The major sports leagues in the U.S. are not just going to sit back and let Delaware legalize sports betting. They obviously fear that it would establish a dangerous precedent. If you haven’t followed it, here’s a quick summary – the state of Delaware has decided to legalize sports betting as a way to raise more revenue for the state. There will be a lottery as well, but the controversial idea s that they will have Vegas-style sports books located in the existing race tracks in the state. Other states, especially New Jersey, are watching very closely because they would be interested in doing the same – in Atlantic City in New Jersey’s case. The state pushed through the legislation quickly and intends to have it up and running in time for the wildly lucrative football season. The leagues aren’t happy about it at all. They are outwardly opposed to gambling in any form, and their position is that they fear that widespread gambling will lead to corruption within the sport, or at least it will allow questions to be raised each time there is a close finish or a controversial call. In an attempt to stop progress in Delaware the four major sports and the NCAA have banded together and have sued the state.
This move by the leagues is, in my view, total garbage. I don’t totally understand why they are fighting it so hard, and I think it just makes them wildly hypocritical. The biggest offender in myvew is the NFL. They have the luxury of being by far the most popular sport in the country. They are fooling themselves, though, if they don’t think that sports betting isn’t a major driving force for that. Between those like us who formally bet with sports books, the casual bets between friends, the pools, and even fantasy football, the NFL fan frenzy is driven largely by people having a rooting interest for one team or the other. The NCAA is almost as bad – do you honestly believe a fraction of the people who now watch the tournament would do so if they didn’t have a bracket or three filled out and some cash on the line? I sure don’t. These leagues know full well that sports betting makes the what they are today, yet they attempt to criminalize and marginalize it in a transparent attempt to seem morally superior.
The stupidest thing about it is that you can’t convince me for a second that legalizing sports betting in Delaware, or everywhere for that matter, would do anything to open sports to more corruption or questions. Sports betting is already a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s not like the people who are most likely to spend the money and effort to try to fix a game are not going to do so because they can’t head down to Delaware Park to make a bet. Those guys can and do have millions on the line regardless of the legality of it all. Do you honestly think the mob worries to much about what is legal?
The biggest problem I have with it all is the attitude of the leagues. People who want to bet on sports are going to bet on sports, and most already are. All legalization would do is to allow the states to capture some revenue from the exercise . It’s not likely to dramatically increase the number of bettors or the amount of money bet – it would just redirect some of it. Teams are always happy to take millions from the public purse for a new stadium or a tax break, but now when they have a chance to give a little back at absolutely no expense to them, and no real impact to boot, they act like it is the most horrific thing ever.
If anything, letting the states be involved would be better for the leagues – it would make it much easier for them to work with the sports books, and would allow them to have a much better sense of when irregular betting patterns show up and what could be causing them. It would also be much easier to do something about a problem if an entity is in Delaware than it is if the book is in Kahnawake or somewhere in the Caribbean.
In my mind this is just another case of where the leagues think that they know better than the rest of us, and they are the moral supervisors of the planet. It’s all a bit silly, and in this case totally unnecessary. I sincerely hop that the leagues lose this one, but I’m sure not holding my breath.