Want to bet?
If you do, it’s going to be a lot easier now, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday that struck down a 1992 federal law and paved the way for states to legalize sports betting as they see fit.
In general, I see this as a good thing for millions of sports fans who want this option.
I have long thought that the laws governing sports betting in America made no sense. Why could you legally bet on the outcome of a single NFL game in Las Vegas but not in Charlotte or New York? This nonsensical vacuum has long been filled by illegal bookies, who took bets by the millions and ran gambling operations that should have been regulated but were not.
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In Europe, where betting rules are usually far less restrictive, the world has not collapsed. It won’t collapse in America, either. I don’t foresee point-shaving scandals coming at us left and right. Sports gambling is already legal in Nevada, remember. Billions of dollars are already wagered on games, and there hasn't been an implosion.
Much like state lotteries, I would imagine that even the states that don’t have legislation in the works to legalize sports betting will eventually have it. It’s hard to ignore free money. North Carolina won’t be the first to enact rules to legalize sports betting, but it won’t be the last, either.
And although the NFL, NBA, NCAA and other leagues officially opposed this measure and didn’t want the Supreme Court to rule the way it did, they had to know this was coming at some point. New Jersey has been at the forefront of trying to get the current rules lifted for many years. The tide had shifted over those years, and many states had supported New Jersey's push to make sports betting less restrictive. The majority of sports fans, I would wager, do want this.
There will be much to hash out. Congress may get involved again. As gambling goes mainstream, a lot of people will want to get their fingers into the pie.
Also: Should people be allowed to gamble on college teams based in their own state? Will more people become gambling addicts because of how easy it will be to bet? Will sports betting only be legal in the casinos that are scattered across America, or will there be small betting shops all over the place, as you can now find in London? Will you be able to place bets on your phone while the game is going on, trying to predict who will score the game's next touchdown?
It will require a lot of thought to do this right.
But I generally agree with a statement made by the CEO of William Hill US, which already runs more than 100 sites where you can bet on sports legally in Nevada: “We look forward to working to make legal and regulated sports bettering a big winner for consumers, state governments and all interested parties across the country. If we do this the right way, the only losers will be the illegal bookies that have been operating a massive black market.”
That’s mostly right. Sports fans who wanted to bet have been able to find a way to do so for decades, but too often it has been a shady enterprise. For those vulnerable to addiction, it was already addictive. This will regulate sports betting, improve it and hopefully fund some new highways or schools with the state government's cut.
Monday's decision was a landmark. The sports landscape will undergo some radical change because of it as gambling goes mainstream.
One thing that won’t ever change, though: You’re still going to lose more often than you win. That’s how those big casinos get built in the first place. Now there will just be more of them.