Setting Up the Game in the U.S. Crypto Gambling Debate


Playing Cards Close to The Chest

The May decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Murphy vs. National Collegiate Athletic Association to strike down the ban of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act by a majority ruling of 6-3, paved the way for all U.S. states to legalize gambling on U.S. professional sports.

As it remains an emerging market, it’s not yet clear how much sports betting in the U.S could be worth exactly, and how much may be gambled annually. Yet, predictions are it could see up to $150 billion wagered year to year, generating up to $6 billion in revenue.

While the U.S. has for a long time resisted the shift to sports betting as seen in other nations, even with this move there remains some strong regulations in place around online gambling. Even with this decision uncertainty surrounded if Americans can now bet across state lines due to the Wire Act,  and the shades of grey in which using cryptocurrencies for betting reside.

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Image credit: BagoGames/Flickr

So what does the rise of the sports betting industry across America mean for cryptocurrency?

While the Supreme Court ruling in professional sports came at the federal level, it’s unlikely to be accompanied by an accompanying clear-cut decision from Congress regarding cryptocurrency, as the nation’s chief lawmaking body has moved along at a procedural pace in this field.

The differing edicts issued from federal agencies like FinCen and the IRS have not helped to generate an enduring confidence in Washington about the future treatment of crypto federally.

At the state level, it’s been a different story, with states like Georgia, Wyoming, and Arizona, having pioneered crypto-friendly laws, and others like Illinois having undertaken some notable blockchain trials. Despite these states having displayed a tech-friendly approach to crypto, with this Supreme Court decision comes the potential for the rise of a new betting industry, and a new angle in the debate surrounding cryptocurrency that all enthusiasts will need to wrestle with.

In the same vein, Delaware has bolted out of the gate in legislating for sports betting in-state, being the first U.S state to do so (with New Jersey and Mississippi following it). Yet as Delaware’s three casinos’ do not offer a mobile sportsbook for betting, the demand for in-person physical bets on a single game and future wagers illustrates the disconnect between the potential use of cryptos in the space and its practical application.

The Challenge of History

In considering this arena as a whole it can’t go overlooked the historical risks that have at times arisen between gambling, money laundering, and organized crime. While the technology of cryptocurrency may be new, the debate surrounding the best way to address this nexus of gambling and crime is historic.

Anti-gambling advocates commonly cite their views about the immorality of gambling and its legalization as a social ill. Proponents can decry this, but sometimes will actually find common ground with advocates on these two issues.

Seeking instead to argue for the legalization of gambling that will ensure it’s regulated, and has proper support channels in place like gambling addiction hotlines, to ensure any harm is minimized. Parallel arguments are commonly put forward for common sense regulation of cryptos, saying smart regulation and recognition beats simply ignoring the issue.

Odds on The Table

The rise of the digital economy and borderless nature of the cryptocurrency community adds a new dynamic to this debate, as the idea of simply picketing outside a local casino is not going to work for gambling offered online.

The same applies to cryptos, as the drive to a more permanent and concrete landscape requires a new way, in recognition the old approach to currency has changed. Especially as so many states and nations continue to struggle with not only finding the right balance in cryptocurrency regulation but also online gambling regulation that has – and holds! – popular support.

But for now, cryptocurrency will be interwoven in a new way with the online gambling debate in many U.S states. Anyone ready to bet on an outcome as a sure thing across all 50 states would be a real gambler.


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