A State Senator in New Jersey has sued the U.S. Justice Department seeking to legalize sports betting in the United States. Sports betting is only legal in four states, and just two states legally sanction it. This, to me, is a brilliant move, though one that is about 20 years too late.
The biggest reason to legalize sports betting is that it is already being done. As anyone reading this blog knows, sports betting is a huge business. Millions of people are active sports bettors, and billions of dollars are spent every year betting on games. The prohibition on sports betting doesn’t significantly limit the interest or amount of sports betting – if people want to do it they can and will find a way to do so. It just does two things – makes people work harder to find a way to do it, and stops the states from taking a piece of the action.
As a big horse racing fan, I’ve long thought that horse racing and sports betting are perfect partners. If people could place a bet on the NFL game or the NBA when they were at the track it would increase track revenues and attendance, and make the track a more attractive place for more people to go. The infrastructure is already in place, so it wouldn’t even be complicated. Most states have casinos, bingo halls, or card rooms that could also be involved. It could also be run as a state lottery as it is done in Canada, though I would hope that a new version would be fairer and more attractive to bettors than the Canadian option is.
I work in the sports betting industry, so I am obviously in favor of anything that would be a boost to my industry, and this would be a huge one. Beyond that, though, the leagues should be just as interested as I am. People who bet on sports are avid followers of those sports. They watch games, attend games, devour information, and are generally attractive consumers for the leagues. The more people who are able to access an accessible, fair, trustworthy system of betting in an easy way, the more avid fans a league will have. I watch a lot more sports, and follow them a lot more closely, since I have become involved in sports betting than I did before. I watch more broadcasts, pay for more subscriptions, and generally make the leagues more money. A sports bettor also gets to know a sport better, so they appreciate more, and are more likely to become a long term fan of it.
Leagues publicly worry about two things as they publicly oppose sports – cheating, and irresponsible betting. If people want to influence games and cheat then they are already doing it, so state involvement in sports betting will do precisely nothing to change that. It would even likely help – betting records would be more easily accessible, so problems could be more easily spotted and addressed. Problem gambling is clearly a problem, but legalizing sports betting only brings it out into the open and makes it easier for people to access help. Making it harder for people to bet on sports clearly doesn’t stop people from betting too much, so this is a meaningless argument.
There is a stigma attached to betting on sports in the general public, and there shouldn’t be. I love sports betting not because I am an action junkie who needs to get a bet down. I love it because I love sports, and I love the extra challenge and involvement in the sports that betting gives me. It’s like a puzzle, and it makes sports infinitely more interesting. For that reason and a hundred others I wish State Senator RaymondLesniak of New Jersey nothing but luck.