Monthly Archives: December 2018

Which NFL teams can clinch the final playoff spots?

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It all comes down to Sunday.

New Year’s Eve is always a little bittersweet, the promise of a fresh start intermingled with that gnawing feeling of regret. New Year’s Eve Eve will be similar in the NFL, except rather than an anticlimactic countdown that reminds us of our own mortality, we will finally have real answers when the clock strikes midnight. Or, like 11:38 p.m. ET — whenever Sunday Night Football ends.

We got another intense final week in the NFL. It didn’t quite top last year’s, when the Bengals’ last-second touchdown (on fourth down, no less!) took down the Ravens and vaulted the Bills into the playoffs for the first time since Toy Story 2 was in theaters. But Sunday still sent the 2018 regular season off on a dramatic note.

Six teams were fighting for the three playoff spots that had yet to be claimed. The Saints, Rams, Bears, Cowboys, Seahawks, Chiefs, Patriots, Texans, and Chargers already made their way in, though there’s a lot of uncertainty remaining. Coming into Sunday, only two seeds were firmly set. Both of those were in the NFC too: the Saints (No. 1) and the Cowboys (No. 4).

So that left a lot — 10 seeds! three divisions! — that had to be decided. Take a seat, grab some snacks, and schedule bathroom breaks only for when your bladder will be screaming for mercy and that’s all. You’re not going to want to go anywhere until Sunday is over.

What’s on the line in Week 17?

The Vikings and Eagles were vying for the final wild card spot in the NFC, and it was the defending Super Bowl champs who are moving on to the postseason. The AFC North title came down to the Ravens or Steelers, and despite a valiant effort by the Browns, Baltimore escaped with the win and the division. The Titans and Colts will end the night in a battle for a wild card bid after the Texans sewed up the AFC South.

The other TBD division was the AFC West. The Chargers easily handled the Raiders, giving them the division title and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Chargers then had to settle for a wild card berth.

The Patriots, for the ninth year in a row, locked up the other first-round bye.

In the NFC, the Rams took the No. 2 seed over the Bears.

How could the Vikings have clinched a wild card spot Sunday?

The Vikings could’ve put this season’s disappointments behind them and gotten in the playoffs all by themselves. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t do it.

The Vikings just needed one of two things to go their way to grab the NFC’s other wild card spot:

  1. They beat the Bears OR
  2. The Eagles lose to or tie Washington.

However, the Eagles won and the Vikings were lifeless in a 24-10 loss to the Bears that ended their season.

How did the Eagles clinch a wild card spot Sunday?

The Eagles are hot right now. Now it’s time to get out the underdog masks because they’re headed back to the playoffs.

The Eagles’ scenario was the opposite of the Vikings. To nail down the second wild card in the NFC, they needed two things to happen:

  • They beat Washington and the Vikings lose to the Bears.

They beat Washington 24-0 and the Vikings loss. Celebrate safely, Philly.

How did the Ravens clinch the AFC North Sunday?

The Browns were the only thing standing in the Ravens’ way of making the playoffs again and erasing the bad memories of last year’s bitter ending (at least without the aid of Lacuna, Inc). But these aren’t your butt-of-the-joke Browns. These are the Baker Mayfield Browns, and they aren’t just feelin’ dangerous. They ARE dangerous.

The Browns already beat the Ravens once this year — 33.3 percent of Hue Jackson’s wins with the team — but this time, it was in Baltimore. And Lamar Jackson, not Joe Flacco, was the starter.

There was one way Cleveland can gain a competitive edge, though. Mayfield was just 7 months old when Art Modell announced that he was moving the Browns to Baltimore, but all someone has to do is teach Mayfield all about the history of the rivalry. With the permanent chip on his shoulder that can be programmed based on whatever he wants to be mad about this week, that should’ve been enough to fuel him to try to exact revenge, 23 years later.

It almost worked too, but in the end, the Ravens won a nail-biter.

The Ravens just needed one of these to happen to win the AFC North for the first time since 2012:

  1. They beat the Browns OR
  2. The Steelers lose to the Bengals OR
  3. They tie the Browns and the Steelers and Bengals also tie.

Their 26-24 win got them the division crown and (probably) kept the Steelers out.

The best possible scenario for the Ravens would have been winning the AFC North title AND getting a first-round bye. That didn’t happen because they needed:

  1. To beat the Browns, the Patriots lose to the Jets, the Texans lose to the Jaguars, and the Colts and Titans DON’T tie OR
  2. To beat the Browns, the Patriots lose to the Jets, the Texans lose to the Jaguars, and the Ravens clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Texans.

However, the Patriots and Texans both won.

How can the Steelers clinch a playoff spot Sunday?

All the Steelers had to do was not run a fake punt when they had the lead and the momentum against the Saints. Or, ya know, not lose to the Raiders or Broncos. Or hell, even just pay Le’Veon Bell what he was worth.

Alas, here they were in Week 17, needing a favor from the two teams that hate them the most: the Bengals and the Browns. Cleveland didn’t come through and now the Steelers will likely miss the playoffs after starting the season 7-2-1.

The Steelers could’ve defended their AFC North title in one of two ways:

  1. They beat the Bengals and the Ravens lose to or tie the Browns OR
  2. They tie the Bengals and the Ravens lose to the Browns.

The Steelers can still technically get a wild card spot, but it won’t happen because they need:

  • To beat the Bengals and the Colts and Titans tie.

How can the Colts clinch a playoff spot Sunday?

The Colts were not supposed to be in this position this year. Not with a coach who fell into the job after Josh McDaniels ghosted them. Not with Andrew Luck’s health still a huge question mark. Not with a young, raw defense.

The Colts weren’t even supposed to be here in mid-October, when they dropped to 1-5 after a loss to the Jets. But they surprised us, winning eight of their last nine games behind Luck, who’s likely this season’s Comeback Player of the Year. Now, they can complete their total makeover with a postseason berth — but their hopes of stealing the AFC South crown are over thanks to the Texans’ win over the Jaguars.

The Colts can snag a wild card spot if:

  • They beat the Titans.

How can the Titans clinch a playoff spot Sunday?

The Titans could’ve earned as much as a No. 2 seed and as little as an early vacation and slightly higher draft pick. They’re hosting the Colts in what amounts to a play-in game and have only lost once at home this season — but they’ve also never beaten to Andrew Luck.

The Titans’ best-case scenario included the AFC South title and a first-round bye, but the Texans and Patriots prevented that from happening.

The Titans’ still pretty good scenario would give them a wild card spot, and it’s simple. They’re in if:

  • They beat the Colts.

How did the Texans clinch the AFC South Sunday?

The Texans almost got into the postseason all on their own last week. They were on the verge of beating the Eagles thanks to Deshaun Watson’s heroic comeback … and then the defense promptly wasted Watson’s effort. Luckily for Houston, the Steelers blew their own lead, and that’s all the Texans needed to get back in the playoffs.

This week, they got it right and produced the AFC South’s second straight “worst to first” finish. The Jaguars went from last place in the division in 2016 to first in 2017 (and then back to last in 2018). Just a year later, the Texans are the next team to go from fourth to first.

The Texans completed the one-year turnaround in the AFC South with:

  • Their 20-3 win over the Jaguars on Sunday.

All other scenarios — including a possible No. 1 seed — were killed once the Patriots beat the Jets and the Chiefs beat the Raiders.

How did the Chiefs clinch the AFC West and the No. 1 seed Sunday?

For the first time all season, the Chiefs were on a losing streak, a whole two games. Two weeks in a row, they had a chance to win the division and failed each time. Fortunately for them, they’ll got a third chance — and their last opponent was the Raiders.

The Chiefs won the AFC West, a first-round bye, AND the No. 1 seed with:

  • A 35-3 win over the Raiders

How could the Chargers have clinched the AFC West?

The Chargers were either going to go big (the AFC West title and the No. 1 seed) or stay right where they are at No. 5. It’ll be the latter.

There were two ways the Chargers could take the division and the No. 1 seed in the AFC:

  1. They beat the Broncos and the Chiefs lose to or tie the Raiders OR
  2. They tie the Broncos and the Chiefs lose to the Raiders.

But the Chiefs’ win over the Raiders meant the Chargers, who topped the Broncos, were stuck with a wild card berth.

How did the Patriots clinch a first-round bye Sunday?

Oh hey, look who it is. A week after it seemed time to hold a vigil for the Patriots dynasty, they guaranteed themselves a first-round bye. Yes, again.

It’s a long shot, but the Patriots could’ve earned the AFC’s No. 1 seed for the gabillionth time if:

  • They beat the Jets, the Chargers lose to the Broncos, and the Chiefs lose to the Raiders.

Only the first one happened.

There was an easier way for the Patriots to secure a first-round bye, with they did because:

  • They beat the Jets.

How did the Rams clinch a first-round bye Sunday?

With the Saints owning the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the No. 2 seed is the only one left that includes next weekend off.

The Rams locked up the No. 2 seed and another week to rest Todd Gurley because:

  1. They beat or tie the 49ers OR
  2. The Bears lose to or tie the Vikings.

They beat the 49ers and will host a game in the Divisional Round.

How could the Bears have clinched a first-round bye Sunday?

The Bears had been holding steady at No. 3, but they could’ve still jumped to the No. 2 spot.

The Bears needed two games to end favorably for them to land a first-round bye. It would’ve happened if:

  • They beat the Vikings and the Rams lose to the 49ers.

Although they took down the Vikings, the Rams beat the 49ers.

What do the playoff standings look like right now?

There’s a fairly good chance the standings look the same now as they do at the end of the night. We’ll keep updating them until they’re finalized, so be sure to check back. Say, about 11:38 p.m ET?

The NFC:

  1. New Orleans Saints (13-3)**
  2. Los Angeles Rams (13-3)**
  3. Chicago Bears (12-4)**
  4. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)**
  5. Seattle Seahawks (10-6)*
  6. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)*

The AFC:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)**
  2. New England Patriots (11-5)**
  3. Houston Texans (11-5)**
  4. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)**
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)*
  6. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

Still alive: Tennessee Titans (9-6), Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1)

**clinched the division
*clinched a playoff berth

What do the playoff matchups look like?

For the complete schedule all the way to the Super Bowl, be sure to check out our playoff guide. All times listed are Eastern.

Wild Card Round

Saturday, Jan. 5:

Colts/Titans winner at Texans, 4:35 p.m.

Seahawks at Cowboys, 8:15 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 6:

Chargers at Ravens, 1:05 p.m.

Eagles at Bears, 4:40 p.m.

Divisional Round

Saturday, Jan. 12:

Lowest AFC seed remaining at Chiefs, 4:35 p.m.

Highest NFC seed remaining at Rams, 8:15 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 13:

Highest AFC seed remaining at Patriots, 1:05 p.m.

Lowest NFC seed remaining at Saints, 4:40 p.m.

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NFL Betting Preview: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans

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Sunday night football is basically an extra week of playoffs for us this week. In an AFC South divisional matchup, it is the Indianapolis Colts (9-6) traveling to Nissan Stadium to take on the Tennessee Titans (9-6). Win and you are in. It is as simple as that.

For the Colts, they have been clicking at the right time. They have won 8 of their last 9 games and have won 3 in a row heading into Sunday’s contest. 2 of those wins were against the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys, so it isn’t like they have been playing week competition, either. For the Titans, they have won 4 in a row, but last week’s win came at a price. Quarterback Marcus Mariota had to leave the game after suffering a stinger. He has practiced this week, but in limited capacity and is considered a game-time decision. If he is unable to go, it will be Blaine Gabbert taking the reigns. Due to the significance of this game, the NFL has flexed it to the evening game with kickoff scheduled for 8:20 pm ET.

The point spread for this one comes in with the Indianapolis Colts as 3-point favorites despite playing on the road. The over/under on total points scored is set at 44 points.

By The Numbers

Defensively, the Tennessee Titans get the slight edge in this matchup. Tennessee ranks 7th in the NFL in total yards allowed as opposing offenses are gaining just 326.5 yards per game. The Colts come in at 11th allowing 344.9 yards. In terms of points allowed per game, the Titans come in 2nd in the league, allowing just 18 points per game. The Colts come in at 13th allowing 21.8.

On the offensive side, though, the Colts have been significantly better. They are gaining an average of 382.9 yards per game, good for 7th in the NFL. The Titans, on the other hand, are gaining just 316 yards per game, good for 26th. This is reflective in their scoring ability, too. The Colts again rank 7th, averaging 26.7 points per game while the Titans rank 26th, scoring just 19.5 points per game.

Colts Hoping For Some Good Luck

After a few off years, Andrew Luck is finally looking like the star that broke into the league. On the season, he has 4,308 yards passing with 36 touchdowns versus 14 interceptions. His offensive line has also done a nice job keeping him upright as he has only 17 sacks. His leading receivers this season have been T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron. Hilton has 74 catches for 1,209 yards and 6 touchdowns while Ebron has 62 catches for 690 yards and 12 touchdowns.

On the ground, Marlon Mack has certainly broken out this season. He has 170 carries for 789 yards and 8 touchdowns. Not bad, especially knowing that he battled some nagging injuries earlier in the season. The change of pace back is Nyheim Hines, who has 310 yards rushing with 2 touchdowns, but also has 400 yards receiving with an additional 2 touchdowns.

Defensively, the stat leaders for the Colts are Darius Leonard (107 tackles), Denico Autry (9 sacks) and both Kenny Moore and Malik Hooker (2 interceptions apiece).

Titans Hoping Ground Game Can Generate Offense

Especially if Marcus Mariota is unable to go, the Titans will hope that running back Derrick Henry continues to show his late-season surge. Over the last several weeks Henry has been dominant, and on the season, he has 966 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns. As a change of pace, Dion Lewis has 517 yards rushing with a touchdown and another 377 yards receiving with an additional touchdown.

Mariota on the season has thrown for 2,528 yards with 11 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He also has struggled to avoid pass rushers has he has been sacked a whopping 42 times this year. If he is unable to go, it will be Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. This season he has thrown for 461 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The leading receiver for the Titans is Corey Davis with 843 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns.

Defensively, the stat leaders for the Titans are Adoree’ Jackson (63 tackles), Jurrell Casey (7 sacks) and Kevin Byard (4 interceptions).

Colts Win and Cover To Secure Playoff Berth

If the Titans are to have a chance two things have to happen. First, their defense has to be amazing. They also have to have Derrick Henry go off. While Henry may have success, I just don’t see them completely containing the Colts’ offense. Stranger things have happened, but for my money I feel a lot more comfortable with the Colts giving up 3 on the road than taking the gamble on a miraculous game from the Titans. I am taking the Colts and, to me, it really isn’t that close.

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Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Betting Pick and Prediction

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The Dallas Cowboys head to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Giants in a game that is basically meaningless for both teams. This adds a very interesting layer to this game that has a lot of unknowns. The line on this game Giants -7. This indicates to me that Vegas believes that these teams will not be playing this game straight up.

Cowboys

The Cowboys have claimed that they will not rest the starters, but it has now come out that Ezekiel Elliott will not play in this game to rest for next week’s playoff game. Zach Martin will also do the same. The real concern here is, “Will the rest of the guys do the same thing?” I would find it odd that we get a report mentioning that the Cowboys best player is sitting but nothing else, and then we see them just rest everyone. However, I think it is possible that the other starters do not plan to play the entire game. In 2016, the Cowboys had the one seed locked up on week 17. They claimed they would play their starters, but then Zeke didn’t play and the other starters played a few series and then came out. I think that this is a possible outcome in this game, which would clearly swing things.

Giants

The Giants haven’t slowed anything down yet, but OBJ hasn’t played in three weeks due to an injury that I believe wouldn’t have kept him out any games in a playoff run. I am somewhat concerned that the Giants also hold back in this game to some degree. Now, there is nothing to suggest that this will happen, but there is definitely a narrative to suggest that it is possible. The Giants need a QB in the draft, or they should at least be interested in doing so.

The other 2 main teams that are looking to draft a QB are the Jaguars and the Dolphins. The Dolphins are going to be behind the Giants, but the Jaguars and the Giants are tied in record, but if they both lose, the Giants will end with a better pick. The higher pick will have leverage if the other team tries to trade up, which would be really valuable if this is what the Giants want to do. Also, there is only one QB that is even viable at a top 10 draft pick, which is why being the first of these teams to pick could be incredibly valuable. There has been virtually no talk of this at all, but I think that it is possible that this is in the back of the Giants’ mind.

Giants vs. Cowboys Prediction

The biggest factor in this game is how much these teams play their starters and their motivation. The narrative surrounding the Giants in the football world right now is that the Giants may try to show off Saquon to attempt to win the Rookie of the Year award and prove that the pick on Saquon was a good one. I understand this possibility, but there has been as much talk about that in Giants camp as there was about them tanking this game to stay ahead of the Jaguars in the draft order. This isn’t a thing that the Giants have voiced at all, so I think that buying into that completely is really not the best idea from a process standpoint.

Everyone is talking about one narrative and not the other, which gives me enough of a reason to pause when it comes to taking the Giants here. I think that it is possible that the Giants really want to lose this game. 7 is a lot to give up for a team that really shouldn’t even want to win this game, so I will take the Cowboys +7 and hope that the lack of motivation on the Giants’ end helps the Cowboys stay within a score in this one.

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California Sports Betting Faces Tough But Not Impossible Road

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California is the fifth largest economy in the world — if you carved it out of the US — but is still in the 20th Century regarding gambling regulation.

With a projected first-year tax revenue of $100 million, one would think that California would want to have sports betting legalized as quickly as possible. But…it could be at least five years, if not longer, before sports betting is legalized in the state.

Much of the problem is the lack of understanding of the territory, and how the stakeholders interact with each other and the state government. Hopefully this article will clear some of the smoke from the room.

As this is the second industry this decade that has flipped from illegal to regulated, California already has some experience in that regard. I’ll try to decipher here what the issues are, in the hope that better understanding of those issues will help get to a win/win for all parties involved as efficiently as possible.

The lay of the land for California sports betting

Current stakeholders in CA gaming include these three entities:

  • Cardrooms
  • Tribes
  • Horse racing tracks

The cardrooms

Cardrooms have been legal since 1936 (draw poker; hold’em and other poker games were held to be legal in 1987, player-banked table games were legal in 1988). In all three instances, the cardrooms had to go to court, challenge the state’s gambling statute, and win.

They are subject to state regulation, which has been criticized (and justly so, in my opinion) by tribal gaming interests. They are a politically powerful enough group, but pale by comparison to the political power that the tribes have in California.

Tribal gaming

Tribes originally offered bingo, then after winning the landmark Cabazon case in 1987, which led to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, moved on to slot machines, player-banked table games involving cards (house-banked card games in 1993), and eventually went to the electorate to have their casinos fully legal in 2000. The ballot initiative, Prop 1A, amended the California Constitution as follows:

The Legislature has no power to authorize, and shall prohibit, casinos of the type currently operating in Nevada and New Jersey. (Art. IV, Sec. 19 (e))

The tribes (or rather, their attorneys and lobbyists) have interpreted this to mean that they have a monopoly on anything which could be offered in a casino, which would include sports betting. 

Racetracks

While horse racing is generally considered to be a mature industry, with two major tracks closing in the last ten years because the land was more valuable put to housing and other uses, it is still a popular pastime for many in California, and the horsemen have political clout as well.

How they all intersect

As one would expect, the three stakeholders don’t like each other.

The real stakeholders, of course, are the people of California, who would likely see tax revenues approaching $100 million in the first year of operation, and upwards of that as the market matures.

However, the CA state budget is about $180 billion a year, so everything is relative. One would think there’s enough money to go around this time, which wasn’t the case with online poker, which a minority of California tribes managed to defeat in the legislature over a nine-year (and counting) period.

A brief legislative history of sports betting in California

Sports betting has been discussed in the legislature for almost two years now. Early in 2016, Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), who is also chair of the Assembly’s Governmental Organizational Committee (which oversees, among other things, gambling in the state) introduced AB 1573, which would create a framework for offering sports betting.

The bill was fairly vanilla in terms of regulation: service providers licensing with a stakeholder to provide services. For many reasons, including the federal sports betting ban was intract at the time, the bill never got past a reading, nor was there any sort of informational hearing on the matter.

Assemblyman Gray returned in 2017 with ACA 18, which would change the California Constitution to allow the legislature to regulate sports betting. This also went nowhere, although it’s interesting to note that Gray may or may not have had his timeline backwards.

Generally, with regards to gaming expansion in California, you need the electorate to approve a ballot proposal first, then the legislature would write and approve regulations for it. There may or may not be a suggestion here that lawmakers thought it initially wouldn’t need voter approval to promulgate sports betting regulations.

Changing the constitution?

Finally, a group called “Californians For Sports Betting” announced it would be trying to get an initiative on the 2020 ballot which would repeal the aforementioned clause approved by the electorate in 2000.

The first ballot proposal sought to strike down Article IV, Sec 19 (e) of the California Constitution. I originally thought this ballot proposal was sponsored by a sportsbook, because no one with knowledge of how California politics works would understand that the tribes would spend upwards of $100 million, and not batting an eye writing the checks, to defeat this measure and protect their property interests.

What this accomplished was the following:

  • It irritated the tribes so much, they used their political power to have any hearings canceled on the matter, thus effectively killing any legislation for 2018.
  • The measure also annoyed the cardroom industry, because it preempted anything they were trying to accomplish with sports betting, and because many tribes (wrongly) would think the cardrooms were behind the bill (they weren’t). There’s not a lot of trust right now between the cardrooms and the sportsbook operators.

There’s a fear among both some tribes and some cardroom operators that the sportsbooks could just sweep in and dominate the gaming industry, and want to know more before deciding how to proceed. Whether that fear is rationally based isn’t relevant.

A rewrite of the ballot measure

The promoters did rewrite the initiative a couple of months later, which left Art IV, Sec 19 (e) unchanged, but restricting the governor from negotiating compacts with tribes who want to conduct off-reservation gaming (which many tribes probably would support), and directly authorizing the legislature to regulate sports betting, in the manner proposed by Gray’s 2016 AB 1573.

So, the current version of the ballot initiative looks more like it was written by a party with some sophistication as to how gaming works in California, or at least got some help on the issue.

Finally, I would expect some version of the previous ACA 18 or AB 1573, or perhaps both, to reappear shortly after the legislature reconvenes after the holidays.

Who will get to divide the money, and when?

The stumbling block in all of this is an unnecessary battle as to who gets to own the game.

The tribes originally tried to play the monopoly card, but realizing that the tracks are just too strong to be excluded, enlisted them in an alliance against the cardrooms.

Moreover, it’s not a good look to say you’re against sports betting, as some tribes and tribal advocates have stated, when you’re not only remodeling your unprofitable off-track-betting facility, you’re advertising the reopening of it as well. In fairness, tribal interests aren’t necessarily aligned on this issue, depending on the tribe. As you’re going to see, there’s going to be something here for everyone who’s invested in this to hate.

The biggest problem, as I see California, is that you have two major entities who operate gaming businesses with substantial political power, but really don’t understand either gaming nor the casino business.

Cardrooms and tribes stand to benefit

Cardrooms can’t have any interest in the outcome of any deal in their cardroom. Moreover, although some operators fantasize about being able to bank their own games (and hence eliminate the (Third-Party Providers of Proposition Player Services or TPPPS), the reality is that particular learning curve is going to be steep and likely very expensive. Game protection is a totally different animal when it’s your bankroll at stake.

Tribal members get a check, and if they’re lucky, a healthy check, each month from gaming revenues, but don’t really understand how that check is generated. So, you have two related, regulated industries which are essentially mom and pop businesses, no matter the size of them, that generally rely on others to advise them how to run their businesses.

The tribes generally are happy with the status quo and leary of anything but, and that’s certainly understandable.

There are no visionary Jack Binion or Terry Lanni clones in tribal gaming or the cardroom industry. What confusion which comes from that is certainly understandable. Unfortunately, this brings in a number of actors that don’t always have their clients or investors best interests at heart.

No shortage of unsympathetic parties

The tribes, for the most part, rely on their corporate attorneys and lobbyists, who, for the most part, oblige them by treating them like ATM machines, selling unneeded, unnecessary, and most importantly, unwinnable conflict.

The most recent development is a lawsuit filed last month by two Southern California tribes against a number of cardrooms, asserting they are running banked table games in violation of their so-called monopoly on table games.

The first problem is that if this is true, they’re suing the wrong people; their beef is with the state. The second problem is that if you are going to sue the State over breach of compact (the proper filing and cause of action here), that lawsuit necessarily is heard in federal court. As there’s a failure to join a necessary party to the litigation (the State of California) which likely won’t consent to be sued in state court, the most likely result is probably that the matter will be dismissed on procedural grounds.

Effective regulation?

On the other hand, you have a number of “old school” cardroom investors who keep score by not how much they can make, but by how much they can get over. You have a couple of operators who frankly should not, in my view, hold gaming licenses, and the tribes’ complaints to the state about their inability to regulate (read “discipline”) these operators is a legitimate one.

It also fairly begs the question whether or not the state is properly equipped to actually enforce bad behavior (as opposed to letting the miscreants write a check to “settle” the accusations). If they can’t revoke a licensee for egregious anti-money laundering violations, it makes one wonder if they can fairly regulate a business which handles substantially more cash.

The tribes have fought the cardrooms for a number of years on the so-called player-banked game issue. Cardrooms, due to California law, can offer table games, as long as the players bank the games and not the house. Services called TPPPS will bank the games when no one wants to. The existence of these companies is at root the heart and soul of the beef the tribes have with the state.

They assert that they have a “monopoly” on table games and slot machines, where the reality is they probably have neither. They know this, too. For years, they have threatened all kinds of litigation.

The problem is, any litigation against the State of California would necessarily take place in federal court, and not state. Why is this important? With a US District Court judge, which is an appointed for life position, the ruling is going to be on the law, and just the law, instead of the political triangulation elected state court judges frequently offer as a guise to interpreting the law.

To get past motion in federal court, you’re going to have to prove you’ve been injured; in other words, you’re going to have to prove you actually have a monopoly. Hanging your hat on a vaguely written section of the state constitution is a surefire way to jeopardize what monopoly may exist in your own mind.

While courts have used the word “monopoly” in their opinions regarding tribal gaming in California, there has been no explicit grant of a monopoly by the electorate. The constitutionality of Art IV Sec 19 (e) has never been challenged, in my view the clause is murky, especially in light that the tribes could have choosen more direct language in writing the ballot proposal.

Moreover, in the litigation which has previously taken place, it has been by individual members of tribes suing as individuals, using some creative methods for getting their grievances aired in (state) court. So, looking at things from a purely historical manner, the tribes probably know exactly where they’re at with all of this.

The reality for CA sports betting

There are four issues that are real and static.

The convenience factor

First, cardroom customers are almost invariably customers of convenience. Think about the person who’d rather shop at 7-Eleven (poor selection, high prices) than the Safeway, because the 7-Eleven is across the street and he has to drive ten minutes to the Safeway.

Most gamblers just want to be in action as soon as possible. That’s why a gambler who lives in Alhambra, east of downtown Los Angeles, which is maybe 45 minutes from San Manuel, one of the best locals casinos anywhere, would rather drive the 15 minutes to Commerce Casino, even though the amenities are inferior and the cost of gambling is much higher.

As such, even if some of the table games went away tomorrow, the cardroom customer would likely just go back to playing the traditional player-banked games (i.e. Pai gow tiles, Pai gow poker, etc) or poker. Yes, cardroom revenues would decrease somewhat but the tribes would get very little of that. Certainly not any the millions they’ve invested with the lawyers and lobbyists on this particular issue so far, for sure.

Geography

Second, the real complaint that the tribes have with the cardrooms on sports betting, is about the real estate. The cardrooms, which the larger ones are almost exclusively in metropolitan areas, the real estate favors the cardrooms.

With any introduction of sports betting, it is likely the path will duplicate what some other jurisdictions have done previously: roll out the product as land-based only to start. This is concerning to the tribes, but perhaps they have no reason to be concerned.

Let’s take the person who lives in West LA, would he prefer to drive 20-30 minutes to Hollywood Park (or a little longer to Gardena or the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens) or at least double that time to San Manuel, Pechanga or Chumash to make a bet?

This isn’t really business the tribes are getting anyway, and you’re almost certainly losing business because of it. Very similar to the table games issue, in my view.

What’s the plan?

Third, it’s pretty clear the sportsbooks don’t have a plan for California, at least yet. Exhibit A would be the first ill-advised ballot proposition, which effectively killed any chance of getting the matter to the voters in 2018, and certainly didn’t help things for 2020 and perhaps beyond.

Some European operators are online only; the thought of doing retail (walkup, traditional) mortifies some of them. However, they are also natural partners for the cardrooms, as in any legislation that goes through, the cardrooms likely wouldn’t be able to take bets themselves, and would be consigned to charging rent to their operator-tenant.

So, some of this delay in the process is technology-driven, or rather the inability of some modern online operators to operate a “traditional” sportsbook. However, some operators have walkup books in Nevada, the UK, and other jurisdictions and can certainly use their experience to a competitive advantage if and when California opens for business.

Finally, and most importantly in my view, unlike the struggle to get online poker legalized, there’s more than enough money to go around. Pretax revenue for a mature California market, retail books only, has been estimated to approach $1 billion, or roughly 40 times what online poker was estimated to bring in.

At a ten percent tax rate, which is a reasonable one for all parties involved, tax revenue could approach $100 million.

Suggestion box

While the legislature has traditionally deferred to the stakeholders to hammer out their own deal and get back to them, perhaps its time for the legislature to legislate more aggressively instead of defer, because of the amount of potential tax revenue involved.

As stated in the beginning, the real stakeholders in this are the people of the State of California, and as such they’re owed a duty by the people who represent them in Sacramento to get this matter to ballot as efficiently as possible. Especially as there will be layers in this, because of the underlying previous disputes, the legislature would be well advised to be more proactive this time around.

The post California Sports Betting Faces Tough But Not Impossible Road appeared first on Legal Sports Report.

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Daily Racing Tips – Monday 31st December

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Gosford – Race 1 2.15pm AEDT

No. 1 Battle Anthem

Battle Anthem returned to the races with a front-running win at Kembla Grange and a repeat of that performance would make him tough to beat in this assignment. 1000 metres is his pet trip and he could run the rest of this field off their feet.

Bet Now: Gosford Race 1

Gosford – Race 5 4.45pm AEDT

No. 8 Admissable

Admissable found the line nicely after having a tough run in transit at Kembla Grange last start and she finds herself in a winnable contest this afternoon. She will get a long way back from the wide barrier draw, but that is her pattern anyway and she can finish over the top of her rivals.

Bet Now: Gosford Race 5

 

Gosford – Race 7 5:55pm AEDT

No. 2 Sytus

Sytus is a horse with more ability than his his record suggests and he had genuine excuses when he failed to fire first-up. Christian Reith should be able to settle him closer to the speed and I expect to see a much improved performance.

Bet Now: Gosford Race 7

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Crypto Startups Forked Out $878,000 To White Hats In 2018

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Bitcoin may have been dubbed the “world’s most secure transaction settlement layer” by Anthony Pompliano, but the industry surrounding the protocol may not be all too secure. Case in point, crypto startups have forked out over $878,000 in bounty to white hat hackers in 2018, specifically for solving bugs that slipped under the radar.

Crypto Startups Awarded $878,000 To “Goody Two Shoes” Hackers

The Next Web’s Hard Fork column recently reported that over the course of 2018, blockchain firms awarded $878,504 to goody too shoes hackers for rectifying bugs. Block.one, the company behind the crypto juggernaut in EOS, forked out upwards of 60% of the aforementioned sum. Considering that the startup raked in an approximated $4 billion for its EOS token offering, one of the most hyped cryptocurrencies of all-time, it makes sense why Block.one awarded $534,500 to white hats.

Interestingly Coinbase, the seemingly unhackable $8 billion upstart, comes in behind Block.one with $290,381 in paid bounties. But, HackerOne, the cybersecurity platform that compiled the data, didn’t divulge how much of that sum was a result of 2018 bugs, as Coinbase purportedly began its disclosure program in 2014. Justin Sun-headed Tron, which recently surpassed a number of pertinent milestones, has found itself behind Coinbase, allowing white hats to score $76,200.

Yet these quintuple and sextuple figures are edge cases, as a HackerOne spokesperson told Hard Fork that “the average bounty [paid] for blockchain companies in 2018 was $1,490, that is higher than the Q4 platform average of around $900.”

Still Vulnerable 

While many crypto projects talk a big game, the bottom line is that many blockchains and cryptocurrency-friendly startups remain vulnerable. As reported by financial binary options in early-August, Altex, a lesser-known crypto asset exchange, saw its ARQ stash get looted. The platform claimed that it “lost a big amount,” specifically due to a bug that hails from the Monero codebase.

Just two months later, Pigeoncoin (PGN) fell victim to an odd inflation bug, CVE-2018-17144, that allowed a bad actor to whip up 235 million PGN within a day’s time. Interestingly, the bugged line of code comes from the Bitcoin protocol. The issue has since been patched by Bitcoin Core (the software) developers, but this event still shocked consumers en-masse.

Ground-breaking bugs aren’t limited to the small-cap cryptocurrencies. In July, SlowMist, a Chinese cybersecurity firm, claimed that an anonymous user managed to double spend 694 Tether (USDT). According to SlowMist, a transactor was able to gain credit for 694 USDT on an exchange without sending the funds. Upon digging, it was discovered that the issue was the fault of the victimized exchange. Dacoinminister, a founder of the Omni Protocol, which Tether is based on, wrote:

“It appears that what happened here is that an exchange wasn’t checking the valid flag on transactions. They accepted a transaction with valid=false (which they should not have), and then the second “double spend” transaction had valid=true, which they also accepted.”

Regardless of where this problem originated from, the three aforementioned cases only accentuate the fact that this industry remains nascent. So, this industry’s developers still have a ways to go until crypto is spick and span, and ready for worldwide consumption.

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Amazon (AMZN) Posts Record Holiday Sales To Outperform FAANG Over Xmas

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Although Amazon (AMZN) remains on thin ice, especially as equity markets continue to toss and turn, the world-renowned Nasdaq stock performed its FAANG counterparts over Xmas week. Many analysts have chalked up its relatively strong performance to booming holiday sales data.

Amazon Booms Over Xmas Week

Holiday seasons are retail stocks’ home rink, so to speak. Holiday cheer, coupled with notable agnostic and non-agnostic celebrations, pushes consumers to buy copious amount of product. This year, it seems that Amazon was primarily the back-end of the holiday-induced retail influx. Citing a company statement, The Motley Fool claims that past weeks saw the Seattle-headquartered firm process “more items worldwide than ever before.” Moreover, the giant purportedly sold more in-house products (Fire, Kindle, Echo, etc.) than holiday 2017. Amazon also hinted that its Prime business is booming, noting that one billion items were shipped to members over holiday 2018.

Analysts have claimed that this sales data pushed AMZN higher over Xmas week. In fact, from the past week’s trough to peak, AMZN is up 11.6%. This gain is notable, especially considering Alphabet’s (GOOGL) +6.4%, Apple’s (AAPL) +6.4%, and Facebook’s (FB) +8.1% performance in the same context (trough to peak).

However, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows over in Amazon’s camp. CNBC recently reported that AMZN is performing dismally in fiscal Q4 of 2018. So poor that the stock is on track to post its worst quarterly percentage loss since 2008’s Great Recession. And while preliminary holiday sales data could have been the firm’s savior, the relief its release provided is likely just a flash in the pan. This might be for good reason too.

In the third quarter, Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud computing branch, didn’t swell at the rate pundits predicted. This lackluster growth saw AWS, an (often) rapidly growing arm in the overarching Amazon conglomerate, rake in revenues that missed the mark.

CNBC touted the idea that Amazon’s shoddy performance in Europe can also be a factor behind AMZN’s harrowing quarterly performance. IMRG, a U.K.-based online retail group, recently reported lethargic year-over-year revenue growth for over-Internet purchases. The consortium specifically cited “weaker-than-expected revenue outlooks” from ASOS and Sports Direct, but it can be assumed that Brits are also putting a pause on their Amazon spending as well.

Crypto Proponents Paint Harrowing Picture For Equity Markets

While holiday cheer blessed AMZN with its presence, the crypto industry hasn’t done as well. On Christmas Day, the aggregate value of all cryptocurrencies fell by $16 billion, which came after a double-digit (pre-)Santa Claus rally that had traders stating that a bull run was around the corner.

Related Reading: Crypto Markets Beat a Retreat at Christmas, $16 Billion Dumped

And while crypto continues to struggle, a number of decentralists have exclaimed that digital assets, like Bitcoin, will outperform U.S. indices over 2019. Travis Kling, the founder of Ikigai Fund, recently drew attention to the fact that Bitcoin was birthed during the commencement of globally-coordinated quantitative easing (QE) — “the largest monetary experiment [of all time].” In Kling’s eyes, it is only logical that traditional equities have stumbled as QE has started to lag, catalyzed by a shift in strategy utilized by international monetary incumbents.

Keeping all this in mind, Kling noted that there “is a significant chance [that] crypto is the best performing asset class in 2019.” This isn’t any old baseless claim, as the Ikigai founder laid out his reasoning for this outlook in a recent TD Ameritrade interview. As reported by financial binary options previously, Kling stated that crypto assets, namely Bitcoin, give consumers “the ability to opt-out of the largest monetary experiment of human history,” as it is a “non-sovereign digital money” that transcends shortcomings in traditional markets.

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Ethereum Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin Rebuts Criticism From Bitcoin Advocate

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Although Ethereum is one of the most well-recognized projects in this budding industry, it has undoubtedly gained notoriety in some circles of the cryptocurrency industry. While many have kept their apprehension self-contained, one gritty cynic took to Twitter to speak his mind, claiming that ETH is best kept a “science experiment.” Yet, Vitalik Buterin, arguably the most notable co-founder of Ethereum, released a long-winded response that aimed to debunk the critic’s conjectures.

Bitcoin Investor Bashes Ethereum

On Friday, Tuur Demeester, an altcoin cynic, Bitcoin proponent, and investor, compiled his years of skepticism towards Ethereum, issuing a 50-part Twitter thread on the matter. Through his scathing messages, Demeester, the founder of Adamant Capital, a so-called “Bitcoin Alpha Fund,” conveyed a multitude of reasons why he’s skeptical of the project.

In his eyes, Ethereum’s underlying architecture and culture is the stark opposite of Bitcoin’s. Yet, the former project is apparently still seeking to achieve decentralization and immutability, while becoming a store of value, an asset issuance platform, and a smart contract facilitator. Demeester sees these unbridled ambitions as non-sensical, explaining the project is a “science experiment at best,” before quipping that its ~$15 billion valuation is too high.

Along with these overarching criticisms, the critic also claimed that the project’s scaling prospects, especially with sharding and Proof of Stake (PoS), are dismal. Demeester noted that nothing gets delivered on time, claiming that the integration of sharding is a “pipe dream,” and that PoS is fundamentally flawed. The Adamant Capital chief even added that the draft Correct-By-Construction Casper whitepaper was lackluster, specifically citing an “unmerciful peer review” from “reputable developers.”

Coalescing his points into a single comment, the Bitcoin advocate flat-out stated that Ethereum is the “Yahoo of our day — an unscalable ‘blue chip’ cryptocurrency.”

Related Reading: Crypto Developments Aplenty at Devcon4, Serenity Among Them

Vitalik Buterin Didn’t Take The Criticism Lying Down

And while Demeester’s comments festered in the mind of the crypto community for a day, on Saturday, Vitalik Buterin made it clear that he wasn’t going to take the criticism lying down. Buterin, a Russian-Canadian coder extraordinaire and long-time Bitcoin community member, took to Ethereum’s official subreddit to release a point-by-point refutation of the critic’s qualms.

Tuur’s criticism discussion thread from ethereum

The developer first claimed that he finds Ethereum’s culture “far saner [than that of Bitcoin],” but joked that he’s evidently biased on that front. Commenting on the “science experiment” quip, Buterin noted that this isn’t a valid argument, potentially touching on the sentiment that at this stage, all blockchain projects are still fleshed-out prototypes. Buterin even rebutted Demeester’s claims that on-scale scaling for Ethereum is nothing more than a quixotic dream, writing:

“The core principles [of sharding] have been known for years, the core design for nearly a year, and details for months, with implementations on the way. Sure, sharding is not yet finished. Though more incremental stuff has been going well, eg. uncle rates are at near record lows despite very high chain usage.”

In closing, Buterin claimed that Demeester skipped over “the progress that the Ethereum community has made in expanding and professionalizing,” even in terms of scaling protocols that could eventually turn the project on its head. And on the matter of PoS qualms, the cryptocurrency savant said that many objections to this consensus mechanism “are cultural, not technical,” subsequently hinting that having a culture that’s fine with tradeoffs is part of Ethereum’s strengths.

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Ethereum Closes Gap on XRP, While Tron Makes Network Milestones

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The recent market volatility has resulted in constant shifting of the order of the top ten cryptocurrencies by market capitalization. Naturally Bitcoin remains at the head of the digital table but the battle for second place is heating up again.

Market Cap Gap Under $1 Billion

Ethereum’s recent recovery has outpaced that of XRP enabling it to close the gap on second place. By late November Ethereum had plunged so far that Ripple’s XRP surpassed it as the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization.

XRP increased that gap over the following six weeks as Ethereum fell even further hitting an 18 month low of $85 on December 15. At its greatest the difference between the two crypto assets was over $3 billion market cap when Ethereum dropped below $10 billion.

Since that low ETH has recovered almost 60% to its current level around $135. XRP in comparison has only made 28% back from its mid-December low of $0.283. Despite making more fintech partnerships and expanding RippleNet, XRP has not been able to match Ethereum’s recovery rate and the gap is closing.

At the time of writing the difference between the two cryptocurrencies was $750 million market cap. XRP has lost 3% on the day whereas Ethereum is only down 1%.

Tron Hits Network Milestones

Further down the chart Tron has managed to hold tenth spot and is challenging for ninth. Cardano has dropped out of the top ten completely and has been one of the year’s worst performing altcoins. Since the 2018 low on December 15 TRX has recovered 58% and its market cap is currently $1.3 billion, closing up on Bitcoin SV above it with $1.5 billion.

The Tron network continues to expand reaching a million accounts last weekend as tweeted by founder Justin Sun;

This impressive milestone has come just 184 days after mainnet launch. In comparison Ethereum to 542 days to reach a million accounts after its mainnet went live.

As pointed out by Sludgefeed Tron hit another milestone last week when it reached over a million contract triggers which is a signal of increased gaming dApp activity on the network.

TRX is currently trading 3% down on the day as markets pull back from yesterday’s $10 billion pump during the Asian trading session. Since last weekend it has dropped almost 5% but over the past month TRX has made a 40% recovery from yearly lows.

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Crypto Trading Update: Another Pullback Paints Markets Red

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FOMO Moments

Crypto markets retreat after yesterday’s gains; Bitcoin Cash sliding back, Ethereum holding ground.

Another day, another pullback. Yesterday’s big $10 billion pump could not be sustained and markets have retreated again this Sunday. Total capitalization has sunk back below $130 billion as crypto assets fail to maintain momentum over the weekend.

Bitcoin hit an intraday high of $3,960 twice but could not break resistance there. A few hours ago a reverse of yesterday’s $200 spike happened and BTC dumped almost 4% in an hour. BTC was back at just over $3,800 where it appears to have found temporary support at the time of writing.

Ethereum has managed to hold on to its recent gains and is still trading at around $135. This has enabled ETH to close the gap on XRP which has lost 3% on the day. There is now less than a billion dollars market cap between second and third places and another flippening could be around the corner.

All of the altcoins in the top ten are in the red with Bitcoin Cash taking the brunt of things as usual. Down another 5% BCH has fallen back to $160, while BSV is 3% down at just below $90. The rest have lost a couple of a percent as yesterday’s gains get eroded again.

More red swathes the top twenty during today’s Asian trading session. Maker is close to dropping further down the chart with a 5% slide, while Iota, Dash and Zcash are losing over 3% as markets correct again. The rest are down marginally from yesterday’s levels.

The fomo train has stopped at the PIVX station today where a 40% pump is occurring to take it over a dollar. DigixDAO and Zcoin are also among the few making reasonable gains today with 8% each at the time of writing. ODEM is in the digital hurt locker being the only altcoins dropping double digits right now.

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Total crypto market capitalization is back to $129 billion after losing just over 2% on the day. One single swift dump a few hours ago has caused it. Daily volume has also fallen back to $16 billion as markets cool off again in their repeating cycles. Since last Sunday crypto markets have lost almost 4% but over the month they are at the same level.

FOMO Moments is a section that takes a daily look at the top 20 cryptocurrencies during the current trading session and analyses the best-performing ones, looking for trends and possible fundamentals.

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