Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Illegal Sports Betting Notes

Why can Americans bet on sports results in Las Vegas, but nowhere else? (OK, there's the rest of Nevada, if you call that somewhere...)

I read somewhere that the Federal law permits an exception for four states. Nevada is one, Delaware another, and I don't know the other two. Delaware recently decided to allow sports betting, but their law was thrown out by the U.S. Courts for some reason.

I would suspect the heavy hand of Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid protecting his state, except for one thing: though his hand is heavy, his reach is short--it doesn't even extend very far among the Senators of his own party, much less the courts.

I support the idea of allowing all states to permit sports betting within their states, excluding amateur sports (that would not exclude men's college football or basketball, which are pro in all but name). States could derive much-needed revenue from taxing the profits of the legalized bookie operations. Yes, this is a "stupidity tax", but if it were applied to education (like the lottos and Powerballs) or health care, it would be utilizing stupidity for a good cause.

I think the general Federal aversion to sports betting (excluding Nevada and maybe, if they can get the rules right, three other states) goes back to some betting scandals in the '50's and '60's which took some players down. The laws don't prevent the temptation, or the occasional slip-ups, they just enrich the illegal bookies.

Meanwhile, the online bookies are required to be offshore, and to make good-faith efforts to prevent US persons from participating. These provisions are easily evaded (I won't say how), but I don't do so. Somehow, though, Intrade (which allows legalized betting on non-sports results, which I'm signed up to watch but not play) invited me to work with them. I decided it was some sort of scam and declined.

Event-Specific Notes

I wanted to check the lines on the U.S. Open tennis tournament now in its third day. Ladbroke's (the #1 UK operation; blocked for Americans) had odds on matches that day, even by set, and other nonsense, but didn't have the tournament-championship odds for the men when I checked--I don't know why, but I went to William Hill (#2 in the UK) and they had them. Scaling down the win percentages calculated from the odds to make them add to 100%, you get these: Federer 39, Murray 22, Nadal 11, Djokovic and DelPotro 7.5 each, Roddick 7, Tsonga 2, Soderling 1, Others 4.

Comments on those: Murray's is probably too high because of Brit money, but there is some smart opinion backing him (Agassi and Brad Gilbert, from the TV broadcasters, if I'm not mistaken); Nadal is believed to be unable to run and thus play his game, so that's also probably too high; Federer looks great, but the chances seem about right, as there are several real challengers this year. So, from those odds, I only like the odds on Roddick (he may have been off his Wimbledon form lately, but should rally with the crowd behind him--as it was, he was only a few millimeters behind Federer at Wimbledon) and Soderling (who's proved he can beat anyone if he's hot, and that he has no nerves).

Women's odds (from Ladbrokes, again scaled to 100%--these were taken down after Venus' near-death experience and before Safina's, but they don't seem to have changed anyway): Serena 24, Venus 14, Dementieva 9, Azarenka 8, Clijsters 8, Sharapova 7, Safina 7, Jankovic 5, Kuznetzova 4, Ivanovic (already out), Zvonareva, and Wozniacki 3 each; Stosur 2, Pennetta 1, Bartoli 1, Others 3.

From those quotes, I like bets on Clijsters, Sharapova, Jankovic, and Stosur. And a big one on Serena, of course: I'd say she's more like 50-50 to win it.

English Premier League (also from Ladbrokes, again scaled to 100%): Chelsea 38, Man U. 28, Arsenal 14, Liverpool 10, Manchester City 5, Tottenham 3, Aston Villa 1, All other 1.

None of those quote are crazy. There's a decent chance Man City could organize all their new mercenaries and make a late run for it, but otherwise the only realistic conideration is the usual top 4, and I wouldn't quibble with the relative likelihood of those.

Man U., as three-time defending champs, should deserve the favorite spot, but the loss of Ronaldo is, in fact, a huge blow to their chemistry (as was the shellacking they got from Barca in the Champions League final). Chelsea was threatened by outsiders with big bucks (like Man City, which went after John Terry very hard), but remained largely unscathed, and they look pretty good so far this year. I'd put some money on Chelsea, but really only because they're my team, and I'd put a small flyer on Man City--if they were to pull it off, I'd want some of that action, and I've gotten over my allergy to backing "the best teams money can buy" since Roman Abramovic came to Chelsea.

I draw the line before the Yanks and BoTox, though, of course.

For the record, let's bet an imaginary $2500 as follows: $500 on Roddick @12:1, $100 on Soderling @50:1, $200 each on Sharapova (10:1), Clijsters (8:1), and Jankovic (12:1), $800 on Serena @15:8; $400 on Chelsea @5:4, and $100 on Man City at 14 to 1. The odds quoted here are the ones on the websites, and thus not "fair", but I like their taste just the same.


Chin Shih Tang said...

The results on the Open, of course: $1800 in losing bets, offset by my $200 winner on Clijsters. At 8:1, the $1600 winnings, plus my original bet returned leaves me exactly even. With the ripoff odds the betting houses offer, that's a good result, but I hoped for better.

Soderling, Sharapova, and Serena all justified my selections of them, though they couldn't sustain it to the end. Roddick and Jankovic disappointed (also Stosur, who was tired out from an over-heavy summer schedule, and whom I forgot to include in my bets).

Chelsea and ManCity are both looking very good (they're the only two teams still with perfect records), though it's very early.

Chin Shih Tang said...

On the subject of Serena:

The foot fault thing seems to be her Achilles' heel--she almost blew up earlier in the tournament on another call. Her rant seemed to be an "I oughta..." threat rather than an actual one, so I understand her initial willingness to deny serious misbehavior.

That being said, she's re-thought (perhaps aided by some of her worried sponsors) and apologized to the fans, the line judge, the line, Jehovah, Rep. Wilson, etc.

I saw a tool from the ITF (a tennis superbody, I think the org. name is correct) saying there is an investigation to determine whether to apply additional sanctions to Serena (beyond the one-point penalty which assured her the defeat in her match, and a token $10,000). I would say the most probable outcome would be a suspension which would keep her out of the year-end money spinner tournament but that would still allow her to go Down Under for the Aussie Open early next year.

There may be, as some overwrought commentators suggested, nothing quite like this in tennis history (I seriously doubt that, with the incidents from folks like McEnroe and Nastase, and the infamous Jeff Tarango blow-up), but sports precedent is clear that suspensions sometimes are timed to minimize damage to the sport itself.

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Chin Shih Tang said...

Interesting angle, Scott! Seems to be designed to be semi-legal. I don't have that strong an urge...and I don't play eBay!