by Brett Smiley, ESPN
One of the major misconceptions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down the 1992 federal law banning sports wagering back in May is that the elimination of the law could spell the end for sportsbooks based outside of the United States — many of which are located in the Caribbean.
Congress set out to halt an expansion of sports betting in the United States in 1992 with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), but accomplished the opposite. It helped foster a billion-dollar sportsbook black market of sorts, as scores of offshore bookmakers cropped up in the ensuing two decades — happy and willing to accept U.S. patrons wanting to place a sports wager. For sports bettors, when there’s a desire, there’s always a way — and there’s been an appetite for sports betting in the United States since at least the 19th century.
Americans wager $150 billion annually in the black market, as estimated by the American Gaming Association, and it will largely remain in the dark for the foreseeable future. Beyond offshore books, that black market also includes “local bookies” violating state laws and, in some cases, federal laws like the Wire Act.
The offshore market is large and deeply ingrained — so much so that offshore lines are routinely referenced in mainstream publications and on television, drawn in by either the familiarity of the name or the deceiving “.lv” domain name attached to the website. When U.S. sports bettors search Google for “best online sportsbooks,” they find a menu of options to wager offshore — and wager they do. Some bettors make trips to Las Vegas for March Madness or before the football season to place bets, while others send funds to friends or associates based in Vegas (which itself falls into a legally gray area) to “get down” in a more accessible way.