In many countries around the world, sports betting is more than just a right. It’s something that is built into the fabric of high streets, and in countries such as Britain, it’s perfectly normal for there to be a local “betting shop” just down the road. But this is one of the few areas in which the US perhaps lags behind somewhat – for a whole host of reasons.
The main reason is that, until recently, federal law banned sports betting outright, just in case it jeopardized the integrity of sports games. That has now changed, but it remains up to the individual state as to whether or not there can be any sports betting there. So if you’re hoping to place a wager on the outcome of a mixed martial arts (MMA) or Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) match any time soon, your chances of being able to do so may depend not only on how good you are at predicting the outcomes of games – but also on where you’re physically located.
At its core, the answer to the question of where and how a person can bet on the outcome of an MMA or UFC game lies in the fact that the US Supreme Court ruled a couple of years ago that it is entirely up to a local state as to whether or not betting on these sports ought to be legalized. Before that, there was a wholehearted federal ban on sports betting – with the result that in almost every part of the US, it would have been a criminal offense to provide MMA or UFC wager options. Now, though, this has changed – and 18 states across the country, plus Washington DC, are now able to offer legal sports betting on MMA and UFC as well as a whole host of other sports.
Local political processes
The good news for MMA/UFC fans who want to bet on fights is that the hurdle of a federal ban is now no longer in place. But the less good news is that it’s still entirely possible to live in a part of America where sports betting has not yet been legalized. Some states in the US have taken full advantage of the opportunities that have become available and have not only legalized sports betting but have actively encouraged it. Some NFL stadiums, for example, now have so-called “betting lounges”, where customers can enjoy a chilled-out environment in which to place their wagers and hope to win some cash.
Other states are not quite there yet, though. Places such as Wisconsin are having trouble passing the relevant laws, due in part to resistance from some lawmakers. Gamblers in Wisconsin, in particular, have suffered, with no recent efforts whatsoever being made to bring sports betting to the legislature in the state. What remains to be seen, though, is whether or not states will begin to become actively opposed to sports gambling in an outright sense. The overturning of PASPA is perhaps still too recent in the minds of many, and at the moment there are fewer than ten states that didn’t even try to legalize sports betting this year.
In a further frustrating twist for many potential bettors, meanwhile, it’s also the case that MMA and UFC wagers are not necessarily widely available even in places where sports betting is legal. Although MMA and UFC are popular and are fueled by large advertising contracts that help ensure that fight nights remain highly-watched events, it’s also true to say that more common sports like soccer are the ones that are offered first by betting providers who are keen to ensure they meet demand. As betting providers continue to adapt to the post-PASPA regulatory landscape, though, it is likely that they will develop more of a risk tolerance and expand their books to include more opportunities to bet on sports that are less well-known. Ultimately, legal MMA and UFC betting is still relatively new on the scene in the US. With the post-PASPA world just two years old, it’s no surprise that not all states – or, indeed, all betting providers – have comprehensive sets of fight night odds to offer. But the future for those who wish to gamble on these sports is rosy. As more and more states legalize sports betting and as more and more providers expand their sports books to cover the latest fights, there won’t be long to wait before it’s accepted as the norm.
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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