The Legalization of Sports Betting

On Thursday, March 17th the Brooklyn Entertainment and Sports Law Society (BESLS) hosted its annual Sports Law Panel. The panel’s theme focused on the emerging sports betting industry and was titled “Covering The Spread: The Legalization of Sports Betting”.

Daniel Wallach moderated the panel, and was joined by panelists Alex Smith, Bradley Fischer, and Joe Briggs.

Mr. Wallach’s expertise in sports wagering and gaming law dates back to 2013, when he started writing on the topic. Wallach is the co-founding director of the University of New Hampshire School of Law’s Sports Wagering and Integrity program and designed the nation’s first law school course centered on sports betting law and regulation at the University of Miami School of Law.

Mr. Fischer, a senior associate at Orrick, helped launch the global firm’s gaming practice and focuses on helping entities and individuals navigate various state laws to ensure they are abiding by all rules and regulations. Fischer emphasized what an exciting time it is given the nascent nature of the sports betting industry. Fischer described the industry going through an evolution with not just legal components, but also interesting cultural components. Sports betting has been perceived differently in different areas of the country, and has polarized individuals. Despite slow and steady legalization, the future of sports betting remains uncertain.

Specific to New York, the legalization of sports betting has involved a more complex process than the past practice of entities striking deals with land based casinos. More specifically, New York put forward a competitive bidding process leaving overwhelming discretion to the New York Gaming Commission. At Orrick, Fischer leads the gaming practice where he works with public policy groups in several jurisdictions that are trying to open markets, and his goal is to maximize the product to the customer.

Mr. Briggs, a professor at Georgetown, has been working for the National Football League’s Player Association for the past 16 years. Briggs is the Public Policy Counsel and first individual to lead the NFLPA Government Relations Department. Briggs provided ADJ insight on the NFLPA’s perspective regarding the recent Calvin Ridley, an NFL player who was suspended for placing a parlay bet on his team during the regular season. Briggs touched upon the process of advocating for players that are suspended, challenged the Due Process components of the decision, and outlined the step-by-step process regarding disciplinary action and the right to appeal in detail. Considering the influence and inclusion of sports betting in today’s NFL, Briggs suggested including sports betting policy in future collective bargaining agreements in order to promote transparency and fairness.

Additionally, Briggs emphasized the importance of prioritizing player health and wellness, ensuring that new sports betting rules did not come at the expense of the athlete’s wellbeing. Briggs has tracked legislation related to player protections and reiterated the fact that one must remember they are betting if athletes, not owners, can perform a certain way: “We have to think about the athletes and who we are betting on, not just who is placing the bets.”

Mr. Smith, the Vice President of Regulatory and New Markets at Fanatics Betting and Gaming, previously worked in the legal and regulatory department at FanDuel. Smith touched upon the integrity of the Calvin Ridley situation from the perspective of a major sportsbook. FanDuel currently operates in 15 states and has over one million customers. Smith explained there is a lot of data being generated, making it difficult to monitor, and that a database search for “Calvin Ridley” would bring about 40-50 people with the same name. Smith also noted the complexity of the situation, analyzing the issue from a privacy point of view and that the NFLPA does not want to give out the social security numbers or other confidential information of the players.

Finally, in addition to providing their expertise, the panelists offered valuable advice for current law students looking to enter the sports and entertainment industry.

Wallach suggested going to conferences and events that take place across the country. Many conferences will give free or discounted admission to law students and major events serve both educational and networking purposes. Additionally, Wallach believes writing is a self-explanatory way to demonstrate one’s expertise and encourages students to write formally for their school journal, but also informally on a blog.

Alex Smith reiterated Wallach’s conference and networking advice, sharing that he met the Chief Legal Officer of FanDuel at a 2018 conference in Washington D.C.. After introducing himself to the CLO, the seemingly trivial interaction paid off and Smith ended up transitioning to a role at FanDuel.

Written by: Brendan Duggan and Alli First
Brendan and Alli are 2024 J.D. Candidates at Brooklyn Law School.

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