Time has blurred specific details, but the memory of losing money never fades.
It happened about 25 years ago in college. A friend asked if I wanted to bet on a game. Don’t remember if it was NBA, NFL or something else, but I reluctantly put down $20, which wasn’t chump change for a college kid scraping by.
I didn’t know how the whole betting process worked. I knew a bookie was involved but odds, parlays and point spreads might as well have been astrophysics.
Anyway, I lost and immediately felt like I had just flushed $20 down the drain, a kick in the pants for a self-admitted scrooge. That was my first and last wager made on a sports event, not counting horse races and March Madness office pools.
Gambling never will be a personal preference, but I stand firmly on the side of free will and thus applaud the Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that opens the door for legalized sports betting in this country.
The court struck down a federal law that prohibited sports gambling with the exception of Nevada. There are many questions and unknowns about how this will play out, including how long Minnesota waits before getting involved — but sports in America unequivocally will change with this decision.
Bringing sports betting out of the shadows is long overdue. Americans illegally wager $150 billion on sports every year, according to the American Gaming Association. Newspapers across the country, including this one, run betting lines daily.
Gambling is deeply rooted in our culture. Good, law-abiding people love to wager on sports. So why not make it legal under state regulations that could generate valuable revenue? Why force a large segment of the population to use offshore websites or personal bookies?
Opponents of sports gambling often voice two primary concerns: addiction and game-fixing.
Gambling undeniably can lead to addiction. Statistics show it. Just as alcohol use can result in addiction. And cigarettes.
Would the legalization of gambling cause an increase in addiction and financial hardships? Unfortunately, that’s a reasonable assumption and will require more awareness and treatment options.
But an individual’s freedom to make choices should not be restricted out of fear that a small percentage will not act responsibly. Gambling ruins lives but not every life of every gambler. The federal government shouldn’t interfere with a person’s choice to put down $10 on an NFL game.
Sports leagues have argued that legalized gambling would threaten the integrity of their game by creating greater temptation and opportunity for bettors to fix outcomes. History already has proven that cheaters will seek to fix games whether gambling is legal or illegal.
Will the number of point-shaving cases grow? Not necessarily. If anything, leagues will be compelled to monitor game activity and suspicious betting practices even more closely.
This ruling will be a game-changer because gambling drives interest and viewership, which, in turn, drives revenue. The NFL’s popularity is intertwined with the proliferation of fantasy football action. A person with money riding on an outcome or a certain player’s statistics will watch an otherwise meaningless game that offers no emotional attachment.
Ever witness Twitter explode in disgust — or jubilation — after a three-pointer or touchdown in the final seconds of a game that already has been decided? Point spreads matter to many.
Sports leagues will demand and likely receive a cut of gambling revenue through what is called an “integrity fee.” Individual states also will benefit greatly from tax revenue generated.
States aren’t obligated to allow gambling, but pressure will be enormous on lawmakers as other states open for business. Minnesota won’t be leading the charge, but it will happen eventually.
For those who already wager on sports, betting will become more transparent and accessible. Maybe that will entice those who don’t bet to try their luck occasionally. And some, like me, likely will continue to pass.
Everyone should have the freedom to make that choice. To each his own.