Oregon’s Pac-12 Universities Could Win Big If The State Legalized Sports Betting

Even though Oregon was one of the four states that was allowed to continue offering some form of sports betting even after the 1992 passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the Beaver State never really ran with that opportunity.

Sure, there was the popular Sports Action product put out by the state lottery that centered on NFL contests and which lasted from 1989 until 2007, but it has not been replaced as yet. On the one hand, that left Oregon sports bettors with two choices: book a flight down to Las Vegas or head on over to a legal offshore sports betting site based in a foreign country. On the other hand, the lack of initiative regarding future developments for the sports lotto left some of its primary beneficiaries – those being Oregon’s Pac-12 colleges high and dry without one of their most reliable sources of income.

Now that PASPA, the aforementioned federal law banning sports betting legalization in 46 states, has been overturned by a monumental 6-3 majority decision by the US Supreme Court, it gives Oregon and every other state in the country the freedom to chart their own courses with regard to wagering on sports. The Beaver State may not have had much of a desire to continue with a sports lottery late last decade, but lawmakers at the Salem statehouse may want to strongly reconsider their position vis a vis sports betting this time around.

For one thing, if legislators were motivated enough they could probably broadly legalize and heavily regulate (and tax) sports betting in the very near term, and that could be a boon – if not an outright windfall – for the Pac-12 schools that are entitled to (but seldom get) 1 percent of lottery revenues.

Just consider this: if sports betting as an industry generates somewhere between $150 billion and $250 billion in annual handle (that’s the amount that sportsbook operators actually take in, not counting what they keep after making payouts to winning bettors), and most of that goes overseas and therefore untaxed, wouldn’t Oregon want to get in on that action? Wouldn’t the collegiate athletes at Oregon, Oregon State, Oregon Technical Institute and many other school appreciate having some new gear or renovated facilities or more opportunities for female students to get involved in sports? It certainly seems like state lawmakers are hurting their chances to make a major improvement in the lives of their universities’ athletics programs by not tapping into this rapidly growing subset of the sports gambling market.

Furthermore, the major professional sports leagues have been trying since at least the beginning of 2018 to extract a royalty on the use of their “intellectual property” (that would be the games and athletes participating in their sports) under the guise of so called “integrity fees” – what is to stop the Pac-12 and other Power Five conferences from demanding something similar? If all the Pac-12 schools from Washington down to Arizona generated between $5 billion and $10 billion in handle, then the conference could try to work a similar deal as the pro leagues’ 1 percent of handle for “integrity fee” and still come away with a cool $50 million or $100 million to divvy up between all the universities. That sounds like a pretty good incentive to make something happen on the sports betting legalization front just by itself, but that does not even begin to address the other ways that sports wagering could boost the Pac-12 schools in Oregon.

A recent Nielsen Poll showed a substantial percentage of all avid sports fans were also regular sports bettors. The actual number escapes us at this time but it was in the high 40s in terms of the percent, but the gist is this: if a person tunes into a sports broadcast with any kind of regularity then the chances are good that they can be counted on to place a wager on sports at least some of the time. The same poll showed that nearly 20 percent of people that watch sports broadcasts regularly (and watch the game all the way through) are only doing so for the purpose of betting on that sporting event or to gain information needed to place a bet, or for some reason related to betting on sports.

Frankly, the implications of those polling results are less revelatory than they are edifying. It is commonly held knowledge that one of the primary reasons that anyone would want to watch a sporting event is so that you could have a chance to win some extra money here or there for no extra work. Why would you no want to – provided the chance to do it legally was available to you in some kind of convenient format? That’s what the legal offshore sportsbook sites like Bovada and 5Dimes have done for years, and – NEWSFLASH – it is working for them just fine (the overwhelming majority of the money wagered on sports by American bettors is spent at sites like those).

What makes this line of reasoning an even more compelling argument is the fact that, unlike in the case of college basketball, the Power Five football conferences control their own sport. It is widely accepted that the biggest time of the year for hoops betting is the March Madness Men’s College Basketball Championship, and it is 100 percent the show of the NCAA. College football is a different story, and not only do the biggest and most prominent conferences drive the action, they get together to put on the national championship playoffs (and before that, of course, a champion had to be declared based on a matchup determined by coaches and sportswriter polls).

That means that the conferences, of which the Pac-12 is by no means the least, are really in the driver’s seat when it comes to establishing what they would like to get out of a legalized sports betting market in places like Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, California, and so on.

If Oregon and other states with Pac-12 teams moved swiftly to legalize sports betting, and even if they did not go all-in on the rent-seeking route like the marginally scummier professional sports leagues are doing in states all over the country, they could cash in on this massive viewer base. That is just one facet of the argument to be made in favor of sports betting regulation too. Don’t forget the possibilities for sponsorship, potentially lucrative advertising deals, media exclusivity contracts, and even, maybe, extra-large donations from regular (extra wealthy) boosters who piled up some huge winning tickets after they picked the winners successfully in a few legal bets.

Oregon may have been limited to its Sports Action lottery product back in the day because that was all the Beaver State had legally approved and codified at the time PASPA became the law of the land. That is not the case anymore now that PASPA is well and truly dead and buried. Now is not the time for Oregon’s lawmakers to waste time giving the go-ahead to a game that lets players bet on virtual (and probably rigged) simulated football matchups between fictitious teams and fake players.

What the people of Oregon want, and what the schools, teams and players in Oregon need is legal sports betting in Oregon, and sooner would be much better than later. If neighboring states pull this off before the Beaver State can, then it is hard to see how that can be considered a good move for anybody involved.

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