SNIDER: Legalizing Sports Wagering Is No Sure-fire Winner

Imagine being unhappy with the Washington Redskins winning because they didn’t cover the spread. Therein lies the dangers of legalizing sports gambling. It rarely ends well.

The Supreme Court will decide whether to expand legalized gambling to New Jersey (and thus, nationwide, shortly thereafter) by June after hearing arguments on “Christie v. NCAA” on Monday. The New Jersey governor has long wanted a piece of the action on sports gambling, which is estimated by the American Gaming Association at $93 billion illegally on the NFL and college football alone.

By repealing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the Court’s approval would likely see 32 states cutting up $6 billion in tax revenues on gaming, according to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. The report says up to 15 million Americans actively wager on sports illegally. That’s not even counting events like March Madness and the Super Bowl, where casual fans chip in $9.2 billion on the basketball tournament and $4 billion on the Super Bowl, according to Forbes magazine.

Currently, Nevada is the only state with legalized sports gambling, with $5 billion wagered in 2016. Now other states want in on the action. Essentially, it’s like moonshiners wanting to go legit because everybody’s drinking their booze anyway. It’s just a matter of the tax man getting his cut.

I support legalizing sports wagering. It’s no different than buying lottery tickets or visiting casinos. And the NHL putting a team in Las Vegas and the NFL soon following with the Raiders leaves sports leagues with no moral ground to claim gamblers will corrupt the game. Players make too much money now for that to happen at least regularly.

But like fantasy football now has fans upset their favorite players didn’t earn enough points despite their team winning, so does gambling corrupt fans.

“Don’t gain the world and lose your soul; wisdom is better than silver or gold,” sang Bob Marley.

I covered horse racing from 1985-91 for the Washington Times. Spent every day at the track with the rail birds. I can honestly say nobody survives intact when chasing money every day. The sport has become numbers instead of horses and wagering strips the love of the game after tearing up tickets and leaving broke.

This is not a temperance lecture of sorts, but a warning. Legalizing sports wagering is coming. Just don’t let its downside extend from your wallet to your heart.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.

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