Tom Sorensen

Court ruling on sports gambling should boost ratings – and fuel conspiracy fans

I’d like to place a bet, please. I’d like to bet that all the people that believe officials are out to cheat their team will now act as if they have proof.

The Supreme Court has ended a 25-year-old law that banned sports betting in any state but Nevada. It will be up to the states to decide if they allow betting on sports.

Since only six states don’t offer a lottery, how do you think states will treat sports betting? I’d bet the over.

Some of us become sanctimonious about evil betting. But go to a game. Go to a Carolina Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium. You will see advertisements there for companies that sponsor sports fantasy leagues. The transition from betting on fantasy football to betting on games is modest, but requires more skill.

Even before the Supreme Court’s ruling, betting was easy enough. You might not know a bookie that will handle your bet. But you probably know somebody that does. If not, you know somebody that knows somebody that can reach a bookie. In some bars, you’re asked first what you want to drink. Then you’re asked if you want to place a bet.

When your state legalizes gambling, betting will be easy. As your buddy drives to the game, you’ll be able to pick up your phone and, from the passenger’s seat, place your wager.

If in the fourth quarter the Charlotte Hornets trail a West Coast team by 12, you’ll force yourself to stay up and watch. Why? The Hornets are getting 11 points.

People who are bigger fans of conspiracies than they are of sports will contend that, when their team loses a close game, officials determined the outcome.

But fans already do that. There are fans of the Panthers, and to a lesser extent the Hornets, that believe the NFL and NBA are biased against their team. The source of the bias is Charlotte’s mid-market status. These small-town blues explain why the New York Giants, Jets, Knicks and Brooklyn Nets consistently do so well. What about the Chicago Bears and Bulls, you ask? Right.

My younger son lives in Las Vegas, and I trust the sports books there. A lot of smart people work in the gambling industry. When big money makes an illogical bet, the people that need to know will find out why.

Officials miss calls in all our major (and minor) sports. But if those calls were intentional, and if those officials were corrupt, we’d know. For a sport to be credible, fans have to believe that the field on which it plays is level, and that the officiating is, too.

I bet that North Carolina and South Carolina set up a structure to legalize sports betting. You’re savvy enough that you’ll demand odds. I’ll offer them.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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