By Ryan Bologna
We are in the infant stages of legal sports betting, and there is some confusion regarding what types of bets are available in each state. As someone who did not have much knowledge of the industry until this year, it was confusing to open a sportsbook app on my phone and not see any bets for the NFL Draft. With how often the betting odds were referenced on sports channels I thought anyone could bet on the draft, but that is not the case. It is the same story when it comes to betting on free agent signings. These bets are only available in a few states. Let’s find out why that is the case and how it could change in the near future.
Only five of the states up and running with DraftKings have draft and free agency bets available. It’s almost a certainty that these bets will become available in more states as they get more familiar with the industry. For now, the definition of a sports event prevents draft and free agency bets from being available in most states.
For reference, we will look at New York’s reasoning for not allowing bets for draft and free agent signings. New York’s definition of a sports event is the most important factor:
“Sports Event” means any professional sport or athletic event and any collegiate sport or athletic event, except a prohibited sports event.
Whether an event is available to be bet on in New York is based on that definition. Since a draft or free agent signing does not fit that description, bets for those events are not available in the state. Other states that do not allow these types of bets have similar legal reasoning.
Now that we have legal reasoning covered, let’s get into the main argument against these bets. The fear is that people will make bets based on inside information, which is fair. Many someone knows a person in the draft room and places a huge bet right before the pick comes in. The solution to this has already been implemented in some states. In Michigan and West Virginia, there is a cutoff the day before the draft. Sure, people could still get information leading up to that, but decisions can still change throughout draft day. With free agency, a team could come in with a monster offer out of nowhere.
Why are states going to open up to these types of bets? Let’s look at New York again. The neighboring state New Jersey accepts bets on the draft. New York Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo said he was bothered by finding out that 25% of New Jersey’s bets were made by New York residents. That creates an incentive for states like New York and Connecticut to make bets on drafts and free agent signings available.
With the way Addabbo was speaking, it seems like it is only a matter of time before New York makes these bets available. As more states open up to having these bets, neighboring states will face pressure to follow suit to make more money. We have only dipped our toes in the water when it comes to legal sports betting. It is only going to get bigger, and providing bets on drafts and free agency will accelerate that process.
Photo Credit: Marianne O’Leary