How to Win in the State Battlegrounds Over Legal Sports Wagering

On May 14th, The United States Supreme Court ruled that the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was unconstitutional, thereby opening the door for individual states to authorize and regulate sports betting within their respective borders.

For those companies that have an interest in capitalizing on this ruling, an aggressive, comprehensive and sustained public affairs and public relations campaign will need to be launched in order to have some measure of influence on distinctly different federal and state regulations. Undoubtedly, the laws governing sports betting in the United States will be complicated to navigate due to each state developing its own regulations, therefore, it is critical for companies in the industry to work toward clarifying regulations and ensuring the sports gambling environment is conducive to both running a successful enterprise and providing states with a new source of much-needed revenue.

Major American sports leagues have already weighed in, and they will be looking for a piece of the pie, so coordination, security software and tightly controlled regulations will certainly be on the horizon.  New Jersey and Delaware seem to be ahead of most, but the question will not just be how the laws and regulations are made, it will be how many players are allowed at the table and what the requirements will be for them to participate.

A major and coveted platform for sports betting exists on the internet. Although online gaming has been the trend desired by consumers, the federal government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 that forbids transactions for gambling on the internet. Much of the online gaming that occurred was in fact sports betting, however, given the location of online gambling companies, online gambling often crossed federal lines thus putting online gambling within federal jurisdiction. Now that individual states will allow for sports betting, there may be an opportunity to work with states to create their own online gaming portals using technology to ensure that only state residents are participating.

There are many regulations on the federal and state level that companies will be competing to shape. To ensure that your company takes part in these critical conversations and positions its views with key regulators and those who influence them (e.g., the media, elected officials, academicians, advocacy organizations), a multi-faceted public affairs and public relations campaign is required. Such a campaign must be based on concise and compelling messages that present your unique views and the corresponding rationale clearly to all stakeholders.

To best execute such an integrated campaign, a company must work with issue experts that have experience with gambling issues on the state and federal levels. The first step in this process is hiring a firm who can manage a working group made up of outside lobbyists, lawyers, and PR professionals. This working group, in coordination with senior company executives, will develop the strategy and messaging to reach each key stakeholder. Its lawyers will develop the regulatory strategy while the entire team helps develop messaging that lobbyists will use when meeting with state or federal officials. The PR team will use these messages in their outreach to reporters, editors and bloggers as well as in social media posts. Having a facilitator of this team will allow for constant feedback from each stakeholder, and the swift adjustment of strategy in response to the myriad of emerging developments on the regulatory and competitive fronts.

The Supreme Court’s ruling has created an opportunity for companies to compete for their share of the multi-billion-dollar sports betting market. Given the likely competition, those companies who develop the most effective public affairs and public relations campaigns will be best positioned to take advantage of this exciting new market.