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Pigskins (and greenbacks) are flying in fall

Preseason accolades and optimism swirl around two powerful football teams of the Palmetto state: Clemson and the University of South Carolina. The USA Today poll puts the Tigers at number one nationally while the Post & Courier projects a 10-win season for the Gamecocks. When Clemson’s Bryant, like his predecessor Watson, throws footballs, he completes about two-thirds of the passes. All the college teams swung into action by the time you read this Charleston Mercury. Meanwhile the NFL teams play for keeps commencing after Labor Day weekend, including their highlighted Monday and Thursday night games and October Sunday morning games from London.

A new twist in the money angle of the football games this season is the Supreme Court’s federal legalization in May of sports gambling. Know that owners of the Cowboys and Patriots stand to gain revenue through stakes in DraftKings. As more fans put the anthem controversy behind them and start betting legally, there will likely be more eyeballs on the NFL game telecasts. A commercial gambling British invasion immediately happened this summer through the FanDuel Group: They established a foothold in the states with a push into fantasy football three years ago.

The English have had legal “betting parlors” since 1961. This is just a couple of years before the Beatles came to America, in the rock and roll invasion. The betting stores in England eventually peaked at 16,000 after a dozen years and have since declined to about 9,000. As a reference, compare this to McDonalds or Starbucks locations in the U.S., as we have around 14,000 of each. Keep in mind that England’s population is less than a quarter of the U.S.’s.

State governments must approve and regulate in-person gambling operations within their borders — there are eight outside of Nevada at present. Because the Internet has no borders, bettors everywhere can gamble via their computers, tablets and smartphones. Amazon’s Alexa, a personal assistant, awaits bettors’ verbal commands, too.

Let’s look at an example of a professional football game and a fan — the Redskins game in New Jersey versus the Giants October 28th. New Jersey has full-scale legalized sports betting, so folks headed to the game can bet, in-person, on the outcome at a venue within that state. And if rabid ‘Skins fans embark from D.C., they could alter their pre-game mood by lighting up legalized marijuana before using their designated driver to go to see the game at East Rutherford. If casinos’ recent history is a gauge, “the house” keeps about 4.5 per cent on the football and basketball bets. The bookmakers lay out the point spreads for games, not usually giving fans the choice to bet strictly on their team winning (or losing) the game. A botched extra point or meaning safety can foul up bettors’ point spreads while the coaches and players play to win.

South Carolina has run its lottery since 2002 and legalized church raffles in 2015. Somewhat surprising is that for every dollar spent on the lottery, there are only 45 cents of winnings, according to A bill proposing betting on horse races and professional sports, in South Carolina, died at the end of the 2018 legislative session. Will we see a race to sports gambling venues with our bordering states of North Carolina and Georgia, like the evolution of lotteries earmarked to help those states’ education funding?

[On a personal note, my son’s work at a Bi-Lo included selling lottery tickets. He coincidentally benefitted from the state’s proceeds set aside to education when he attended Trident Tech for his EMS training.]

In the NCAA world, “integrity fees” is the hot topic. As an example, two large West Virginia universities engaged lawmakers in their state to skim .25 per cent of regulated sports betting on their teams. The schools’ stance is that they need new money to fund new monitoring staff. That state’s final law and regulations go into effect September 1.

Like alcohol consumption, there are some people who succumb to gambling taking over their lives. Although I am not an alcohol or gambling expert, my research found that about 2.3 percent of Americans were problem gamblers in 2008. For sheer profits, the advertising money from sports betting houses focus on the unsophisticated bettor. P.T. Barnum is attributed with the adage “there is a sucker born every minute.” One shutters to think of the coming ease of betting by cell phone messaging and the gateway to self-harm it represents.

My financial planning and investment clients have not raised gambling issues with me, other than regarding a relative having a gambling addiction. Dependency and enabling behaviors then become the primary topics of dialogue. Legal trust documents drawn up by attorneys provide protection of hard-earned and well-planned money from the out-of-control gambler.

This writer does not focus on gambling advice, simply offering: 1) do not bet in illegal systems benefiting professional criminals, 2) never create a conflict of interest by communicating with players on teams you or people you know bet on, 3) only bet with what you can afford to lose, after considering the positive impact on our world if you instead gave that amount to a charity, 4) be aware of the per cent of bet money that “the house” keeps and 5) do not disrupt your and your loved one’s financial plans.

For full disclosure, know that I occasionally drop a few dollars into slot machines on my cruise ship vacations. This is part of the entertainment part of my budget. For the IRS trigger-point of completing a winner’s Form W2-G, sadly I have had no gains in the $1,200 or above range.

Lastly, one seasonal event to celebrate is Saturday night, September 22, the autumnal equinox. This marks the point of summer’s end when the nights’ Duke-blue sky begins to outlast the daytime’s (North) Carolina-blue sky. Yes, I am excited that college basketball practices commence in earnest in October and the round balls will fly along with the pigskins!

Scott Wells, CFP®, CKA®, is a teacher of financial planning topics at the College of Charleston. A Duke Economics graduate, he moved to Charleston after 20 years working in North Carolina. Scott is president of Family Legacy Concepts, based in Mt. Pleasant and may be reached at or (843) 822-5353. Scott is a registered representative with Cambridge Investment Research, Inc, member FINRA/SIPC. Independent advisory services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc. Cambridge and Family Legacy Concepts are not affiliated.

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