By Jake Winderman
The debate surrounding gambling in sports in the United States has been taking place for decades, and quite frankly, is as outdated and useless as prohibition. Since the early days of organized sports in England, not independent companies, but the teams themselves would host the earliest versions of sportsbooks at their team’s venues, where patrons attending the game could bet on the event to increase their stake in the athletic gridiron they were watching before them. The system has been so successful in not only England, but other countries such as Scotland, that nations are now hosting government funded, sports gambling websites to generate revenue for the country, and add entertainment to one of the most lucrative industries in the world.
For the most capitalistic society in the world, who has forgone ethics for profit many a times throughout history, not to finally accept legalized gambling as a vice they can profit off of, just seems absolutely ridiculous. The arguments you hear from the United States is that the legalization of gambling would hurt the integrity of the sport. The references you always hear for this seem to deal with either “Shoeless” Joe Jackson or Pete Rose, both of which were notorious for gambling on their own games in the MLB.
Unfortunately for gambling aficionados around the United States, these events are pretty isolated in American history, and if you take a real hard look at Pete Rose’s case, he never gambled against himself, or in any way that would negatively affect the outcome of his team. If anything, while not completely ethical, Rose betting on himself should’ve only given him and his Reds’ teams more incentive to pick up the win.
If the United States were to legalize gambling at a national level, the benefits to sports fans and the nation as a whole would be so much greater than the consequences of the current legislation which bans such activity. If the government stepped in, like in England, and hosted a national, sports gambling service, not only would the industry be regulated by the country’s top officials, but the profits as a whole for the United States would be unbelievable.
According to the American Gaming Association, $95 billion was gambled on the NFL and college football alone in the 2015 season. That number does not take into account any of the bets taken on the NBA, NHL, MLB or various other sports. If the American government simply put a 5% tax on all bets, the federal government would generate $4.75 billion a year just from college football and NFL bets. That revenue could be put towards infrastructure to fix crumbling roads and highways, towards the broken public education system or towards a plethora of other social welfare options to help vast number of Americans in need.
Looking at the issue from another angle, the legalization of gambling would also decriminalize the act of gambling on these games in the United States, helping ease the burden on our criminal justice system in putting resources that would be put towards the prevention of illegal gambling, to more important sectors. The legalization of this act would also help decrease the amount of Americans going to jail or prison for gambling, helping to alleviate the burden on the U.S. criminal justice system to stop overpopulating their prisons. From both a revenue and criminal justice standpoint, it would seem hard at this point to argue against the legalization, except for a slight ethics standpoint.
If the movement had major opposition from the American people, then I would completely understand why gambling hadn’t been legalized yet, due to the successful process of democracy in this country. Unfortunately, a good majority of Americans actually agree with the legalization of gambling. In a 2014 poll taken by the New York Times, 55% of people surveyed agreed with the stance of legalizing gambling. Not only the American people, but even prominent figures in the sporting industry have taken steps to show their support of changing an out of date system.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has publicly shown his support for the legalization of gambling, but in a well-regulated fashion as it should be. In a 2015 interview with CBS Sports, Silver stated, “It’s good for business, I don’t want to hide from that. Putting aside whether or not we’re actually actively involved in any of the betting, it creates more engagement. We all know as fans if you have, even like a gentleman’s bet or a $5 bet with your friend on a game, all of a sudden you’re a lot more interested.”
Silver furthered his point by bringing up the monetary aspect of the legalization of sports gambling, stating that the “latest estimate is there’s somewhere between $300 and $400 billion a year being bet on sports in this country.” If the commissioner of one of the four major sports in the United States can be open to discussing the legalization of sports gambling, by showing the positive impacts of it, it is asinine to think that the American government won’t let the people take a stance and decide for themselves how they would like to broach the subject.
At the end of the day, even with nationalized support, the movement can only move forward with the approval of the American government. And with the gridlock we’ve seen lately in Congress and the United States, the process may take a little longer for the American people, than had previously been expected. Nonetheless, the advancement of the legalization of sports gambling in the United States has made great strides in recent years, and the day of sportsbooks on your every corner may be closer than many can imagine.