released a statement that said, in part: "While we are still reviewing the decision to understand the overall implications to college sports, we will adjust sports wagering and championship policies to align with the direction from the court."
On Tuesday, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch announced that he would introduce a bill that would put sports gambling under a federal umbrella and not, in essence, under 50 different laws for 50 different states.
In part, Hatch said: "We cannot allow this practice to proliferate amid uneven enforcement and a patchwork race to the regulatory bottom. At stake here is the very integrity of sports. That’s why I plan to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to help protect honesty and principle in the athletic arena."
Hatch, it should be noted, was one of the original authors of the PASPA bill.
The NFL, ironically, has as much to gain from Monday's court ruling as any of the leagues. Two things have fueled its popularity. One is fantasy football, a form of gambling. And the other is gambling on the games. Football remains the most wagered-on sport on the planet. This week, the NFL looked to Hatch and his colleagues for an answer to a court decision hard for them to stomach.
It said this: "Congress has long-recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events. Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting."
But, of course, all of that is subject to change.
This read in the Wall Street Journal was terrific in outlining why the NFL has morphed in its position on legalized gambling. The reason, of course, is money.
The real visionary in all of this has been NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Almost two years ago, perhaps knowing legalized gambling was on the horizon, Silver embraced the idea, maybe out of resignation. While his peers at the NFL and MLB held out hope for PASPA's survival, Silver pushed for proactivity, urging Congress to pass a bill regulating wagering nationally, rather than state by state. Silver, of course, saw the chance for a real monetary windfall for his league, if a certain idea of his was implemented, too.
As for Major League Baseball, Commissioner Rob Manfred has taken the resignation road as his counterparts in football and basketball. Earlier this year, in an interview with yahoo.com, Manfred said: "Whether it's legalized here or not, it's happening out there. So I think the question for sports is really, 'Are we better off in a world where we have a nice, strong, uniform, federal regulation of gambling that protects the integrity of sports, provides sports with the tools to ensure that there is integrity in the competition … or are we better off closing our eyes to that and letting it go on as illegal gambling?' "
Bottom line, legalized sports gambling is here. New Jersey's casinos and racetracks believe they could be accepting bets on baseball games as soon as next month and NFL games by this fall. Other states with sports wagering laws already in place, like West Virginia and Mississippi, could fall in line quickly, too. What West Virginia does could, by Ohio casino laws, affect what happens at places like the Jack in Cincinnati.
But most probably, for most of the country, this gets "slow walked." State legislatures, like Ohio's and Indiana's, will have to weigh in. Kentucky would have to have a complete about-face to join in. Betting on politicians (no pun intended) is a fool's game.
But Monday's ruling by the court is a big deal. A 2015 Forbes story predicted $95 billion (billion with a "b") would be wagered on NFL games in the 2015 season, with $93 billion of that wagered illegally. Leagues will want a piece of that action. Whether we get to play the game here in the Tri-State is anybody's guess right now.
Now, some random thoughts on this random Thursday ...
Several of my twitter-stalkers (@kenbroo) thought Pete Rose would laugh, or feel exonerated, by the court's ruling this week. I don't think so. What he did violated baseball's golden rule, and it was illegal, nationally and in Ohio, at the time he did it. ...
Those who gush over what a player did at a mini-camp must have a lot of time on their hands. It's underwear football. How fast a guy is, or how great his hands are, or what a quarterback's "release time" is in a mini-camp has nothing to do with his potential as an NFL player. Nor does his "40 time" at the NFL Combine, a made-for-TV event. A lineman won't run 40 yards downfield more than a handful of times in an NFL season. And having "great hands" or "being real quick" in the middle of May without full gear isn't exactly how you win football games in October. Enough with it. ...
I'm not fooled by the recent six-game winning streak the Reds had last week. Their starting pitching isn't good enough to sustain it. Sal Romano was good in one start, bad in his next. Winning streaks are tough to pull off when your starting pitching isn't consistent. And the Reds' starting pitching still isn't very good. ...
By the way, what does the Reds organization have against Amir Garrett? He should be in the starting rotation. ...
All that said, what the winning streak showed us is that the Reds are not going to be cataclysmically bad this season. ...
There is no way Matt Harvey is going to be with the Reds next season. If (and it's a big if) the Reds can fix what's wrong with Harvey and he wins six to eight of his starts before the trade deadline, he'll bring the Reds some decent prospects in return. And by the same logic, if he wins those six to eight starts, Harvey's asking price past this season, when he'll become a free agent, will be too rich for the Reds. A "turned-around Matt Harvey," who is making $5.65 million now, will ask for a multiyear contract starting in the neighborhood of $10 million to $12 million. Less than six months down the road from how he behaved with the New York Mets, it's a risk the Reds don't need to take. Good idea to pick him up. Bad idea to keep him around after the trade deadline. ...
Paul Simon released this song 45 years ago this week, and I think it's held up very well over time.
The song went to No. 2 in the United States in 1973, but it never charted in the U.K. The BBC had a strict policy of not playing songs or airing commentary that mentioned commercial products. And, of course, Kodachrome was film that was manufactured by Eastman Kodak.
The album that spawned this hit was "There Goes Rhymin' Simon.' " He recorded this song at the Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama, largely because he loved the Staples Singers' "I'll Take You There," which he discovered was cut at the same place.
Fully expecting to see black musicians when he walked through the door, he was shocked, according to bass player David Hood, to find four white guys waiting with instruments. Simon cut a song with them quickly and then asked if they would be willing to record this as well. They nailed it in two takes.
Hood remembered that the roof was leaking directly above the recording console. The quick fix was to put sanitary napkins on the ceiling of the studio. Hood remembers Simon looking at the ceiling above where he was standing, seeing the quick fix and simply shaking his head. But he had a hit record.
And as late as 1970, you could still take a night class at NYU -- music writing -- taught by none other than Paul Simon.