People likely to be the most hurt by the landmark Supreme Court ruling on Monday that green-lights legalized betting on sports in states across America:
The sportsbook industry in Las Vegas and Nevada, whose longtime monopoly on legalized gambling is about to disappear. People with a wagering problem who'll now be more tempted than ever. And personal bookies everywhere (sorry, Vinnie down at the bar) whose illicit occupation faces sudden extinction.
People likely to benefit most by this major ruling:
Pretty much everybody else, particularly those who love sports not just for the artful athleticism or spirit of competition, but also for the opportunity to parlay that love into a buck or three.
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Monday's 6-3 ruling striking down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was seismic though not a shock. It was overdue and a matter of time.
Twenty states (Florida not among them, at least not yet) already have initiated some form of legalized-gambling legislation in anticipation of this ruling. And the NBA and MLB came to see this as so inevitable that they have gradually swung in favor of legalized gambling and have lately been lobbying and maneuvering for their piece of the gargantuan pie.
This is a good thing. If you are against gambling on moral grounds, I'll never convince you. But this is a good thing because states will heavily regulate and closely oversee legalized sports gambling, shining light and transparency on what (outside of Nevada) has largely been an underground industry. It will be a major and ongoing revenue-stream boost to the economy of every state that adopts it, and it is estimated two-thirds of all states will within five years.
New Jersey, which led the six-year legal fight that led to Monday's ruling, has the infrastructure already in place to begin accepting legal wagers on all sports within weeks. Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island could be next. Florida, already a major player in the lottery game and home to limited casinos and thoroughbred racing, is a natural to add legalized gambling and should do so with alacrity.
The concern that this could lead to point-shaving scandals or match-fixing is alarmist and unlikely. The threat has always been there because gambling ion sports has always been there. Last year a record $4.8 billion was bet on sports legally in Nevada, with an estimated $150 billion (and likely much more) bet illegally offshore or through local bookies. The increase of heavily regulated legal gambling will be at the great expense of illegal gambling, likely decreasing the threat of results being tampered with.
Leagues already monitor gambling-related red flags, anyway. For example, the NBA pays a company that tracks betting trends at some 550 sportsbooks worldwide for indications of sudden or unusual fluctuations that could indicate the threat of a fixed game.
This is not a scary thing. Countries including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and France have had national legalized gambling for years, with no widespread moral decay evident.
There was a Prohibition on alcohol in this country less than 90 years ago. Now laws against marijuana use are gradually disappearing, the stigma fading. Times change.
Legal and mostly illegal gambling along with fantasy sports have been major enhancements to the popularity of leagues for years, helping drive interest and TV ratings, yet leagues always have been disingenuous by taking some pointless and hypocritical high road against the idea of folks wagering on their games.
Now the NBA and MLB are at the forefront of finally acknowledging that sports and gambling aren't such strange bedfellows after all. Football — King Sport when it comes to attracting wagers — and other leagues will surely fall in line.
The eventual widespread, state-regulated availability of legalized sports betting will do nothing but get an industry out from its backroom shadows and into the open.
That's a good thing.