By Mike Marciano

The first major domino to fall in the efforts to legalize sports gambling came in the Supreme Court’s decision passed down on May 14th, 2018, Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.[1] In Murphy, the Supreme Court found that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which attempted to federally restrict the ability for states to lawfully authorize gambling on sporting events,[2] violated the anti-commandeering doctrine under which congressional power to “issue direct orders to the governments of the states,” in some instances, is wrongful.[3] Writing for the majority, Justice Alito opined, “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own.”[4]

Since Murphy decided that the states may individually choose whether or not to legalize sports gambling for its citizens, a handful of states have opted in favor of legalization.[5] Recently, among those states is Virginia.[6]

In April of this year, Governor Ralph Northam approved sports betting in Virginia by signing off on three different bills.[7] Since then, the Virginia Lottery Board (hereinafter “the Board”) has received hundreds of comments regarding the rules and guidelines that would accompany the implementation of sports gambling in Virginia.[8] Predictably, an important topic of consideration that arose regarding these rules has been which internet-based sports betting platforms, including mobile apps, will be permitted to operate in Virginia, and what rules will guide their operation.[9]

During the Virginia Lottery Board’s public comment period (which concluded on September 9th), the Board fielded comments from many of the more prominent sportsbooks, including FanDuel, DraftKings, theScore, and Caesars Entertainment.[10] Comments from these sportsbooks expressed dissatisfaction with some of the rules laid out in the framework provided by the Board and urged it to reconsider rules that would be difficult or impossible to comport with their technology.[11]

For example, both DraftKings and FanDuel commented on a requirement obligating sportsbooks to provide bettors with an explanation about how each bet is calculated.[12] Both sportsbooks ardently pushed back, contending that not only has no other state in the country insisted on a similar condition, but that it would be next to impossible to comply with such a requirement.[13] Sportsbooks such as FanDuel and DraftKings provide a tremendous amount of wagers for bettors to bet on, including live bets, which feature constantly changing odds.[14] Specifically, the fast-paced nature of a basketball game, for example, naturally necessitates that real-time betting odds reflect the current score of the game.[15] With how quickly the score of a basketball game changes, one can clearly see how difficult it would be for a sportsbook like FanDuel or DraftKings to constantly provide an explanation for odds that change so quickly.[16]

The two sportsbooks also protest that the ability for bettors to parlay their bets (tether multiple wagers, such that a winning bet depends on the success of two or more wagers, making the bet harder to win but providing more rewarding odds to the bettor) presents sportsbooks with an even more difficult burden.[17] Of these rules, FanDuel complains, “Sports betting apps are simply not built to provide and display this type of information . . . As such, this requirement would force a re-engineering of the products, to create a demonstrably worse user experience, and all to provide information which is immaterial to the calculation of the odds and/or payout a bettor will receive.”[18]

On September 15th, The Virginia Lottery Board approved a “framework for legal sports betting.”[19] Presumably, this updated framework will address concerns like the ones voiced by FanDuel and DraftKings about the capability for the technology in their apps to comport with the rules approved by the Board.[20] Probably, though, with the rise in popularity of online sportsbooks and sportsbook apps,[21] it would be advantageous for both parties to come to an agreement where the interface of sportsbook apps like those of FanDuel and DraftKings remains as intuitive as possible, and the desire for the Board to maintain certain standards is respected.

Regardless, Virginia’s efforts toward implementing sports wagering and approving online and app-based sportsbooks are forging forward, and in the coming months, Virginia bettors will be able to place wagers on some of their favorite teams.[22]

 

[1] Murphy v. National College Athletic Ass’n, 138 S. Ct. 1461 (2018).

[2] See id. at 1470.

[3] Id. at 1475–76.

[4] Id. at 1484–85.

[5] See US States with Legal Sports Betting the Definitive Guide, The Game Haus (Sept. 16, 2020), https://thegamehaus.com/sports/us-states-with-legal-sports-betting-the-definitive-guide/2020/09/16/ (listing which states have legalized sports gambling).

[6] See Christina Monroe, Gov. Northam Approves VA Sports Betting Bills After Amendments, Legal Sports Betting (Apr. 29, 2020, 11:54 AM), https://www.legalsportsbetting.com/news/gov-northam-approves-va-sports-betting-bills-after-amendments/.

[7] See id.

[8] See WFXRtv.com Digital Desk, Virginia Lottery Board Approves Sports Betting Regulations, Brings Virginia Closer to Legal Sports Wagering, WFXR Fox (Sept. 16, 2020, 8:56 AM) https://www.wfxrtv.com/news/commonwealth-news/virginia-lottery-board-approves-sports-betting-regulations-brings-virginia-closer-to-legal-sports-wagering/.

[9] See Graham Moomaw, Virginia Rolls Out Initial Sports Betting Rules. Big Gambling Platforms Push Back, Virginia Mercury (Sept. 10, 2020) https://www.virginiamercury.com/2020/09/10/virginia-rolls-out-initial-sports-betting-rules-drawing-some-pushback-from-big-platforms.

[10] See Jill R. Dorson, Stakeholders Have Plenty to Say About Proposed Virginia Sports Betting Regulations, Sports Handle (Sept. 14, 2020) https://sportshandle.com/virginia-regulations-comments-betting/.

[11] See id.; See also Moomaw, supra note 9.

[12] Moomaw, supra note 9.

[13] See id.

[14] See id.

[15] See id.

[16] See id.

[17] See id.; See also Sports Betting Guide: Parlay Bets and Odds Explained, Odds Shark (last visited Sept. 18, 2020) https://www.oddsshark.com/sports-betting/parlay-betting (explaining how parlay bets function).

[18] Moomaw, supra note 9.

[19] WFXRtv.com Digital Desk, supra note 8.

[20] Chris Murphy, Virginia Moves to Legalize Sports Betting in Time for Early 2021, SBC Americas (Sept. 16, 2020) https://sbcamericas.com/2020/09/16/virginia-moves-to-legalize-sports-betting-in-time-for-early-2021/ (statement of Virginia Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall) (“A lot of helpful feedback was provided during the public comment period, and the updated regulations approved by the Lottery Board today incorporate many of the suggestions from stakeholders and citizens.”).

[21] PYMNTS, Odds Are That Online Sportsbook Wins Big Post-COVID, PYMNTS (Sept. 16, 2020) https://www.pymnts.com/digital-payments/2020/odds-are-that-online-sportsbook-wins-big-post-covid/ (noting that the online sportsbook and esports wagering sector has ballooned during the first half of 2020).

[22] See Murphy, supra note 20.

Image Source: https://medium.com/@isatyam/top-10-sports-betting-apps-for-2020-that-deserve-space-in-your-mobile-d86b5f80ba54

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