Ray Ratto

The Supreme Court paves way for legalized sports gambling, now the real fight begins

The Supreme Court paves way for legalized sports gambling, now the real fight begins

The Supreme Court of These United States just cleared the way for individual states to permit gambling on sporting events, a fairly expected result if you ask most folks.

But now comes the real fight – to see who gets to keep the losings, and in what percentage.

The Court voted to repeal PASPA, the law that prohibited sports betting except in states already grandfathered in (your Nevada and New Jersey, for example), but it left to the states the form that permission would take – most notably whether the states would force the casinos to pay the leagues an “integrity fee” for permission to bet their games, whether the states would cover the “integrity fee” or whether the states would tell the league to go pound sand with their “integrity fee.”

And when we put quotes around “integrity fee,” that’s because gouging isn’t really a matter of integrity. It’s a matter of gouging.

And if I have to choose between (a) leagues, (b) states and (c) casinos, and I’m not allowed (d) bettors, I’m going to have to say (c).

What the ruling does is allow states to make gambling on sports legal and therefore taxable, much as the new marijuana law has done. It decriminalizes that which never needed to be criminalized.

What it does not do, though, is explain how each state will or will not implement the costs and fees involved in legalizing gambling – whether each bet will be taxed, each winning bet will be taxed, and whether the states will be required to pay the sports leagues what amounts to a finder’s fee for putting on the games in the first place, or whether the casinos will have to (and thereby pass the costs onto the individual bettor).

This last part matters because it defines just how much your $20 bet on Chicago will cost you in the end, whether you win or not. And what you should want, quite frankly, is no integrity fee at all, because the casinos already handle the integrity issue by monitoring line moves by the minute that might indicate that a game isn’t on the up-and-up. It is in the casino’s interest most of all not to have crooked games, and they have a history of working directly with the leagues when such things occur.

A strict integrity fee is merely an up-front charge for doing what they already do, and in the NBA, their integrity fee would not have prevented Tim Donaghy, the biggest breach of integrity any sport has endured since the college basketball fixes of the ‘50s.

The states should be perfectly happy to take their chunk off the back end, from the winners, because otherwise why would any state want legalized gambling at all? Their armies of accountans have penciled this out, and the problems of waste in government aren’t in how they get the money but how they spend it.

And the casinos get theirs by controlling the betting lines and moving them at whim. That seems perfectly reasonable as a fee. After all, the books haven’t had a losing month in more than four years, so they’re doing more than fine.

Of course nobody is going to protect the bettor because in this country, despite what it says on the brochure, the customer is always wrong. The customer will be punished for choosing to be the customer, in this case having any integrity fee passed by the casinos on to them in diminished services, increased vigorish or other less-than-charming ways.

This means that unless the leagues, casinos and states can come to a reasonable agreement on how the new laws will be written and enforced, the best play a bettor can make is probably to bet outside the law entirely with someone who will take that bet without any fee or taxation at all. If you want to bet games, you’ll potentially need to know a lot of different sets of laws, which can make the process more rather than less confusing.

But at least the Supreme Court saw the inherent hypocrisy in PASPA and left it to the citizens to figure out how to take a reasonable decision and turn it to molten garbage. The devil, after all, is always in the details, in the same way that the half-point will always get you in the end.

The Kings are the Kings, Myers can't swindle in second round and thesaurus reigns supreme

The Kings are the Kings, Myers can't swindle in second round and thesaurus reigns supreme

When the biggest news to emanate from the NBA Draft is Adrian Wojnarowski’s thesaurus, you have a bad draft.
When the second biggest news is Sacramento bowing to the wishes of Luka Doncic (and the Kings did just that, we are sure) as another reminder of its place in the basketball universe, you have a bad draft.
When the third biggest news is that nobody wanted to talk to Bob Myers about selling their second-round pick to the Golden State Warriors because . . . well, just because, you have a bad draft.
When the fourth biggest news is which draftee’s mom is the hottest, you have a bad (and oddly creepy) draft.
And when the most compelling stories coming out of the draft are still LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Dwight Howard, you have a bad draft.
In ten years you may find, of course, that this was actually a 2009-level (as in great) draft for future stars, and all the other stuff will no longer matter. But that is the case of most things these days – they seem like big deals for about 24 hours and end up being nothing of import.
In short, as entertainment, this NBA Draft was that rare flatliner. The league is apparently much better at roasting money, the time for which begins shortly, or maybe our tastes as voyeurs are changing.
The Warriors got in Jacob Evans, the 6-6 wing from Cincinnati, a sort of poor man’s Draymond Green (which is a compliment, and an almost rave review for a 28th pick), but the greater development Warriors-wise was Bob Myers’ inability to sweet-talk a second-rounder out of money-hungry competitors. This may be a sign that nobody wants to touch the Warriors as a trading partner, at least until they are no longer considered enemies of the people, or maybe people are coveting draft choices more than they used to do.
As for the Kings, they went for Marvin Bagley III largely because he was the highest rated player who went for them. Doncic was largely considered the superior choice, and Michael Porter’s troublesome back worried too many teams (he ended up falling to 14 and Denver), but Bagley wanted to be the second pick if he couldn’t be first, which made his appeal to the Kings clear.
But it did nothing to dispel the largely held notion by many players and/or agents that Sacramento is to be avoided by any means necessary, and not because the city is demonstrably worse than any of about 20 other NBA outposts. It is because the perception remains that ultimately, the Kings are gonna King.
Thus ends another NBA show, with minimal effervescence or lasting effect. It was a great draft for the purist, if that matters to you, but the truth remains that LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are going to blot out the sun this summer. It is a victory for the status quo.
That is, unless you have a rooting interest in the Adrian Wojnarowski-fought-the-law story line, and frankly, you shouldn’t.

Yelp reviews for Ayesha Curry's restaurant in Houston just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom


Yelp reviews for Ayesha Curry's restaurant in Houston just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom

There is always a good reason to despair for humanity these days. Humanity is, on the whole, performing at a Baltimore Orioles/Arizona Coyotes/New York Jets level, and needs a serious makeover if it is to last through the current millennium.

The latest example of this is in Houston, where local Rockets fans have decided to flood Yelp, the only populist reviewing site, with reviews slagging the new barbecue restaurant opening in town that is owned by megachef Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry, wife of Him.

The key here being that the restaurant hasn’t actually opened yet, so these reviews are meant only to ruin a business run by someone whose husband has a nice jump shot and who otherwise has never meant anyone any harm (although I can’t vouch for the coleslaw).

This is a gentler modification of the campaign by Kentucky fans who tried to ruin referee John Higgins’ roofing company in Nebraska in 2017, and then doubled down with death threats, because Kentucky basketball is that kind of a thing.

Now Warriors fans, who have the same problems with excessive free time that Rockets fans evidently do, have flooded Yelp with five-star reviews of the restaurant, which is no more open for their expertise than that of the Houston fans. In other words, this is one more example of how technology and democracy are wasted on people like us.

The argument has been advanced that Curry somehow invited this by opening up a restaurant in a town that has been bedeviled by her husband’s accuracy for four years now, but this is grandiloquent nonsense. The Kentucky fans showed us that state boundaries are no deterrent to such hate-fueled Internet hijinks, and I have unwavering faith that Rockets fans would have done this if she and Mina had opened their restaurant on the surface of Io. And that Warrior fans would have responded similarly.

Now maybe this is an old guy’s argument (and in the spirit of transparency, I have never met Ayesha Curry or eaten a morsel of her food-based products, so I am aggressively indifferent to her future, good or ill, as a pan jockey), but back in the day the traditional way of objecting to a restaurant was not to patronize it, and when sufficiently aggrieved to give it bad word of mouth. But that was always in response to a poor meal, inadequate service or hygiene shortcomings. That was presumably the idea behind Yelp – to widen the sensible review base.

But in all such cases, the establishment had actually plated a meal and delivered it to the customer before people took to their keyboards or not-so-smartphones to register their views. This strategy is just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom, and is one of the reasons why people who take the extreme view that fans suck are not entirely off-base.

The clear solution here would be for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and general manager Daryl Morey to attend the grand opening of the joint and chow down in earnest. They don’t have to rave about it, or even comment about it. They just need to be seen doing so, and when asked by a member of TMZ’s guerilla restaurant desk after the meal what they thought, they should say this:

“We are pro-Houston, and we are pro-business. We want everyone’s businesses to succeed, including this one. If you like us, and you do, you’ll leave these folks be, to make their eatery survive or fail on the merits. Oh, and be sure to try the brisket.”

Reason: We wouldn’t want Warrior fans to get the idea that Fertitta’s restaurants should be similarly attacked, or that they should start smearing his casinos simply because he owns the Rockets. Because once this starts, it never stops, because our culture has taken the greatest information delivery system and turned it into a gigantic hate farm.

There. Wasted lecture over. And yes, by all means, do try the brisket, even if your outraged sensibilities about the Western Conference Final allow only to do take-out.