Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bets Are On

What happens in Las Vegas may soon be happening around the country. I am talking, of course, about sports gambling. Under the current legal scheme, betting on professional sports is illegal in most of the United States, outside of Nevada. After a public endorsement of these practices by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver last year, and recent statements by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the strict laws forbidding this amateur sport may soon change.

Sports betting is generally prohibited by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA. Although the NBA supported the passage of PASPA in 1992, thus opposing the expansion of legal sports betting throughout the country, there is no denying that sports betting is alive and well. This underground business thrives due to the lack of legal and plausible options available to enforce regulations against illicit and shady online operations.

The socio-political attitude towards gambling has changed in the two decades since PASPA’s passage.  Gambling has become a popular form of entertainment, with most states not only offering lotteries but also housing legal casinos. Perhaps it is due to this change in attitude that drove NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to publicly endorse the legalization of sports gambling this past November. Silver notes that these activities are happening anyway, despite their illegality, and the law ought to change. “One of my concerns is that I will be portrayed as pro sports betting,” he explained during an interview. “But I view myself more as pro transparency. And someone who’s a realist in the business. The best way for the league to monitor our integrity is for that betting action to move toward legal betting organizations, where it can be tracked. That’s the pragmatic approach.”

The MLB recently supported Silver’s approach. Commissioner Manfred recognized the inevitability of legalized sports betting, and stated he supported the idea of a government body in charge of this activity. Although it is true that gambling has historically been a sore spot for the sport of professional baseball, perhaps the time has come to change the legal approach to this issue. This is not to suggest that legalizing sports gambling will prevent people from continuing to use illegal avenues to place their bets (even a realist such as Silver cannot deny that people will continue to engage in shady conduct) but maybe bringing this dark little secret to light will spark the conversation necessary to properly address our concerns with sports gambling.

- Ashley Dennis, Staff Editor


  1. Irrespective of its moral and ethical issues, sports’ gambling is a big money business. Nevada earned $3.9 billion in revenue from sports betting alone in 2014. Although it’s easy for proponents of sports gambling to hide behind a veil like “pro transparency,” in reality it’s all about the money. Legalizing sports’ gambling would not only increase revenues for sports leagues from an increase in fan interest, but also provide them other opportunities such as partnering with sports gambling companies.

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