Opinion: Why Sports Wagering Should be Legalized in the US

The NFL and NHL will each have one franchise in Las Vegas within the next four years. 


Betting on sports is illegal in 49 states, but by 2021, Las Vegas, the sports betting capital of the world, will be home to one team apiece in both the National Football League and the National Hockey League. Las Vegas is also the most populous city in Nevada, the only state where sports gambling is legal. The fact that the NFL and NHL are making themselves vulnerable to gambling culture raises a question: Should wagering on athletics be legalized in all 50 states?

To a degree, wagering on sports is already allowed. Daily Fantasy Sports, which consists of contestants picking a group of players and wagering on the outcome of their performance, is legal and promoted by Major League Baseball. It is obvious that DFS is a form of betting on an athlete’s performance, and if people across the country can wager on an individual’s performance, there is no logical reason why a fan cannot bet on the final result of a game from the comfort of his or her home. It is hypocritical for fantasy sports to be legal and promoted by the NFL, NBA and MLB, yet illegal to bet on a result that has a truer outcome, that being the performance of an entire team as opposed to the performance of a single individual.

Despite the fact that betting on sports is illegal in most parts of the country, people who are determined to gamble have poured millions of dollars into offshore sportsbooks and other illegal avenues. Sports on Earth reports that roughly $500 billion dollars is bet illegally and just $3 billion is bet legally on sports each year, and the American Gaming Association reports that just $2 billion of the $90 billion that was wagered on NFL and college football games last year was done legally. Millions of dollars are being put into the hands of overseas websites and illegal bookmakers.

The growing presence of point spreads and gambling conversation in this modern age of sports media indicates that the practice is only becoming more popular, so a safer and more productive alternative would be to legalize gambling on sports and tax it. This would get money out of the hands of people on the street and into the hands of our government, which could then be used to stabilize the economy. The amount of money wagered illegally relative to the amount that is wagered legally suggests that prohibiting the act has done very little to regulate it.

While gambling can be dangerous and addictive, wagering on games of chance can already be done in casinos across the country. The fact that somebody can risk money on games of random chance such as craps, roulette and baccarat strikes me as odd. It is fair to say that a safer and more productive way to gamble one’s money would be to wager on an event that can be analyzed by copious amounts of data, trends that can feasibly be repeated and personal observation.

Gambling on sports offers little to no downside relative to other forms of gambling that are already legal, and having the government regulate the practice would only result in gambling being safer and more beneficial to the economy. Wagering on sports is not going anywhere and is not any more dangerous to the public than casino games or other recreational activities, so the United States might as well embrace the practice and make it as safe and efficient as possible.

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