Nevada, the sports betting capital of the United States, enacted a law in June, 2015, that allows investors to pool funds in the same way mutual funds pool investor funds to “invest” in stock markets. Essentially, Entity Betting, allows you to invest in a sports betting mutual fund.
In so many ways, sports betting is analogous with trading stocks on financial markets. Many smart investors will tell you that trading is more akin to speculating than “investing”. Sports betting can be the same, with once a year betting fans speculating on their team, for example to win the Super Bowl, or professional sports bettors placing bets (trading/investing) on positive expectation value outcomes, which they believe will result in a profit over time. Betting Entities have emerged for this purpose and will look to make a profit over time by placing positive expectation value wagers on sports.
Here come the issues.
Bettors and now Betting Entities will look to surpass the magical 52.4% (break-even point) to make a profit betting on sports. This is given the usual hold (vig or take) inserted into the odds/price by the Bookmaker. Bookmakers have shown no kindness to winning bettors so why now will they suddenly embrace Entities who are created to be profit making entities?
There is no doubt it is tremendously difficult to win at sports betting but it is not impossible. Betting Entities with a clear strategy (usually incorporated into complex algorithms), extreme discipline and diligent money management can win over time betting on sports, even with the vig. I would need to be convinced, given the current dynamic in bookmaking, not just in Nevada, but worldwide, how unrestricted placements of bets and amounts would be possible. The analogy is that if you are Warren Buffet and you are producing double digit returns quarter upon quarter investing, you are limited, restricted or simply banned. This does not happen in the financial markets but it is commonplace in the sports betting world and it is not necessarily illegal or immoral but arguably sound business practice by the Bookmakers.
It is unlikely that enough Betting Entities will enter the market soon enough to enable Bookmakers to offset many of the larger bets from an Entity (or a syndicate) to have close to balanced action (usually the intention of Bookmakers). This will result in disappointed Entities unable to freely bet as their strategy would dictate. Not only that, it is likely that many Entities will target high frequency sports such as Baseball or Basketball (College and Pro) so that they have many more games, matches and markets to bet into. The limits can be lower on such events (as compared to NFL for example – but the NFL regular season is 16 games where basketball and baseball are 82 and 162) as well as the percentage of professional money being higher in these events.
If a multi-million dollar Entity has a standard single unit bet of $20,000 (as low as 1% of the fund/bankroll), it is not always possible to place 1 unit bets on many of the sports or events that would be within the strategy, especially if the Entity has been flagged as a winning player. The markets on these events will just become overly saturated with professional money from professional bettors and Entities, which will cause issues for the Bookmakers unless they can take close to even handle on both sides of a bet. This is not a concern for trading on the financial markets. If the Google share price is a certain price, which is deemed a good investment, the trader can trade freely without such restrictions.
Putting aside the operational aspect of betting, there are regulatory and legal aspects that need to be considered. To what extent will there actually be SEC type oversight of Betting Entities so that there is accountability and protections in place? How enforceable will standard Know Your Customer/Investor protocols be? Will the onus be with the Entity or State? How will anti-money laundering laws co-exist and function within the Entity Betting sphere, State and Nevada Gaming Control Board oversight?
Often times we have seen over regulation stifle growth and present real obstacles to entry or operations within not only the betting world but in commerce generally. It can be a fine line and a delicate balance required. I can almost promise that there will be sad tales of Betting Entities posting large losses, just as is possible with Mutual Funds, and betting regulations will be called into questions. Hopefully there is enough insight, foresight and cooperation between law-makers, bookmakers and bettors (or Betting Entities) to reach a suitable equilibrium with regulation. Yes! Bettors must be included in this discussion.
There is certainly a stigma when it comes to sports betting and gambling that is somewhat expunged when it comes to trading on financial markets. There are certainly horror stories when it comes to fraud or other criminal acts that have resulted from betting debts or uncontrolled wagering. Not necessarily in relation to the illegality of sports betting in most of the US States and the result of underground or black market conduct but in relation to schemes undertaken that were underhanded and resulted in heavy losses. There are equally, if not more damning stories from the financial markets. Bernie Madoff alone is enough to make you cringe.
Entity Betting is only entering its infancy but will be a fascinating path given so much of the uncertainty of sports betting in the US alone. Will Betting Entities be able to outperform the standard 7% stock market returns often promised to investors. If they do, will Bookmakers restrict or refuse bets? Then, will regulations and the legal framework pose further obstacles? Time will tell.