Bell: Who Cares What Leagues Think Of Ruling?

Whether leagues support or oppose the Supreme Court ruling is irrelevant, RJ Bell says

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
May 15, 2018 - 10:17 am

USA Today Images


After the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling Monday, striking down a 1992 federal law that prohibited sports betting, many sports leagues released official statements on the matter. Some leagues were more opposed to the ruling than others. Founder and CEO RJ Bell offered a succinct two-word reaction: “Who cares?” 

Well, doesn’t it matter what sports leagues think about the legalization of sports betting?

“Why?” Bell asked Zach Gelb, who was filling in as host of After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “The horse is out of the barn. Remember: this journey came from 2009. The state senator in New Jersey started it. The first court case was in 2012. And now six years after the first court case – and almost 10 years after (the) state senator (started it) – here we are. The league has fought this every step of the way. Now it’s like, ‘Okay, congratulations. Now start paying us.’ For what?”

Indeed, some leagues, such as the NBA, want to receive an “integrity tax,” but Bell sees that as a money-grab.

“Listen, you have a great motivation for your game to have sufficient integrity or max integrity anyway,” he said. “We don’t need to pay you to do that. You’re going to do that anyway. Now the bookmakers won’t have the guts to say that, but that’s the truth. The NBA, the NFL, they want integrity as much as anybody – (if not) more. So why pay them for it? Now, if you make a partnership, now you’re our marketing partner. Now you’re working together. Fine, you get your cut. Otherwise they made their bet – no pun intended – they lost, and you don’t get paid when you make a losing bet.

“They’re billionaires and they’re smart and they've got guts and they’ve got a lot of leverage because of the brand, because people are scared of them. So because of that, I think they still might get their cut. But if it were me, they wouldn’t get a penny.”

But what about college sports? Are college athletics more susceptible to corruption?

Bell says no.

“The more legalization there is, the more monitoring officially of the betting action there is, the less corruption there is,” he said. “And here’s why: the amount of betting will hardly go up at all, and even if it does, there’s going to be a transition away from the gray area of the sport. The amount of new bettors, I think, is going to me modest – and I can promise you these new bettors are not going to be the ones fixing games. if you actually have an inclination to fix a game, you’re going to fix a game. You’re going to find a way to bet it.”

Without regulation, that’s possible. With regulation, it’s highly unlikely. 

“Imagine the action comes in – and we saw this with the Tim Donaghy scandal,” Bell said. It’s like, ‘Man, why is there fives times the action on this NBA game than we would expect? And why is 85 percent toward this one team?’ What is that illegal bookie going to do? Nothing. But if it’s a legal bookie, they’re going to tell their integrity partner, ‘Hey, this looks funny.’ The chance of getting caught goes sky-high if there’s legalization.”