The Legality of Gambling on Races

The Legality of Gambling on Races

The legality of gambling on races has come under question in recent years. In May of 2015 Ironman event organizer the World Triathalon Company gave up $2.76 million worth of funds that athletes were forced to pay in order to gain the opportunity to compete at the Ironman World Championship. They gave up the money as the result of a court case in which the Florida U.S. Attorney’s office sued the World Triathalon Company for having charged athletes for the chance to compete since 2012.

Every year 2,000 qualifying athletes participate in the Ironman World Championship while an additional 100 spots are made available to the athletes that each pay for their chance to compete. Athletes have had to pay a fee to play the lottery drawing that gets them the privilege of competing dating back to 1989. Those who pay money for the opportunity to compete but don’t get the chance to are refused a refund of the fee they paid.

In 2014, 12,292 athletes paid $50 to enter the lottery while in 2015 14,254 athletes paid the fee. The court case against the company revolves around the legalities of forcing athletes to pay for an opportunity to compete. Lawmakers feel that this constitutes illegal gambling due to the fact that illegal gambling lasting a minimum of 30 days, involves at least five people and results in a gross daily revenue of $2,000. The Ironman World Championship includes each of these aspects.

If forcing athletes to pay a fee does count as illegal gambling it could mean trouble for other well known yearly races such as the Chicago and New York City marathons as well as the Mount Washington Road Race and the Marine Corps Marathon, as each of them charge athletes an entry fee. Those who participate in the Mount Washington Road Race as well as the Beach to Beacon 10K pay a lottery fee of $5, which is nonrefundable as well. Those athletes participating in the New York City Marathon pay a nonrefundable fee of $11. Since well over five athletes pay to compete in each race, United States code defines this as illegal. The exception is that athletes are not required to pay a fee to compete in the Marine Corps Marathon.

The only race that is truly under the microscope from a legal standpoint is the Ironman World Championship as the New York City and Chicago Marathon both last for longer than 30 days. Both the Mount Washington Road Race and the Beach to Beacon last fewer than 30 days but both have the potential to earn over $2,000 in revenues per day.

Though laws vary from state to state, private lotteries are not legal in any of the 50 states. The lottery run for the Chicago Marathon does not break any laws because they conduct free random drawings to determine who can participate in the event.

The controversy of the legality of gambling on races is an ongoing issue in the United States.