Time to bet on betting

By Sam Deal, Sports Editor

As I prepared to send out March Madness invitations this week, the biggest challenge was to decide which brackets would be money ones and which ones would be purely for fun.

I ask myself this question every year in March and even with my obviously superior sporting knowledge, I end up throwing away about $50 entering my bracket into various pools and losing out to someone whose decisions were based on mascots and team colors rather than free throw percentage.

I like to think I’m a law-abiding person, but as I contemplated how to organize my different pools, I realized I was contemplating breaking federal law.

Maybe my $10 here and $20 there don’t matter all too much — such miniscule amounts of money can’t upset the system. But the estimated $380 billion that is illegally gambled in the United States each year catches the eye.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 banned sports betting in the United States with the exception of four states: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.

An estimated $12 billion is wagered on the NCAA tournament and only $100 million of that is gambled legally, according to an article on Time.com. I know I just wrote ‘only $100 million,’ meanwhile I’m concerned about fronting $10 for donuts in our newsroom.

But the magnitude of tax revenue not being capitalized upon in this scenario is about as frustrating as the amount not being exploited because of federal marijuana laws.

“The ban on sports betting does exactly what Prohibition did. It makes criminals rich. People still gamble, after all,” said The New Yorker’s James Suroweicki in a 2013 article.

Professional sports leagues claim legalized gambling will tarnish their games and increase the speculation of fixed games. In one of his first major moves as NBA commissioner, Adam Silver made it clear the NBA will be making an effort to move toward the legalization of sports betting when he wrote a column for the New York Times urging congress to permit states to allow sports betting.

Silver has become a pioneer for the legalization movement and standing out among major sports executives.

Two million people are addicted to gambling in the United States, according Scientific American, and the American Psychiatric Association recently moved gambling into its Addiction and Related Disorders category.

ESPN’s Rick Reilly wrote an article in 2013 about compulsive gambling and the effect it has on the lives of those involved.

Many of the evils associated with sports gambling were pointed out and many are undeniable, yet sports gambling persists. Legalization offers the opportunity for people to partake in safe gambling procedures and increase awareness about gambling addiction.

Sports betting is going to happen. Betting is ingrained into the very nature of sport and to think stamping “illegal” on it solves anything is immoral and lazy.

The act does not need to be repealed, but more freedoms and acceptance in culture toward sports gambling would open a new tax revenue stream and help educate people on the dangers of gambling.