Sports betting has been banned in all but four states since the creation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). However, millions of Americans outside of Oregon, Delaware, Montana and Nevada are still participating in some form of sports betting, despite the ban. It is estimated by the American Gaming Association that nearly $400 billion is spent on sports betting each year. This year’s Super Bowl alone saw $116 million spent on legal bets throughout the game. In addition, there were numerous unrecorded or illegal bets estimated to total around $3-4 billion.
Whether these bets were a friendly wager, an office pool or a playoff, fantasy football challenge, all of these are unrecorded as they do not take place in a formal sports book venue. Due to increasing popularity in sports, sports betting is also experiencing an increase in activity and following. With more people participating in sports betting, legal or not, there has been a movement for a lift on the ban placed 23 years ago.
The legalization of sports betting has become a hot topic in both politics and sports, as it has been discussed among political leaders and league commissioners. A large proponent of this issue is the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.
Christie, who previously attempted to bring sports betting to New Jersey back in 2012, is advocating the addition of legal sports betting to Atlantic City. He believes that sports betting would raise more money for the ailing city, that has lost five casinos and $2.8 billion in the past five years. Sports betting would also bring more jobs to Atlantic City, which would help to lower the 11.5 percent unemployment rate.
Another prominent political figure that is generating discussion over the issue is John McCain, Senator of Arizona. McCain has called for hearings in congress to debate whether or not sports betting should take place in the other 46 states, as opposed to the monopoly currently held in Las Vegas.
A couple of league commissioners have also begun to discuss the possibility of expanding sports betting. Both Adam Silver (commissioner of the NBA) and Rob Manfred (commissioner of the MLB) have said that they will support the legalization of sports betting, as it would lead to a higher interest in sports programs and would lead to more money in both leagues. Silver and Manfred also stated that the current league rules of sports betting by those involved in the game would still be outlawed and punished if violated. This is reassuring, as one of the biggest cons to the legalization would be the attempt by players and officials to alter games.
Some of the benefits of legalizing sports betting would be a boost in revenues and taxes, generated by struggling economies; sports betting would also create more jobs in such economies. A higher awareness for sports would also be a result of sports betting. Adversely, there are concerns of addiction and an increase in crime rates where gambling is legal. If sports betting were to be legalized, it should be done in a lengthy and thoughtful process. This would assure that the right measures are taken to regulate this growing entertainment industry.
It is inevitable that in the near future sports betting will be legalized in more states across the country. Similar to prohibition in 1920, people will continue to bet on sporting events in illegal channels, increasing the demand for legal betting and only weakening the existing law until it is repealed. This is a controversial issue with positive and negative aspects, but it will be the next big thing in sports, so updated rules and regulations need to be in place.
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Collegian Sports Columnist Alec Grimes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @GrimesAlec.