As of the time of this post going live, only 21 states and D.C. have legalized sports betting since the Supreme Court decided that it was unconstitutional to ban sports betting outside of Nevada under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
More than 50% of the country has either failed at passing state legislated sports betting, have not addressed the topic, or are currently waiting for the coming election to let the public decide on whether they want sports betting in their state.
Maryland, the state that I live in, is one of those states. The decision is being left to the people and is on the ballot for November 3rd. The question remains though, why has sports betting not been legalized everywhere? It seems so simple to pass, and what could the pushback possibly be?
One argument that came from the Kentucky Family Foundation stating, “while there are certainly revenue issues in our state, Kentucky Baptists do not see sports betting, or expanded gambling, as the answer. In fact, it is a safer bet that legalizing wagering on sporting events will not help families and will have unintended consequences.” This argument could be stated for all gambling, not just sports betting, that gambling does not help families and can lead to unintended consequences like addiction. The only issue with this, and it is a big one, is that Kentucky already has legalized gambling. They have multiple casinos in the state and allow bets on horse racing. Would that not already have led to “unintended consequences”? Allowing someone to simply bet on a football game instead of a horse race is not going to create more problems than there already are. It is about moderation and self control, as with any gambling, and there are resources for those who need assistance with gambling addiction.
The second issue, comes from Minnesota, which makes even less sense. According to the NationalFootballpost.com, “all 11 Native American tribes are opposed”. That is important because “Native American tribes operate all 18 casinos within the state”. Their reasoning is explained by the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association that, “online sports wagering will heavily detract from their in-person revenue”. I have to disagree with that immensely. Nevada has thrived with sports betting, both online and in-person. New Jersey, as reported by multiple sources: ESPN.com, CBSsports.com, and the Associated Press, took in over $748 million dollars from sports betting in September alone! That is a national record for one month. This isn’t September 5 years ago or 10 years ago, this is September as in three weeks ago! This broke the record that they set in August of this year of $668 million dollars! Even with coronavirus, some places and states are opening up and even if in-person betting is down due to the virus, this revenue can not be ignored, and sports betting will not close down a casino.
Other states, seem to not have the urgency to discuss the topic and the coronavirus has pushed it to the back-burner now. Florida, Georgia, and Alabama all do not have legal sports betting, and Alabama does not even have a lottery, which is wild.
Finally, in Maryland, some residents are against Question 2, the question of whether sports betting should be legal, as they feel the tax revenue from the casinos already present has not gone to education as was promised when gambling was declared legal in the state. This is the one argument I can understand to a degree. If you already have an issue with the way the revenue is spent, don’t create more revenue to waste. I understand that from an economic standpoint, but I still disagree as the revenue may not go to education, but that does not mean it will not be wisely spent on infrastructure.
In conclusion, gambling is already legal in states. They feel sports betting is the root of problems with gambling, but horse racing is not. Casino owners worry about sports betting depleting their revenue stream, which it does not. Other states are lagging behind and the pandemic has pushed it to the back-burner, and others worry the revenue from gambling will not go to at least one of its intended targets. Many other states share similar concerns, but the reality is that sports betting does not cause any more problems than other types of gambling. It does not negatively impact states or casinos, but raises revenue dramatically. The revenue raised is not always spent poorly, and if it is that means holding our politicians accountable, not that sports betting is bad. Finally, and just as important, many citizens in these states want sports betting to be legalized. It is a fun activity that, in moderation, can allow people to relax and enjoy the games that they love and combine that with an opportunity to make a little bit of money or lose $5 dollars. That will not cause dramatic issues and I believe that more states should pass these bills because as we have seen with those that have, it has had a much more positive impact than a negative one.
Featured image via: Caesars Sports Book