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Thursday August 18th

COLUMN: It's about time gambling in sports became legalized in the United States

<p>Sports desk staff writer Keaton Eberly</p>
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Sports desk staff writer Keaton Eberly

Throughout the history of mankind, gambling has been a part of everyday life. 

Combining the elements of competition and potential profit, sports gambling has always been a popular avenue for people to experience the thrills of putting money on the line for a prize.

Dating back to the days of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece, athletes and spectators alike have taken part in the activity, wagering on the predicted outcomes of certain events. Ever since sports have been around, there’s been a gambling market intertwined with them.

In light of recent events that saw the United States Supreme Court issue a landmark decision allowing states the option to legalize sports gambling on May 14, 2018, major changes are on the way. 

Almost three months after the verdict, 22 states have either passed or introduced bills into their respective legislatures with laws regarding sports gambling, and this number will only rise as time moves on. With all of this in mind, my response is quite simple — it’s about time. 

While the word “gambling” has often carried negative connotations in the minds of athletic administrators and coaches, sports and gambling have never been mutually exclusive. Despite the fact that sports betting was banned in 1992 through the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the American Gaming Association has estimated that U.S. citizens illegally bet at least $150 billion on sports every year. 

In addition to these numbers, as of 2012, 118 million people on average were placing wagers on sporting events, according to ESPN, a figure that has no doubt grown in recent years. No matter if this wager takes place in an annual March Madness office pool, a friendly poker game among friends, or in agreement with a casino or an online affiliate, sports gambling is inevitable. As long as sports exist, fans will bet on them — legally or illegally. 

The reasoning behind legalized sports gambling makes sense. The presence of a supervising body can eliminate the relevance of any black market groups associated with betting, while creating another lucrative revenue stream for the sporting industry. Gambling is going to happen anyway, so the government might as well initiate taxes and make some money off of it. Even though sports leagues have consistently opposed people betting on contests, executives would surely be swayed if they were able to be given a piece of the cash flow. Once the money starts rolling in, the executives will be convinced. 

This is why the NBA, MLB and PGA Tour are lobbying for the concept of an “integrity fee,” which would enable a one percent tax on all wagers made on games. This could be seen as an effective way for players to receive a fair cut of the profit. It is similar to the sports betting arrangement in other countries including the United Kingdom, France, Australia and New Zealand, where bookmakers and sports leagues have partnerships agreements. 

In the case for college sports, the NCAA has had its dark history with betting scandals, so the trepidations that the organization feels toward the recent news might be warranted. Although these concerns still exist in today’s landscape, the implementation of a regulatory board can provide the oversight needed to keep the potential issues in check. Similar to the effect that the legalization of marijuana has had on numerous states, it will be easier to follow the cash flow and regulate the system. 

The NCAA has also publicly announced its support for a federal model on sports gambling, as well as lifted its ban of hosting sporting events in states that offer legal sports betting, an encouraging sign that the governing body is at least open to the idea of betting within the sport. CBS Sports published an article on the day of the Supreme Court ruling, detailing the projected spike in viewership for sports and projected that collegiate athletics, along with every professional league, will receive a positive trend in viewership and interest due to legalized sports gambling. So instead of a hinderance, maybe this could be a valuable opportunity for the NCAA. 

Spearheaded by progressive change, the negative image around gambling is beginning to be altered. In spite of the fact that the NCAA (as well as other sports leagues) have challenges ahead during upcoming legislative proceedings surrounding sports gambling, the positives outweigh the negatives. For years, gambling has been viewed as a scandalous activity, but that’s only been the case because it was being labeled that way, but no more. 

Sports gambling is already legal in most countries throughout the world — and you might as well add one more nation to the list.

@KEberly1996

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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