Disastrous Sports Betting Decision
I qualify as only a casual sports fan. However, having cut my journalistic teeth as a part-time sportswriter in high school, I still follow developments in the sports world.
And, when it comes to sports, I would label last month’s Supreme Court decision opening the door to widespread sports betting as one of the most disastrous of the past century.
To be technical, the court invalidated a federal law limiting the practice to a few states. But media outlets have reported that 32 states may legalize sports betting as a result of the ruling.
Increasing Potential Corruption
It is highly ironic the ruling came on the heels of the NCAA’s Commission on College Basketball handing down a series of recommendations that will bring “sweeping changes” to college basketball.
Lest we forget, the commission sprang directly from such recent scandals as the arrests of coaches on bribery and other charges, and the firings of others.
Just to foreshadow what we can expect, a few days after the ruling, former pro Metta World Peace (a/k/a Ron Artest) told of being offered bribes several times to throw games in college.
So as a nation, our collective response to the taint plaguing sports is to legalize betting on them?
It’s akin to a country that loses more citizens to opioid overdoses in a year than the Vietnam War claimed in two decades deciding to legalize marijuana.
It would be laughable were it not so serious. The potential for game fixing and increased corruption alone threatens games at every level. Add to that additional problem gamblers, heightened losses for existing addicts, and exposure to gambling among children. It’s a recipe for disaster.
According to a story that appeared the day of the ruling, Americans already lose an estimated $117 billion annually on state-sanctioned gambling.
Les Bernal, national director of Stop Predatory Gambling, told PE News (a website to which I contribute) that economic troubles will escalate for those who bet on athletic contests.
“It’s a naked money grab from the wallets of ordinary Americans cloaked as a ‘states’ rights’ case,” Bernal said.
“Sports betting is especially dangerous for American kids,” he went on. “Studies show that children in those countries with legal sports gambling are repeatedly exposed to harmful messages . . . It normalizes gambling for kids.”
The ruling brought to mind a story I wrote nearly 20 years ago for a Christian sports magazine about the hazards of gambling.
One of my sources: a church staff member once on the verge of suicide because of his gambling addiction. Among his losses were high school tournament games that he said gamblers had fixed.
While it was a telephone interview, months later I met him while working on a different feature.
I mentioned the story I had written. And, a willingness to explore the topic further if he were interested.
I could see the fear in his eyes at the mere thought of getting into much detail. Though years had passed, I think he feared a gambler resurfacing in his life.
Losing Moral Compass
It may sound benign, even fiscally sound, to legalize betting on games when billions of dollars are already rolling across sports betting desks and online casinos.
As with the marijuana freight train, we seem inured to the negative impact that legalized sports betting will bring.
Laughably, in my state of West Virginia, the governor has been in discussions with casino operators about the “integrity fee” he wants casinos to pay for sports betting.
I think it would be better to call it a “no integrity fee.”
We will see that through lost homes, lost lives, and increased bribery and corruption. It will be one more piece of evidence that we as a nation have lost our moral compass.