In 2017, the American Gambling Association reported that gambling revenues exceeded $40 billion. This is compared to Major League Baseball revenues at $10 billion and $700 million of pies sold in the United States in 2017.
Before 2018, the 1992 Professional and Sports Protection Act (PASPA) made sports betting illegal throughout the country, with the exception of four states that had existing sports lotteries (Oregon, Delaware, and Montana) or licensed sports pools (Nevada). New Jersey, with a fledgling casino industry, began to challenge PASPA in 2009 and eventually succeeded with a Supreme Court decision in 2018 that found PASPA to be unconstitutional and allowed states to enact their own sports gambling laws.
The Supreme Court decision comes at a time when smart, secure technology is at the intersection of data analytics. Technology is allowing money to be securely transferred from one party to another via hand held devices, such as the smart phone or tablet. Data analytics technology is allowing us to predict future behavior in near accuracy. Essentially, gambling is no longer limited to casinos. Instead, anyone with access to the right data and a smart phone can now place “educated” bets on various characteristics of a game while the game is in progress.
Sports gambling, if not properly regulated, certainly provides a risk to the integrity of the game. With its seemingly endless stream of scandals and controversy and the pipeline to the professional sports, this leaves the NCAA under the largest microscope of doubt. Will the NCAA be able to provide clear policy and guidance, then enforce it for 500 HQ staff and 500,000 student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff members? How about the referees? How about the donors and other interest groups? How about their sponsors?
Sports gambling also presents a new threat to athlete privacy and safety. An athlete’s medical history and their current health are key data points when using analytics to make an “educated” bet. As an American, we take pride in laws that provide us with medical privacy. Athletes do not give up their rights to medical privacy, nor should they for the sake of sports gambling.
Athletes, coaches, referees and their families should not live in fear that an unfavorable performance on the field could present a threat from a gambler that may have lost a large sum of money and choose to blame someone other than themselves.
We should also not forget about the moral and economic consequences of gambling. Gambling leads to addictive behaviors that result in increased personal debt, relationship stress, and increased criminal activity. According to The Oaks at La Paloma, an addiction treatment facility, approximately 2.6% of the U.S. population is addicted to gambling. This is the same population of New York City.
I am an advocate for the legalization of responsible gambling. I believe in allowing people the freedom to make their own decisions about gambling; however, if not properly managed, it can become a national security concern. Therefore, I want the state governments and federal government take an active role in ensuring (1) the integrity of the game is not affected, (2) athletes, coaches and referees are safe, (3) Athletes retain their privacy, (4) the capitalist market does not take advantage of the average consumer, (5) anyone affiliated with the sports industry should not be allowed to profit from gambling (other than endorsements/sponsorships), and (6) there are zero barriers to anyone that needs to receive medical/mental health treatment, financial counseling, and relationship counseling related to gambling addiction.
The government should not be alone in the regulation of gambling. The entire industry should practice corporate social responsibility. Every company that seeks to profit from sports gambling should help pay for the societal consequences of gambling.
Additionally, the consumer has a considerable amount of responsibility to ensure sports gambling does not ruin our love for sports. Consumers, as a group, should be educated about how various betting activities could threaten the integrity of the game and individuals should understand how gambling can affect the families and their future. More so, the individual should understand how “The House” always wins.
Without any doubt, I believe a very selfish person (or group) will choose to threaten the integrity of the game…all for personal gain. Our governments and institutions need to be prepared to take swift and decisive action from the first sign of any perception of foul play.
Gambling has come a long way from the days of playing poker in the old west saloons, to the roaring 80’s of the neon lights in Vegas to today’s sport gambling on a smart phone. Let’s embrace sports gambling as a form of entertainment, but take responsibility for how it is implemented, governed and executed. More importantly, let’s maintain the integrity of the game.
Written By: David Zimmerman