Should sports betting be legal?

By Elad De Piccioto
 Getty / Mario Tama
Sports betting is prohibited in the United States, except in four states – Delaware, Nevada, Montana and Oregon. With a vast majority of the American people supporting the legalization of sports betting (63% feel that betting on sports should be legal, only 29% oppose) and a president who is a former owner of casinos, a change in the federal government’s approach to the subject seems reasonable.
Here are three reasons for the legalization of sports betting and three against it:


Legalize Sports Betting:


Sports betting is already a thriving industry.

The betting industry blossoms regardless of its legality. The illegal betting industry is huge (an estimated annual scope totals $80-380 billion); anyone who wants to place a bet can do so easily online or through local office pools and offshore books.
Legalizing sports betting will allow people to continue betting but in a regulated and fairer environment. It will also prevent them from dealing with questionable bookies. Moreover, addicts will have fewer stigmas, which may make it easier for them to seek help.


It`s the economy, stupid.

Sports betting is good for the economy. Legalizing sports betting will obviously create huge state tax revenues. More importantly, legalizing sports betting will create jobs (around 1.4 million jobs) for the American people and will increase productivity while keeping money in the United States.

Moreover, it will bring huge money into the United States. Currently, most of the betting takes place online. It is more than likely that legalizing sports betting in America will trigger American telecommunications and tech companies to take over the international market.


Sports betting won’t corrupt the leagues.

Louis Brandeis, an American lawyer and associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, once said: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman…” Meaning, legalizing sports betting will actually make it harder to fix games.
Once legalized, sports betting will be monitored and any irregular activity will be easily detected, thus making it harder to fix games. It is easier to fix games in an unmonitored environment, in which money flows under the radar. Therefore, the common belief that legalizing sports betting will corrupt sports is wrong.


Don’t Legalize Sports Betting:



The house always wins.

Many of those who argue for the legalization of sports betting claim that it’s more about skills than luck. They say that much like stock trading, it’s about wittingly identifying opportunities and acting on them. But this assertion is wrong.

The human element has a huge impact on sports, and its often unexpected is prevalent all across the sports’ ecosystem, from team owners and down to the last player. Even where skill may improve odds of winning, people who bet on sports may not always possess the deep understanding of statistics required to win. People usually bet on sports based on a hunch, not knowledge. Sports betting is not about skills and it’s not like stock trading; it’s gambling, and as in gambling, the house always wins.


Legalizing sports betting won’t make illegal betting disappear  

The main reason people bet with bookies is not the lack of alternative but availability and, most importantly, the generous line of credit that bookies offer. Bettors don’t need to deposit money to bet with bookies, which makes it easier for them to bet with money they don’t have. This is also the main reason wagers get into troubling debt situations.

Moreover, bookies will offer better margins and betting rates for their customers since they won’t pay taxes. Thus, legalizing betting won’t eliminate illegal betting and the problems that accompany it.


Legalizing sports betting will change American sports’ nature

Legalizing sports betting will gradually change American sports. As with everything that involves money, sports will become even more commercialized than it is now.
In a slow but consistent process, the focus of American sports will become betting rather than the game itself. Anyone who has ever gambled on a sports game knows that once you made the bet, the focus and the framing of the game becomes the money, not the game itself. And that`s not what sports is about.


Bottom lines: Legalizing sports betting is reasonable, since betting already happens to a large extent, and we might as well benefit from it. Sports betting will also create huge income for states and will prevent fixing games. On the other hand, legalizing betting won’t eliminate illegal betting and will take the focus off of the game itself.

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