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New Jersey has been pushing to legalize sports betting at casinos and racetracks, and today the Supreme Court announced it would hear the case. It could be the undoing of a federal ban on sports betting in most states that goes back to 1993. Charles Lane of member station WSHU says the sports and gaming industries are watching this case closely and preparing for a future that might look very different.
CHARLES LANE, BYLINE: Ted Taylor works in a pub in Connecticut that is perfectly positioned if sports betting is legalized.
TED TAYLOR: They can watch whatever they want, including about 30 different sports channels on the television. And there's a little pad there. If they don't want to move, they can just place their bets on the pad.
LANE: Taylor is an executive at Sportech, a British gambling company that bought 16 off-track betting parlors in Connecticut and is poised to do the same in California. OTBs are a struggling industry, but this one is built to be a sports fan's paradise. It's all dark wood walls, saloon-style doors, 197 TVs and plenty of cashiers nearby for betters. Right now Taylor only takes bets on racing and highline, but he's ready for traditional sports.
TAYLOR: When it's legal, this would be a natural place for that to happen. But I've got to emphasize how important it is that everybody feels that that's got to be regulated properly.
LANE: It's not just betting parlors, either. Seven states have already moved legislation in preparation for legal sports betting even though the Supreme Court has only just decided to consider it. But from the gaming industry perspective, repealing the ban is a foregone conclusion. Geoff Freeman is president of the American Gaming Association.
GEOFF FREEMAN: Sports leagues, the casino gaming industry, the state's broadcasters and many others have said it's time to take a different approach to this complex issue.
LANE: Sport leagues have been the traditional opponent to repealing the ban. John Holden is a legal scholar at Florida State University who studies sports. He says leagues have been concerned about the integrity of their games.
JOHN HOLDEN: Legalized gambling might increase instances of match fixing or gambling corruption.
LANE: But leagues have increasingly begun to soften their stance and form partnerships that could capitalize on legal sports betting. The NFL, NHL, NBA - all of them have deals with data companies that watch for suspicious bets.
HOLDEN: However, these companies also provide the data that sportsbooks use to set lines. So while they provide sort of this integrity monitoring service, they're also helping those operate betting businesses.
LANE: He says it's not inconceivable that a sports team could own its own sportsbook. More likely, though, we'll see new entrants into the sports gambling market. David Katz is a gaming analyst for Telsey Advisory Group. He says businesses like the horseracing company Churchill Downs or the investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald already have products ready to go.
DAVID KATZ: The technology that they use is translatable into a sports betting platform quite easily.
LANE: There's even more surprising possibilities. Microsoft has technology that has been learning how to bet on sports, and the videogame division of Sony has a gambling patent which has some speculating if betting on video game sports could be legal as well. For NPR News, I'm Charles Lane, WSHU news.
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