The Supreme Decision – Devo Rides (Part 5)

April 8, 2018

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by Trey Nosrac

Cotton ball clouds dotted the morning sky. My new friend, the expert technology developer, was sitting on the front porch swing as I drove my Prius down the gravel driveway of his boyhood family farm. For some reason, I had the feeling he was wrestling with a decision about where to spend the last act of his life; the excitement of global tech power on the west coast or watching the sun rise and set from that porch. I watched him stand, sling his pack over his shoulder, and then walk down the steps with a flask of coffee in each hand.

He climbed into the passenger seat, handed me one of the coffees and clapped his hands three times like a basketball coach encouraging his team. He said, “Let’s talk about litigation and the courts.”

I took a sip of the coffee, “Excellent, who are we litigating – Stormy, Mueller, divorce lawyers, OJ?”

“PASPA.”

I placed the coffee in my cupholder and said, “Well, as far as I am concerned, the courts can do all the surveillance and wiretapping they want. I figure if you have nothing to hide, let them snoop all day.”

He smiled, “No, that’s FISA. PASPA is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the federal ban against state-sponsored sports betting in all states except Nevada.”

“This is the big court ruling you keep talking about, the one that could affect harness racing?”

“Yes, it’s confusing as hell. I thought I knew the gist of the case but it’s complicated. The ramifications run deep. I was up until three this morning digging around and trying to make sense of everything, but I can’t say I was completely successful.”

I waved my right hand to slow him down, “Back up, back up. Help me out here. What exactly is being decided and by who?”

“The case is Christie vs. NCAA. More broadly, it’s New Jersey against the NCAA, NFL, and other professional leagues. The lawsuit has been going on for five years and will reach the Supreme Court this spring or summer.”

“Chris Christie, New Jersey and gambling. This sounds like an episode of the Sopranos. Who should harness racing cheer for?”

“That was exactly the question I wanted to answer. My idea was to follow the money, to look at the big dogs and see who is backing what side of the issue. That was not so simple. For example, the big corporations in Las Vegas, who have a lot on the line, remain split. The same thing with big sports leagues, some are for it, some against. Horse racing tracks are also split.”

“Explain the lawsuit to me in clear English so I can give you my unbiased and untethered decision. I’m often wrong but always decisive.”

“If the Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey, all the New Jersey racetracks, casinos, and the NJ online gambling sites would be able to offer legal sports wagering.“

“Like Vegas?”

“Yes. A ruling that gives the okay to New Jersey would change everything. It would set a standard for future sports wagering in other states and other states are watching because they see new revenue. No state wants to miss the gravy train. Last December, during oral arguments, 20 states signed on in support of New Jersey. Four states did more than just signal support, they already passed legislation paving the way for legalized sports betting if the federal ban is removed.”

“Aha, the 50- state solution. What are the odds on New Jersey winning and rocking the gambling world?”

“It’s hard to say. But very soon, one way or another, five of the nine Supreme Court justices must agree on the core decision of the case.”

I gave a low whistle, “That’s a lot riding on a few people in black robes. “Maybe the Supremes will say,” and I sang my big finish, “Stop, in the Name of Love.”

He groaned.

We were silent for a few minutes, and then I said, “Deep stuff, looking into the future. It’s scary and exciting at the same time.”

“Yes, the future is tricky business. Digging around in your world of horseracing and gambling laws and regulations is intriguing. In the back of my mind, these state solutions are backward thinking, a kabuki dance. Who wants to deal with 50 states? We look to the future. We think and plan globally.”

“The future, the future. Man, I have trouble planning the weekend. I’m like Steven Wright, we are peripheral visionaries — we can see the future, but only off to the side.”

“Then look to the past, go back a hundred years to prohibition. To me, prohibition is a good example. If people want to drink alcohol, has any city, state or the Federal government REALLY stopped a person determined to drink?”

I said, “Nobody stopped me. Personally speaking, I consider any sort of prohibition a signal of encouragement.”

“Prohibition was difficult to enforce — tax revenue disappeared, crime increased and it was a failure. Gambling feels the same to me. States can, and have, made it inconvenient. But gamblers will find a way, and that includes black markets.”

“That’s true. Last week I bet $50 on Louis Oosthuizen to win the Masters Golf Tournament. I could have put the bet down with a local guy who I know, but instead I sent my bet with a guy I drove to the airport who was flying to Vegas. Ohio gets zippo. My bet is down. Why make me dance around?”

“Now look at the future, think about a cloud-based world. Think hard Trey. It’s 2021 and you want to bet on your golfer, or bet on a harness race, or on ball game. What do you, the customer, want?”

I thought for a good 20 seconds before replying, which was a new Olympic Record, “I want good odds, convenience, security from theft, fairness in the event, and interesting ways to play.”

He said, “Not bad, very insightful.”

Then he poked my shoulder with his index finger and asked, “Do you care where you place the bet?”

I replied, “No, I just want a good bet and will pay a little extra to whomever takes it and treats me right but the horse racing states will care and the racetracks will care.”

“Yes, but the big question is whether states can contain the money in the emerging world of technology. Trey, in my opinion, this state-based sports gambling legislation is important; it may be a wild ride, but short term. Eventually, the winner of this gambling scramble will be the business that gives you a seamless, solid wager anywhere, anytime. I’m betting it will be a mega-conglomerate with massive data and resources like an Amazon or Google.”

I put on my turn signal for the exit that led to the hospital, and asked, “If the Supremes say let it roll and it rains gambling, if states lose control, or if 50 states flood the market, what kind of umbrellas are good for individual sports like harness racing?”

He reached into the back seat, grabbed his shoulder sack, and said, “In my opinion, the future will need good gambling games. Horse racing could be one.” He opened the door and finished by saying, “I’ll keep thinking, I have ideas, I’ll make a few calls. Supremes or no Supremes, the future is ahead.”

He began to walk to the glass doors of the Hospital. I pushed the button and the passenger window went down.

“Hey, JT, here’s another hit they had. I sang as he walked away, “You Just Keep Me Hanging On.”

He shook his head and kept walking.

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