LIFE GETS BETTER FOR SPORTS BETTORS
Reason magazine|March 2022
BUT PLACING A WAGER ON YOUR FAVORITE TEAM IS STILL TOO COMPLICATED IN MANY STATES.
JASON RUSSELL

ON NOVEMBER 30, English soccer teams Newcastle United and Norwich City played to a 1–1 draw in a Premier League matchup. The teams were last and second-to-last in the league at the time, so even most diehard soccer fans didn’t care much about the result.

But I cared. I kept a close eye on the match as Newcastle had a player sent off, managed to take the lead anyway in the second half, and relinquished that lead with about 10 minutes left. The result cost me $10.

Shortly after that match ended, Leeds United scored a late penalty kick to get a win over Crystal Palace, and I made $6.25. I lost a few dollars overall, but it was worth it for the entertainment of having a financial stake in the result of two soccer matches I otherwise wouldn’t have mustered much enthusiasm for.

I placed my bets for both matches at the Caesars Sportsbook inside Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. A sportsbook is a venue, physical or virtual, where betting on sports can occur. The in-person Caesars Sportsbook location is basically a sports bar that also has desks and computer kiosks; patrons can place bets using the kiosks or using the Caesars Sportsbook app while they’re in the building.

It’s a way for sports fans to raise the stakes and try to make a little money—with more skill required and entertainment provided than picking random lottery numbers and watching some ping pong balls bounce around (though some sportsbooks do accept bets on table tennis matches). Even if a bet loses, the bettor paid whatever amount they lost for the entertainment of having a financial stake in the game. It’s not all that different from paying for a movie and getting entertainment in return, but in this case the entertainment is the potential to make money offsports drama.

I visited the Caesars Sportsbook on an otherwise quiet Tuesday afternoon, but it was still busy with people placing bets on hockey and college basketball. I waited about 15 minutes in line to place my bet on Leeds United, and then registered for the local Caesars Sportsbook DC app to place a bet on Norwich City at halftime. The clientele were overwhelmingly black men, with a civil society developing among the regulars, who shared betting picks and strategies. (For example: Don’t bet on parlays, where the payouts are bigger but the odds of winning become smaller and smaller with each leg added to the combination bet.)

This was all pretty much impossible in Washington, D.C., before the sportsbook opened in May 2021—or basically anywhere in the country except Nevada until May 2018. That’s when the Supreme Court made its ruling in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. The lawsuit was spearheaded by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, with the major athletic leagues fighting tooth and nail against it. The NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, and NCAA were all opposed. Finding that the law commandeered regulatory power from the states, the Court overturned the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which banned most forms of sports betting. The ruling didn’t legalize sports betting nationwide, but it allowed states to legalize sports betting if they want to.

Some states decided to treat people like adults, let multiple sportsbooks enter their markets, and let fans place bets online on whatever they want. Some states haven’t legalized sports betting and have no plan to do so. And some states, much like Washington, D.C., have decided to allow some sports betting but have also chosen to put byzantine, bewildering regulations in place.

If you walk two blocks away from Capital One Arena in any direction, the local government won’t let you place bets on the Caesars app. Gambling with Caesars Sportsbook is legal only at Capital One Arena and the immediate vicinity. You can place a bet on your phone if you’re inside the Shake Shack at 9th and F Street NW, but not at Pi Pizzeria, about 350 feet to the west.

There’s only one way to bet on sports from anywhere inside Washington, D.C., and it’s through the near-monopoly granted to the DC Lottery to run GambetDC. Even when would-be bettors manage to navigate the glitchy app or website registration process, they’ll find the odds are often notably worse than those set by nonlottery sportsbooks. For example, for a December 1 game between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks, GambetDC offered odds of -250 on the Capitals to win (meaning a bettor would have to bet $250 dollars to net $100 if the Capitals won). Anyone using the Caesars Sportsbook DC app that day could get odds at -200, for a 25 percent better return. GambetDC wasn’t just more confident in the Capitals; it offered worse odds on the Blackhawks too (+150 vs. +175 on the Caesars Sportsbook DC app). In general, the house cut that’s built into the odds is much bigger at GambetDC, taking more of bettors’ winnings and entertainment.

That’s why, as one man at the Caesars Sportsbook in D.C. confided to me, “I bet my real money in Virginia.”

WINNING THE LEGALIZATION BET

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM REASON MAGAZINEView All

Bars Are Full of Good Ideas

Shutting them down—for prohibition or Covid—does more harm than you think.

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
May 2022

The New Campaign for a Sex-Free Internet

Sex, money, and the future of online free speech

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
May 2022

Are News-letters the Future of Free Speech?

Substack’s Hamish McKenzie on censorship, discourse, and Joe Rogan

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
May 2022

'They Just Took Me Away'

Adults declared “incapacitated” by the courts can lose everything— their homes, their savings, their freedom—to Florida’s sprawling guardianship system.

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
May 2022

Welcome to the Nicotine Prohibition Era

Regulators have long targeted tobacco products, but there’s new energy behind outright bans on vapes and cigarettes.

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
May 2022

Why Do Legalizers Keep Blocking Pot Banking?

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer claims to favor repealing the federal ban on marijuana. The New York Democrat nevertheless helped sink legislation that would have removed federal obstacles to banking services for state-licensed marijuana businesses.

2 mins read
Reason magazine
May 2022

Zora Neale Hurston's Inconvenient Individualism

THE AUTHOR OF THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD DEFIES EASY POLITICAL CATEGORIZATION.

8 mins read
Reason magazine
June 2022

William Ruger on Russia's Invasion of Ukraine

WILLIAM RUGER, WHO holds a Ph.D. in politics specializing in foreign policy, is the newly appointed president of the American Institute for Economic Research. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, he was a prominent voice in calling for U.S. withdrawal from that country. He was picked by former President Donald Trump to be ambassador to Afghanistan, but his nomination was never voted on.

2 mins read
Reason magazine
June 2022

Was Censorship the Greatest COVID Threat to Freedom?

WE’RE NOT JUST fighting an epidemic,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, declared at the Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020. “We’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus and is just as dangerous.”

6 mins read
Reason magazine
June 2022

WHY A WEALTH TAX IS A BAD IDEA

Billionaires are better at figuring out what to do with their money than the government will ever be.

5 mins read
Reason magazine
June 2022
RELATED STORIES

Taking the Gamble Out of Sports Gambling

Caesars, DraftKings, and others have been handing out untold millions in sign-up bonuses. Customers are playing them against one another for guaranteed profits

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
April 04, 2022

FREAKED-OUT ADELE LEAVES LAS VEGAS!

Fans furious over tortured star’s bizarre behavior

2 mins read
Globe
February 14, 2022

Ahh of Spas In Vegas

Your guide to the guilty pleasures and luxe indulgences in Las Vegas

6 mins read
Business Traveler
March 2020

Night Bites

If your stomach is growling (giving others a fright) while strolling Vegas’ streets at night, you’re in luck, Sin City is known for its abundance of after-hours options. Here, we present 10 of our favorites, serving food you’ll want to sink your teeth into.

1 min read
Las Vegas QuickGuide
October 2019

Avant-Garde

You won’t believe your eyes as you watch these Sin City shows, which step outside the box and into water (Le Rêve), under a blacklight (Blue Man Group) or into outer space (Opium). If you’re searching for something unusual to see, look no further.

1 min read
Las Vegas QuickGuide
October 2019

ADELE DEBUTS ENGAGEMENT RING!

A RED-CARPET MOMENT HAD THE SINGER SPORTING A DAZZLER

1 min read
New Idea
February 21, 2022

ADELE: THE SHOW CAN'T GO ON

Despite an emotional apology, the singer has come under fire for cancelling her Las Vegas residency

5 mins read
YOU South Africa
10 February 2022

FANS TURN ON Adele

AFTER CANCELLING HER SHOWS, THE SINGER IS FORCED TO APOLOGISE

3 mins read
WHO
February 7, 2022

Rumour has it...ADELE IS MUSIC'S BIGGEST DIVA!

Insiders say the star’s success has totally changed her

4 mins read
Woman’s Day Magazine NZ
February 7, 2022

ADELE UNDER FIRE!

A WEB OF COMPLICATIONS HAVE CAST DOUBT OVER HER CANCELLED SHOWS

1 min read
New Idea
February 7, 2022