A Penny for Pat’s Thoughts: Legalize Sports Gambling

A Penny For Pat's ThoughtsHow often have you looked at a football game and said, “Ravens by 3.5? I’d put $50 on that!” You then realize that, unless you are in Las Vegas, you don’t have any legal options to bet on the game, and the only way you could bet on the game is by going to Big Paulie down at the Italian deli only to hear “Don’t worry about it!” and “Why don’t you put down more  than $50?” While many people prefer to go the non-tax route, there could definitely be a more attractive option for the rest of the general population.

According to the American Gaming Association, there was an estimated $95 billion bet on college and professional football alone in 2015. However, only $2 billion was bet legally in Nevada, which is the only state with legalized sports betting. This is a major problem since the vast majority of sports betting is made through illegal means, resulting in a huge loss of potential tax revenues for the US government. So if the government and American Gaming Association wanted to boost some of their revenues, legalizing sports betting would definitely be the best way to go forward.


Sports Betting in Las Vegas. Photo credit Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar via Flickr, https://flic.kr/p/715fYX

Besides tax revenue, legalizing sports betting would also take out the Organized Crime element that runs the vast majority of all sports betting. Organized crime has plagued professional and collegiate sports since their inception. People worry that legalizing sports betting would be detrimental for big-time sports, due to the potential for widespread point-shaving and fixing of games, but this problem already exists. All the way back in the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, more commonly known as “The Black Sox Scandal,” notorious bootlegger/gambler/crime boss Arnold Rothstein is said to have conspired with White Sox players to throw the game in exchange for $5,000. Eight players were banned for life by the MLB, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, even though his involvement in the conspiracy remains in doubt. To think that legal sports betting would increase fixing or point-shaving is incorrect because it is already a thing when sports betting is illegal.

However, many well-versed gamblers would prefer that sports gambling remain illegal because of several monetary advantages. One reason that people would prefer that sports gambling remain illegal is because any winnings would now be known to the IRS and thus would have to be reported as taxable income. People would prefer that they get to keep all their winnings, and if given the choice between keeping all your money illegally or paying a tax on money you made legally, most people would still prefer the former. While this may be the case, legalized betting would definitely bring about a decrease in the amount of illegal gambling, creating a safer gambling environment.

Overall, there are several arguments for sports gambling to remain illegal, perhaps the strongest involves minimizing access to what unfortunately for some people becomes extremely addictive and damaging behavior, fraught with significant money loss and even the loss of trust in relationships. However, I truly believe that the best path for this issue is legalization. Several other developed nations, such as the United Kingdom, currently have legalized sports gambling, which helps keep open safe and practical routes to use for betting instead of having to go to the backroom to make your bets.

Remember, if you or someone you care about is suffering from an addiction to gambling, please use the link for Gamblers Anonymous.