March 8, 2018 by

For Americans, Entertainment Betting is an Underground Activity

The worldwide penchant for gambling covers every aspect of the activity.  People are willing to gamble about everything.  In the bleachers in Wrigley Field, the stadium of the Chicago Cubs in baseball, the fans will bet on the outcome of every pitch.  During the many political seasons around the world and especially in the United Sates people gamble on the nominees of the various parties and on the election outcome.  And, of course, people love to play casino games at either land based casinos or at one of the thousands of online casinos.

All on the Up and Up

The key element to most gambling is that the outcome has not been pre-determined.  In the case of online casinos, they use a Random Number Generator which alone determines the outcomes of every spin or card.  If the outcome of an election were known in advance, it would be said that “the fix was in” and it would make no sense to accept or make bets on the outcome.

Know but Don’t Tell

Entertainment industry awards are presented at formal events.  The Golden Globes, Emmys, Oscars, and the Grammys are the best known but there are many more.  These awards are decided by secret ballot of the members of the organizations and are kept secret until the winners are announced at the awards shows.

Thus, the awards are known to a very few people and are kept secret.  Despite the huge degree of security surrounding the winners’ names, aboveground gambling venues do not take bets on these awards for the simple reason that they only take bets on outcomes that have not yet been determined.  In 1994, the director Spike Lee, a devoted New York Knicks fan in American basketball, made the observation that sports were better than movies because sports “can’t be scripted”.

If the names of the winners are known in advance even to a select few, it is as though the outcome were scripted.  Since the aboveground gambling venues won’t take bets on these events, only underground gambling venues will.

Who Will Win an Oscar?

The big event on everyone’s mind this week is the Oscars.  Betting on the Oscars falls under the purview of sports betting in the United States and at this time sports betting is allowed in only four states as per Congressional law.  That law, called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act or PASPA was passed and signed into law in 1992.  It makes sports gambling illegal in the United States except in the four states where it was already legal: Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and, the granddaddy of all, Nevada.  By far, most aboveground sports betting in the US is done in Las Vegas.

This week, Americans who want to place a bet on the Oscars have to place their bets at an overseas site that takes bets on the awards.  This activity is technically illegal to most Americans, save those Americans who live in the four states where sports betting is legal.

Fortunately for the gamblers and, possibly, unfortunately for the law, there are many online sites that take sports bets and are run out of locations where sports betting, and, in fact, all kinds of online betting are legal and regulated.

Online Betting in the United States

There is another aspect to gambling on the Oscars that complicates matters here.  Betting on the Oscars falls under the category of sports betting which, as stated, is legal in four states.  The constitutionality of sports betting being illegal in all of the remaining 46 states is now before the United States Supreme Court.  Online casino betting is ostensibly illegal in all 50 United States although some online gambling sites still offer casino gambling to Americans.

So, sports betting in the United States goes mostly through Las Vegas but Vegas won’t take bets on the Oscars because the awards have already been determined.

Limited Bets

Even those sites where sports betting is completely legal, bets in the entertainment category are usually limited to what could be considered “gentleman’s bets”.  While these sites will take huge bets on real sporting events—billions of dollars were legally bet on the Super Bowl recently—sporting events are in Spike Lee’s words “unscripted”.  The entertainment awards shows feature results that have been scripted to an extent.

The online betting sites are reasonably worried that someone who knows the results of the Oscars beforehand will finagle the betting system and “win” millions of dollars.

Buyer Beware

Legal gambling professionals are quick to warn customers about the dangers of placing bets—sports or otherwise—at offshore sites that are more than ready and willing to take their bets.  Online sites regulated under the auspices of the British Gambling Board are not allowed to take bets from Americans.   Many offshore gambling sites, according to professionals in the industry, are not regulated in any way.  They warn gamblers who can’t place a bet at home and can’t fly to a location where such betting is legal to be wary of offshore sites.

Supreme Court: Quo Vadis?

All eyes are on the US Supreme Court regarding its decision on sports betting in the United States.  Even if the court decides that sports betting must be allowed in any state that wants to regulate it, the decision would apply only to sports betting at land based gambling venues.  The issue of online gambling in the United States remains unresolved—ostensibly not illegal but difficult to do from both the casino’s standpoint and the player’s standpoint.