Should sports betting be legal?

By Elad De Piccioto
 Getty / Mario Tama
*Updated 2018
The Supreme Court recently reversed a 26-year-old federal ban on sports betting, enabling each state to decide whether to allow wagers to be placed on baseball, basketball, football, hockey, among other sports games. Previously, sports betting had been prohibited nationwide, except in four states – Delaware, Nevada, Montana and Oregon. A vast majority of the American people had supported the legalization of sports betting (55% felt that betting on sports should be legal, only 35% opposed), not to mention that the president himself is a former owner of casinos. Therefore, this change in the federal government’s approach to the subject is not surprising.
Here are three reasons why the legalization of sports betting is positive and three more explaining why its negative:

In Support of Legalized Sports Betting:


It is already a thriving industry.

The betting industry has blossomed regardless of its legality. Illegal sports betting is a multi-billion-dollar industry (some estimates are as high as $150 billion); anyone who wants to place a bet can do so easily online or through local office pools and offshore books. Now, after the Supreme Court decision, states will be more inclined to consider or pass legislation to legalize sports betting, thus allowing 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, it has the potential to create jobs (estimated between 125,000-152,000 jobs) for the American people. Researchers estimate that legalized, regulated sports betting could actually bring in a total of $6 billion in annual revenue for states by 2023.

Moreover, it has potential to bring huge money into the United States and keep it there. 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 US Supreme Court, once said: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman…” Meaning, legalized sports betting will actually make it harder to fix games. This is because once legalized, sports betting will be monitored, and any irregular activity will be easily detected. It is easier to fix games in an un-monitored environment, in which money flows under the radar. Therefore, the common belief that legalizing sports betting will corrupt sports is wrong.


Against Legalized Sports Betting:


The house always wins.

Many of those who argued for the legalization of sports betting claimed that it’s more about skills than luck. They said 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; often, the unexpected happens, which can affect everyone from team owners 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 sports betting won’t eliminate illegal betting and the problems that accompany it. For instance, increased opportunities to gamble on sports may increase the amount of gamblers, yet services to help gambling addicts will most likely not rise in parallel.


It will change American sports’ nature

Legalizing gambling on sports will gradually change American sports. As with everything that involves money, the sports industry 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 sporting event knows that once you place a bet, the focus of the game suddenly becomes  money, not the game itself. And that’s not what sports is about.


Bottom line: The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal ban on sports betting is reasonable, especially since it is already happening to a large extent, and states deserve to monetarily benefit from it. On the other hand, legalizing betting won’t eliminate illegal betting and will negatively change the nature of sporting events. Do you support the legalization of sports betting? Would you place a bet on your favorite team?

Write a response...
See what else you’re missing