Oddsmaker from Dyer: U.S. Supreme Court gaming ruling can’t be overestimated

Raphael Esparza

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 Monday to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 law that outlawed sports gambling outside of Nevada.

“This is probably the biggest sporting news story of my era, except of course the Cubs winning the World Series,” said Raphael Esparza, a Dyer native and 1993 Lake Central graduate. 

Esparza works as an oddsmaker for Doc’s Sports Service in Las Vegas and mybookie.ag, setting betting lines for baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, horse racing, MMA and other sports.

“I knew it was coming, but I didn’t think it was going to come this quickly. I knew New Jersey, Delaware, all these states were going to vote on it in the next couple weeks or months and go forward without the Supreme Court,” Esparza said. “With the Supreme Court ruling it, it’s just going to make things go faster.”

Esparza said sportsbooks in five states should be able to take bets by the start of the NFL season in the fall: New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Mississippi.

Sportsbooks in the Midwest?

In January, legislation was introduced in both the Indiana House and Senate that would allow casinos to offer legal sports gambling if federal restrictions were removed.

However, neither proposal was enacted into law, and the Indiana General Assembly is not due to meet again until 2019.

It's also not yet known whether sports betting, if legalized in Indiana, will be limited to the 13 state-licensed casino properties or permitted at retail locations throughout the Hoosier State.

The closest state in what Esparza calls “Big Ten Country” to getting a bill passed is probably Michigan, he said. Casinos owned by Harrah’s and MGM are located in Michigan.

Still, Esparza doesn’t expect any new laws to go into effect in the Midwest until late 2019 at the soonest.

A real game changer

Esparza anticipates legal sports betting will significantly impact commercial advertising, sports marketing and even in-stadium advertising.

In Europe, for example, he said sports fields tend to be surrounded by scrolling ads for wagering businesses.

“Those (broadcasters) are constantly talking about the betting numbers, the score. The commercials are always sponsored by such-and-such casino. It’s just one big ad throughout the whole game and they’re talking about it,” he said. “I’m in the industry of sports betting and sports handicapping where sometimes we get the black eye. We’re the black sheep. ‘You guys are killing the integrity of the game.'

“Finally, we’re the front horse. I’m not ashamed to tell people what I do anymore because it’s going to be mainstream. It’s going to be on ESPN and talked about on the radio.”

Esparza expects sports journalism to be affected, as well, with betting lines being included in game stories and discussed in pregame and postgame shows.

“The Cleveland Cavalier/Celtics game (Sunday) is a perfect example. Yes, it was a blowout, but if you were looking at the total or something (gambling-related), you may have other options on how you write that story compared to a total snooze fest of a game,” he said.

Esparza, who previously managed the sportsbooks at both Aria Casino and New York New York in Las Vegas, said Sin City won’t be damaged by the ruling because the big Nevada casinos own properties throughout the country.

He also expects the highest rollers to need the Las Vegas casinos for the biggest bets.

“People think it’s going to hurt Vegas, but it’s actually going to help Vegas because Vegas will actually be the hub,” he said. “They’re going to get their cut. And people are still going to want to go to Vegas and get that Vegas appeal.”