Appearing on a post-Super Bowl episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, President Barack Obama admitted that he sometimes places wagers on sporting events.
Obama joked that in addition to making a traditional call to the winner of the Super Bowl, he sometimes also calls the losing team “especially if [he] bet on them.”
When reminded by Colbert that betting on sports is largely illegal in the US, Obama continued the bit by declaring, “I am the President, I hereby pardon myself.”
You can watch the opening of the show below. The segment with President Obama begins around the 5:50 mark.
Current Sports Betting Laws Do Not Reflect Public Opinion
Though the admission was clearly part of a skit on the popular late-night talk show, the attitude of the President reflects a changing tide towards sports betting in the US.
A recent poll by the American Gaming Association—who estimated that $4.2 billion would be bet on the Super Bowl this year—found that 80% of those that planned on watching Super Bowl 50 wanted to see changes to the current sports betting laws.
Undoubtedly, public opinion has been fueled in part by the wide-spread popularity of daily fantasy sports.
The Role of Daily Fantasy Sports
The DFS industry which spawned from an exemption in the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) does not consider its games to be gambling, instead classifying its contests as “games of skill.”
But a growing number of law enforcement officials around the country disagree. Several state Attorneys General have expressed the opinion that daily fantasy sports violate state gambling laws including AG Eric Schneiderman in New York who has filed suit to halt the offering of DFS games in the state.
AGs in Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, Texas and Vermont have also made public statements that they believe the games are illegal in their states as well. Nevada was the first state to take action against the industry when the Nevada Gaming Control Board determined daily fantasy sports qualified as gambling and warned DFS operators not to cease and desist. The state recently issued its first license to offer DFS games legally within the state to upstart US Fantasy.
New Jersey Challenges Federal Sports Betting Law
But it is more than just daily fantasy sports that is pushing the boundaries of sports betting in America. Currently the state of New Jersey is in a legal battle to be able to allow sports betting within its borders.
The case which has been opposed by the major sports leagues seeks to effectively overturn the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) which barred states that did not already offer sports betting from doing so.
Currently only Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon are allowed to offer some form of sports betting under the federal law, but New Jersey is scheduled to get another day in court next week as its years-long fight once again goes before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals on February 17.