Betting on sports moves from “bad” to “good”
The first editorial that I could find about sports wagering in our local Wheeling “newspapers” was from August 2015 and it was clearly negative:
More Legalized Gambling Bad Bet
After the United States Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments on the federal ban of sports betting, however, the paper changed its position. An Intelligencer editorial from October 2017 told us:
Sports Gambling May Be Good Bet
And before the Court could even act, the Intelligencer was encouraging the WV legislature to get busy. In January 2018, the paper editorialized:
Approve Sports Betting in W.Va.
But how would the owner of Wheeling's papers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, Robert Nutting, make money from legalization?
What if each state's licensed gambling companies were forced to pay a fee to the various sports to insure that the wagered games were on the up-and-up? In February 2018, our local papers began to campaign for an integrity fee that would be paid by the sports wagering companies to the various sports leagues to insure that the games and their statistics were not being corrupted. Here, from that month, is a front-page story by Jocelyn King that took the leagues' position:
NBA, MLB Say West Virginia’s Sports Betting Bill Is Flawed
(This was supposed to be a straight news article but neither it nor any future article/opinion presented any points made by the other side -- for example, that there has been big-time sports betting in Nevada since 1949 with very few "integrity" questions.)
Later that month, local editor Mike Myer would re-enforce the point in one of his opinion columns. Betting, he said, “will encourage corruption among athletes.” (Again, with no actual examples.) In March of 2018, local reporter Casey Junkins wrote another front-page story supporting the integrity fee:
MLB: West Virginia Sports Betting Bill Could Mar the Game’s Integrity
Then in May, good soldier Mike Myer chimed in again:
Get Integrity Plan in Place
Importantly, none of these reports or columns mentioned the paper's obvious conflict of interest – that the owner, Robert Nutting, who also owned the Pittsburgh Pirates, stood to make millions if states passed mandatory integrity fees that would force gambling companies to pay fees to the sports affected.
In June of 2018, I blogged about this lack of disclosure by Nutting’s papers:
Legal Sports Report recently crunched the numbers and concluded that $2 billion would go to the leagues if integrity fees were in place of which Major League Baseball would get $480 million. Here's their conclusion:
Quite simply, the leagues stand to make a lot of money if “integrity fees” are copied everywhere. And that profit would likely far outstrip any costs associated with integrity the leagues would incur.
Wheeling's newspapers have supported the integrity fee from the beginning and at no point have they explained that one of the prime beneficiaries of the fee would be the papers' owner, Bob Nutting. Forget full disclosure on this one. Once again, this is no disclosure.
Nutting moves on
Since its legalization in 2018, sports gambling has grown exponentially. As Forbes noted earlier this month:
Americans bet $24 billion with legal sportsbooks in the first half of 2021, according to data from the American Gaming Association, which translates into roughly $2 billion in gross gaming revenue. By 2030, the industry is expected to produce $30 billion in revenues off an estimated $400 billion in total wagers, according to Macquarie Research.
And a familiar name is cashing in. From Yahoo Sports, we learn that last month, Robert Nutting had overcome any qualms he had about sports wagering:
Owners Arthur Blank, Robert Nutting Back New Sports Betting VC [venture capital] Fund
From the article:
SeventySix Capital has formed a second venture capital fund focusing primarily on sports betting. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Pittsburgh Pirates owner Robert Nutting, the state of Pennsylvania and a slate of pro athletes are investors in the fund.
“This next fund is an important milestone as we continue building SeventySix Capital as the go-to investment company in the sports industry,” said Wayne Kimmel, SeventySix Capital Managing Partner, in a press release. The new fund has closed on its initial investments and is expected to be $50 million when fully capitalized, according to a spokesperson.
I guess one could hope that Pirate owner Nutting will put some of his future profits from sports wagering back into his baseball team. Yeah, right! You wanna bet?