With the Supreme Court’s landmark gambling decision this week, many more Americans might soon be able to place a legal wager on their favorite sport. So what kind of money are we talking about?The U.S. casino industry says Americans illegally bet at least $150 billion on sports every year. But it’s hard to measure exactly how much of that money might flow into legal establishments as a result of this decision; underground bookies don’t readily publish their balance sheets. But the casinos in Nevada do, and a closer look into the action taken by sportsbooks over the past few decades gives us a window into how Americans bet on sports — and how well they’re doing.According to data published by David Schwartz of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research, legal sports gambling has steadily been on the rise. Nevada sportsbooks have shown consistent growth in the number of outlets that take wagers, the wagers handled per outlet and the share of wagers kept (more on that later). In fact, Nevada casinos took in 55.6 percent more sports-betting money in 2017 than they did in 1992.1Adjusted for inflation from December 1992 to December 2017.Clearly, a lot more people feel confident enough in their sports opinions to put a lot more money where their mouth is. Total5.065.39 Unsurprisingly, football has ruled this world. After cracking $1 billion wagered in 1994, in unadjusted numbers, football betting followed the industry’s slow downward trend until 2005, then bounced back upward, growing year-over-year nearly every year since. But the other sports are growing even faster: Nevada casinos’ 2017 basketball handle was $1.48 billion, 84.4 percent of the amount wagered on football take. Baseball is just a little further behind; bettors put down $1.14 billion in 2017, 64.9 percent of the football bets. Back in 1992, those shares were 69.3 percent and 58.9 percent.But even if our ability to place legal bets is changing, there’s one thing that will probably stay the same: our inability to place good bets. Despite the wealth of information available in 2018, sports bettors aren’t any better at handicapping — in fact, they’re notably worse.Let’s say you went to Hypothetical University, and you have a friend who went to Hypothetical State. The night before the big game, you go to a casino together and each bet $11 on your respective teams. The next day, Hypothetical U wins and covers the point spread, so your friend is out $11 while the casino pays you $21 — double the money you bet, less the service fee skimmed off of winnings.2Called the take, the juice or the vigorish. Effectively, $10 of your friend’s lost $11 went into your pocket.In this case, the “drop” (the money you and your friend dropped on the game) is $22, but the “win” (the amount the casino kept) is $1. This is the ideal: An equal number of dollars bet on both sides guarantees that the casinos’ win rate equals their service fee. But the betting public rarely obliges — and if casinos set the point spread in a way that entices more money to be put on the losing side, their win percentage goes up.Casinos kept just 2.81 percent of the sports wagers they handled in 1992. But over the next 15 years, casinos set the betting lines in a way to entice lower-information bettors,3The lines got “sharper,” meaning more well-informed and likely to win, while “square” means the opposite. Betting on your favorite team to win every week is square. and their win rates soared well above the standard service-fee rate, peaking at a whopping 7.89 percent in 2006. Casinos are still winning in the 4- to 5-percent range over the past decade, with the house taking 5.11 percent of all wagers in 2017.It really starts to get interesting when you look at how well casinos do on individual sports. On Tuesday, NBC Sports baseball writer Craig Calcaterra caused a stir when he tweeted that baseball is so random that only people with “a problem” would try to bet it: 1992-20172007-2017 Baseball3.173.98 Any one out of 2,430 regular-season MLB games a year could have a wildly unforeseen result — but baseball bettors have consistently put more dollars on the winning side over the past 25 years, keeping the average casino win rate below the standard service-fee average of 4.55 percent. It’s a different story in basketball, where casinos have kept 5.4 percent of all money bet on hoops over the past decade. In football, the most heavily wagered sport, casinos have kept very slightly more than the service fee (4.66 percent) over the past 25 years.Those thinking they’ll outsmart bookies by betting more obscure sports appear to be sadly mistaken; casinos are keeping nearly twice as much of the money bet on “other” sports as good old-fashioned baseball. There was one glaring exception: 1996, when casinos took a bath on Evander Holyfield’s upset of Mike Tyson. Holyfield opened as a 25-to-1 underdog, and so much money came in on him that the line moved all the way to 5-to-1. (Similar action led to similar exposure in last year’s Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather fight. Casinos stood to lose millions if McGregor had won, but Mayweather’s victory allowed the casinos to bring in almost twice as much in “other sports” revenue in 2017 as they did the year before.)Regardless of which sport(s) they’re betting on, though, today’s sports fans are betting, and losing, more than ever.In 1984, the first year for which Schwartz has data, 51 sports betting locations kept 2.34 percent of the $894.6 million bet, for a total casino win of $20.9 million. In 2017, 192 locations kept 5.11 percent of $4.9 billion wagered, for a total win of $248.8 million.So, in light of the Supreme Court decision, are Nevada casinos worried about an influx of sportsbooks cutting into their bottom lines? Probably not. In the context of the greater gambling industry, the sportsbook is relative chump change.According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the 24 major Vegas Strip casinos generated $70.3 million in sports betting revenue last year — just 1.26 percent of their $5.56 billion overall gambling revenue. For comparison, slot machines pulled in a whopping $2.8 billion.Legislators in states where sports betting will soon be legal, may be seeing dollar signs as the dust settles on the Supreme Court’s decision — imagining a $150 billion pot of gold ready to be taxed. But though Americans seem ready and willing to hand their money over to sportsbooks, it remains to be seen just how much money that will be. Casinos are keeping a bigger piece of the sports-betting pieThe share of money bet at sportsbooks that casinos kept Source: UNLV Center for Gaming Research Football4.66%4.79% Basketball4.835.40 Other sports5.736.99 But since 1992, bettors have done much better against the house in baseball than in football, basketball or the other remaining sports. That’s still true today, 11 years since casinos’ 2006 peak.
Over the past 20 years, the EU has expanded, bringing more countries into the “freedom of movement” area. The proportion of U.K. and Irish players in the EPL has continued to decrease: Last season, they accounted for only 41 percent of all EPL players. Players from the rest of the EU accounted for 41 percent, while non-EU players accounted for 18 percent.From the inaugural 1992-93 EPL season to the end of last season, a total of 1,022 players have transferred to an EPL club from an EU club outside of the U.K. and Ireland and played at least one league match for that club. This includes players who played nationally for countries outside the EU but also possessed EU passports (such as André Ayew, who was born in France but plays for Ghana). Of the 1,022 players, we judge that only 431 — or 42 percent — would have qualified for a work permit under the current rules when they first arrived in England. Had they not held an EU passport, the remaining 591 players would not have been permitted to play professional soccer in the U.K.6This analysis used data taken from TransferLeague.co.uk, 11v11.com, transfermarkt.co.uk, futbol24.com, Wikipedia, www.parliament.uk and the Transfer Price Index of Tomkins & Riley.What would be the consequences if, from next season onward, incoming players from the rest of the EU were subject to the same immigration requirements that currently apply only to non-EU players? In the early 1990s, a quota system was enforced for foreign players in English soccer that limited teams to fielding a maximum of three “foreigners” in domestic league and cup matches. A foreign player was defined as someone who held neither a U.K. nor an Irish passport. There was no distinction between players from Belgium and Brazil, even though Belgians had held the right to live and work in the U.K. for several years. Thirteen percent of the players that featured in the 1994-95 season were classified as foreign.In December 1995, after the so-called Bosman ruling, the quota was rescinded, instantly removing all restrictions on fielding players from the rest of the EU.5A new kind of quota would be instituted in 2010, when the EPL introduced a homegrown players rule. This rule requires that at least eight of the 25 players on a Premier League squad were registered with a club in England or Wales for a period of at least 36 months (or three seasons) prior to their 21 birthday. Clubs were still required to obtain work permits for non-EU players — a significant obstruction — but because of freedom of movement, the demand for soccer players with EU passports grew enormously. Cultural barriers aside, there were now no differences between recruiting a player from the Netherlands and one from Newcastle. 21-3060 National team’s FIFA rankingMin. share of matches played in past 24 months As debate has intensified over the plan for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, industries across Britain are preparing for a post-Brexit world. Along with the agriculture, automotive, pharmaceutical and financial services fields, there’s another prosperous British business that could feel the brunt of Brexit: the English Premier League.From March 29 onward, all foreign soccer players — regardless of their origin — could require a work permit to sign for a club in the U.K. This would have enormous consequences for English clubs and the future of the English Premier League.By separating from the EU, the U.K. will aim to end “freedom of movement of people” between the U.K. and EU — one of the four freedoms of the EU’s single market.1The others are freedom of goods, services and capital. For many years, freedom of movement has bestowed on citizens of the European Union (or the wider European Economic Area)2The European Economic Area refers to the countries in which freedom of movement of people (and goods, services and capital) applies. It includes all 28 members of the European Union plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Switzerland is not a member of the EU or EEA but is a part of the EU’s single market. the right to travel, reside and work in any member state. Because of this, a baker from Nice can open a shop in Manchester, a bond trader from Frankfurt can join a bank in London, and, yes, soccer players from continental Europe can freely transfer to the English league. If the player holds an EU passport, there are no restrictions: From an employment perspective, he is treated the same as a U.K. national.Freedom of movement has had a seismic impact on the demographics of the league — all of which could change with Brexit. Prime Minister Theresa May has stated that freedom of movement will end when the U.K. leaves the EU, but she has yet to announce the new immigration rules that will replace it. Although EPL clubs will not immediately be required to obtain work permits for their players who aren’t British or Irish (citizens of the Republic of Ireland are likely to retain the rights to live and work in the U.K. post-Brexit), new arrivals from the EU3Along with the EEA and Switzerland. could become subject to the rules that currently apply only to non-EU players. Essentially, all players not eligible for a U.K. (or Irish) passport would have to obtain a work permit.To investigate the potential impact on English soccer, we took a look at the characteristics of European players who have played in the EPL over the past 26 years. What proportion of them would have qualified for a work permit? By answering this question, we can gain an insight into what might happen to the EPL in the future. The figure above shows two future scenarios. The first is the status quo, in which EU passport holders can continue to play in the U.K. without work permits (or any other bureaucratic hurdles). The second explores the end of freedom of movement to the U.K. In this scenario, EU players are subject to the same immigration requirements as players from the rest of the world beginning with the 2019-20 season. That is, they require a work permit and must meet the relevant criteria.In both cases, we assume that the total number of players in the EPL remains constant, as does the inflow and outflow of players from the rest of the world. In the status quo scenario, we assume that the inflow of players from Europe remains at its recent historical average; in the end of freedom of movement scenario, we assume that it drops to 42 percent of the recent average.In the status quo scenario, the percentage of U.K. and Irish players remains close to its present value, gradually declining over the next decade. The proportion of players from the EU increases slightly, eventually exceeding U.K. and Irish players, while those from the rest of the world remains relatively constant.The end of freedom of movement scenario paints a very different picture. The proportion of EU players declines substantially — from 41 percent last season to 20 percent by 2028-29 — while the proportion of British and Irish players increases from 41 percent to 64 percent over the same period. By the end of the next decade, the EPL would begin to resemble its constitution at the end of the 1990s: Nearly two-thirds of all players would be British or Irish.A large drop in the number of EU/EEA players does not necessarily imply a substantial reduction in terms of the quality of players. The money and allure of the Premier League would still entice elite players to come to play in England, at least for a while. The wealthiest clubs would continue to attract the biggest stars; the rest, on the other hand, would be forced to focus more on the domestic market. Teams often scout for potential in soccer leagues across Europe, but many of those players would no longer be allowed to make the leap. Champions League places would move even further beyond the horizons of most clubs, and “near miracles” such as Leicester’s fairytale league win — on the strength of the star turn from Riyad Mahrez,7Despite choosing to play for the Algerian national team, Mahrez was born in France and is a French citizen. who was acquired from Le Havre in France’s second tier — would become even less likely.On the other hand, some will argue that a drop in foreign recruitment would be a positive thing if it affords greater opportunities to British players. While the situation would be unchanged in terms of top-end recruitment at the elite clubs, even they would be forced to review their recruitment of young players from abroad. Homegrown players might have more of a chance of making it at the highest level.There is no doubt that the Premier League has benefited enormously from freedom of movement, with the rapid influx of foreign players helping to drive the league’s huge international popularity. But freedom of movement was also a crucial factor in the opposition to continued U.K. membership in the EU. It could well be that one effect of Brexit would be to diminish, perhaps sharply, the number of highly talented European footballers in the Premier League — which could have huge consequences for the future of the sport. Check out our latest soccer predictions. 1-1030% Before we can assess who might be affected, we first need to look at how the system of work permits works in English soccer. To obtain a permit, a foreign player must secure a Governing Body Endorsement from The Football Association (the governing body of English soccer). Each season, the FA publishes guidelines to help clubs determine whether transfer targets would qualify for an endorsement. Players age 21 and younger may meet the senior match threshold in just 12 months.Source: The Football Association Share of senior competitive international matches required to qualify for an English soccer work permit endorsement There are effectively two paths by which a player can qualify. To automatically qualify, a player must have participated in a minimum share of his national team’s senior competitive matches in the preceding two years.4This is reduced to 12 months if the player is 21 years old or younger. The minimum percentage is determined by the FIFA world ranking of that nation.If a player doesn’t qualify automatically, he can appeal. The appeals process is a points-based system that boils down to this: If the transfer fee is above the average amount paid by EPL clubs the previous year, and the club is willing to make him one of its higher earners, the appeals board can recommend that a permit should be approved. 31-5075 11-2045
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