According to a recent poll, 53% of New Jersey voters agreed that sports betting should be legalized. The other 47% were too busy running illegal books to take part in the poll, and the rest of the country had no idea that betting on sports was illegal in the first place.
With the exception of Nevada, no state in the US offers a legal way to make a wager on professional sports, but all that may change if this recent trend finds its way into Washington. Here are just a few of the reasons why legalized sports betting would be a good idea.
1. Sports Betting is Happening Anyway
True, using this reason as primary justification opens up Pandora’s Box. After all, people also smoke pot, snort coke, and commit murder, despite all of those acts being illegal. However, betting on sports is one of the few acts that isn’t universally illegal.
Nevada holds quite a bit of leverage in this argument, as their legalized sports betting simply makes it foolish for other states not to follow suit. While Nevada also offers different forms of entertainment that are illegal in other states, this entertainment must take place in the state of Nevada to be legal.
With sports betting, however, a bet can be placed in Nevada, and won from anywhere else in the country. This is one reason why Las Vegas is such a busy place during key sports seasons such as; March Madness, the World Series, and the Super Bowl.
Because this presents sports gamblers with more of a nuisance than impossibility, Nevada’s tourism and gaming departments flourish. If other states were to adopt legalized sports betting, they would be able to offer their residents an alternative to the pricey Vegas trip, and keep more of the state’s revenue in state.
2. No Different Than Horse Racing or the Lotto
Perhaps what is most ironic about the lack of legalized sports betting in the country is the fact that it does not apply to all sports. Apparently, only the most popular sports are illegal to bet on. Every state in the country offers either a live race track or an OTB where residents can bet on horse or dog races.
Residents in most states are able to make wagers legally on horse races through sites like TVG.com. However, this was not always the case. The New York Times compiled an article regarding the controversy surrounding online gambling restrictions.
The small country of Antigua, who is home to many online casinos, took the United States to court (World Trade Organization) sighting the US was not in compliance with WTO regulations regarding online gambling. Antigua won this court battle in 2004, only further showing how far behind the US is in regards to regulations for betting and gambling.
In addition, many of these states offer lotteries and casinos where unlucky gamblers can blow paychecks as they please. Despite it being legal to bet on an animal or a number, it is illegal to bet on a person, which makes very little sense.
If games of chance are to be legalized, then they should be legalized across the board. Whether a gambler wishes to bet on horse racing, football, or what the high temperature will be, if there is a house willing to accept the action, it should be legal. There is nothing that makes sports betting any more or less dangerous.
In fact, in most cases, sports bets are relatively safe. All things being equal, there are only two potential outcomes in a sporting event; win or lose. Unlike a game of roulette where there are 38 potential outcomes, or the state lottery where there are millions of potential outcomes; sports betting actually offers a fairly straightforward approach.
3. Increased Popularity of Sports
While most of the teams and owners refuse to admit it, the popularity of most sports is judged by how many billions of dollars are wagered on sports annually. In fact, the Super Bowl alone is believed to have upwards of ten billion dollars wagered each year. With that kind of revenue changing hands illegally, imagine what could happen if sports betting were legalized.
Currently, US sports fans are able to bet on fantasy sports thanks to loopholes in online gambling laws. Betting on fantasy sports is a rapidly growing trend. More than a dozen websites manage daily betting on fantasy sports and the President of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association stated in 2008 nearly 7 million American and Canadian residents participated in some form of fantasy sports. This industry is grossing upwards of $800 million in the United States alone.
If the increasing trend of betting on fantasy sports is any indication, not only would the wagers increase for sports betting, but so would the popularity of the sports themselves, and the subsequent economy of franchised cities. Having a popular sports team is proven gold for a city’s economy. Not only does it create jobs and taxable revenue within the stadium, but it also provides an increase for the housing and retail markets in the close vicinity of the stadium.
Most people attending sporting events are treating the event as a vacation, and therefore are more likely to spend money at a restaurant or bar before or after the game. By rejuvenating interest in sports, many cities can rejuvenate their economies as well.
4. Taxable Income
All of the previous ideas have been logical and common-sense based. However, this is the first idea that appeals to lawmakers’ greatest sensibility; their wallets.
Once sports betting became legalized, states would then have a new source of taxable income to help support slumping budgets. If the Super Bowl is pulling in ten billion, and states were able to tax that, imagine the shot in the arm it would give the economy every January.
Barney Frank, the U.S. House Representative for Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district, is trying to pass a bill to legalize online gambling. This bill would include established regulations for gaming sites and provided protection for compulsive gamblers. If the bill is passed, states across the country will be able to introduce their own laws for residents to play in a safe and regulated market while collection upwards of a million dollars in tax revenue.
In addition, using legalized betting as a way of increasing revenue would mean that states would not be forced to raise taxes as often, if at all. It makes far more sense for far more people to tax money being exchanged illegally, than it does to raise taxes for all citizens across the board.
5. Regulation Will Benefit Everyone
Perhaps the biggest benefit is the regulation and protection of those involved in legalized sports betting. Not only will state backing prevent the number of loan-shark-related-leg-breakings per year, but it will also provide bookmakers with a safer and open way of do business.
Due to the unregulated nature surrounding online gambling, American’s are being put at risk due to ineffective, inconsistent and unnecessary government intrusions. If legislation was introduced to better organize Internet gambling, practical and enforceable standards would allow customers the protection and entertainment they deserve.
While opponents of legalized sports betting argue that it would take more money away from the poor, as they are the most likely to gamble, the reality is that legalized sports betting would attract a very small and concentrated audience.
Sports betting is just another form of entertainment that has not yet been adopted by government regulations. Those who have spent and majority of their lives betting illegally on sports would be better served to participate in a legalized and regulated form of betting where they will be better protected.
While legalized sports betting will not solve all of the financial woes across the country, it is projected to increase revenue on the state level, increase the popularity of the participating sports and offer participants a healthy form of entertainment to partake in with friends.