NBA Hall of Famer and business titan Magic Johnson sees a future where sports betting in the United States and the professional sports leagues coexist — and mutually benefit. A part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Dodgers, and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, he delivered a keynote address at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas on Thursday, and took questions after about the future of sports betting.
With respect to sports betting and the major professional sports leagues, Johnson pointed to changed landscape in Las Vegas and a shifting “narrative.” Via Global Gaming Reports, Johnson said (emphasis added):
“Remember all of the sports leagues were saying we’re staying away from Las Vegas and no way. The whole thing of betting and this and that, and they wanted us to stay away from all of that. Now you have two teams coming to this great city, and the fans want it. It’s great for the NFL and it’s great for the NHL and great for the fans. The narrative is changing. The landscape is changing. A lot of things are changing around Las Vegas – sports and the major leagues. I think… you are going to see it moving towards something really good for all of us. All these regulations will change.”
NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson Believes the Changed Narrative and Landscape Will Lead to Changed Sports Betting Regulations
Magic Johnson doing his thing at Global Gaming Expo. Great photos by Sam Morris of Las Vegas News Bureau. pic.twitter.com/tDhTAY9z5I
— LVSportsBiz.com (@LVSportsBiz) October 5, 2017
The week-long Global Gaming Expo at the Sands Expo Las Vegas is the largest casino-gaming event in the world, the Global Gaming Expo (G2E). The conversation regarding sports betting came during a question-and-answer session with President and CEO Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association (AGA) — a major lobbying force for the gaming industry and proponents for the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act (PASPA), the 1992 federal law that effectively bans sports wagering outside Nevada.
That constitutionality of the law is now the basis of a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the United States, in which New Jersey is battling the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL and NCAA, which have used the law to block the New Jersey’s repeated efforts to legalize sports wagering.
But 25 years after the law passed, there’s an NHL team in Las Vegas (the Golden Knights), an NFL franchise heading to the city (Raiders), NCAA games played there, WNBA games inside the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut, and the NBA’s summer league is held in Las Vegas, among other ties between the gaming industry, Las Vegas and the leagues. Johnson described of the teams’ attitudes in the past about sponsorship between casinos and teams, and how the landscape has evolved:
“You stayed away from it,” Johnson said. “Now the Lakers have a great relationship [with MGM] and now casinos are popping up everywhere. I think that’s been great for everybody. It has changed a lot. Before it was, ‘Nope, you can’t do it. It’s bad for the image and bad for everybody.’ Now, you’re seeing sports teams having relationships with casinos and vice versa. It’s a way for everybody to win … the Lakers and their model, have proven that. We will continue to come here to Las Vegas and have games because we have a heavy fan base here. Our friends over at MGM have done a great job of laying out the red carpet for us. We look forward to years and years of partnership.”
Johnson is a savvy businessman and sees the tide has shifted. The majority of Americans now support legalized sports betting. Leagues and teams are already intertwined with casinos and Las Vegas. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been outspoken with his support for legal, regulated, sports betting, citing among other things that it already occurs illegally. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is coming around and the league is making moves. London sportsbook operators view the anti-gambling regulations (outside Nevada) with “disbelief, confusion and a large dose of ridicule.”
Takeaway from @DavidPurdum panel at G2E. MLB recently met with a Las Vegas sports book operators.
— Marc (@MeltzVegas) October 6, 2017
It boils down to money. The leagues already profit from sports betting indirectly by increased fan engagement and interest, but they want a stake in the probable, inevitable expansion of legal sports betting nationwide (in states that desire to get involved). It won’t take Magic to figure out how the leagues can monetize it, just a little creativity.