Saturday, December 20, 2014

Give Us a Sporting Chance

Hey, it’s the weekend, and you know what that means?  SPORTS!  Whatever time of year, many red-blooded American males (and plenty of red-blooded females) avail themselves to the tube, radio, or Internet (that’s that thing in the sky, Senator Reid), to follow their favorite teams.  Be it football, basketball, baseball, or games played without a ball (I’m looking at YOU, hockey), we’re nuts about sports here in the USA.

Throughout the world, folks are nuts about team sports, too.  Sure, the sport might be a bit different (soccer…uh, football, cricket, rugby, hurling), but they are as passionate as we are about their teams.  And just like us, they like to brag, cheer, and support them however they can.  Heck, sometimes they even throw down a quid or two to back the boys.

Wait a minute.  We can’t do that.  But pretty much everyone else in the free world can.  How the hell did THAT happen?  Why can’t we Americans bet on sports?

OK, let me clarify – sure, if you’re in Nevada you can bet sports.  New Jersey residents might get the chance, maybe, supposedly, soon, perhaps.  Heck, even here in Oregon we had some pseudo-sports betting opportunities via the Lottery, but those days are gone.  But for the most part, if you live in the other 49 states, you can’t legally bet your favorite team, or even your least favorite because they most likely will cover the spread.  Because there is no spread, and no legal betting.

That doesn’t mean we don’t TRY to wrangle a wager.  There’s beaucoup illegal betting going on, in offshore websites, backroom bookies, Sugar Bowl squares, unofficial side wagers among friends, March Madness brackets, Super Bowl pools, and so much more.  The AGA estimates that only 1% of all sports betting is legal (Nevada); the other 99% ($380 Billion with a “B”) goes to the non-legal stuff.  I’d bet it’s larger than that.

Is it because we want to keep the game “pure?”  Yes, the Black Sox scandal rocked baseball, but that was when professional athletes made a pittance and had second jobs in the off-season to make ends meet.  Look me in the eye and tell me LeBron is going to toss a game so he can make an extra $50K on the side.  Chump change, chump.

Is it some other moral reasoning?  That’s doubtful and one I’d fade in a heartbeat.  Even politicians who claim to be anti-gambling have been documented making all sorts of wagers (looking at YOU, Idaho Senator Risch).  Apparently they are anti-gambling only for their constituents.  At least Alabama’s anti-gambling Governor refused his winnings (like Captain Renault in Casablanca – he did get his prize the year previous).
Why don’t we bet on sports?  It’s the money, of course.

Why would a state give you a nearly 50/50 chance on this weekend’s football games when their take from their mega-ball lottery game is sooooooooooo much bigger?  I can see that logic, but frankly, only the sports-statistically challenged play the Lotto.

Yes, there’s the new Daily Fantasy Sports stuff.  Not the same.

There are many who think sports betting will eventually become a thing.  The NBA commissioner, for one.  Mark Cuban for another.  These guys, too (well, the first three in the debate, at least).  Most people in poll after poll

In America, gambling on sports is seen as a bad thing – criminal, sinister, harmful, despicable.  In Europe, the bookmaking profession is considered an honorable one, while sports betting is considered as pastime for many sports fans, one that increases their interest their favorite sporting events.

Online sports betting would be a bonanza if we did it NATIONALLY.  Figure the vig on $380 Billion.  And if it was online, that number would be SOOOO much BIGGER!  Goodbye, deficit!  Hello, improved infrastructure!  And I wouldn’t look wistfully at my Las Vegas friends again when they cash in their Future Bets.*

* I figure by the time I can actually make a legal sports bet here in Oregon, the Lions will no longer be such a long shot for the Super Bowl**.

** Seriously, who am I kidding?

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