Shady dealings or legitimate recreational activity?
Las Vegas, Nevada, the gambling fantasy land of America may soon have an NHL franchise. Nevada is one of the few states that allow organized sports betting and part of the place’s allure is the ability to lose your hard-earned cash in an attempt to make more dough. As a result, the same old narrative around gambling and sports has resurfaced.
Can players, owners, and others involved in the sport be trusted to stay away from tampering with their own team’s results? It is the reason that Pete Rose remains banned from professional baseball and why Tim Donaghy, former NBA referee, was banished having bet on games that he officiated. Those involved with the game, so the argument goes, would (if sports betting were entirely legal) partake in tarnishing it.
To observe fan interest in sports betting, one only has to look at the proposition bets (known as prop bets) that were available for this year’s Super Bowl. These wagers often surround some of the lesser-known features of the game. For example, a willing better was able to gamble on how many times Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, would be shown on television. Prefer something a little bit more football related? You could have bet on whether “Beast Mode” (Marshawn Lynch) would grab his nether regions, having scored a touchdown in the game. He didn’t.
Those who propose the legalization of sports betting frame their case this way: once something is legalized, it is easier to control. If the whole thing were regulated it would make discovering those who have gambling issues that much easier (cough, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, cough).
If an elephant in the room as large as sports gambling is operating in the shadows, then it stands to reason that shining a big light on it would solve the problem, right?
Well, it isn’t quite that simple. While some higher-ups have come out in support of sports gambling, most recently NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the main roadblock, is a combination of an image problem and a number of unanswered questions.
First, the image of gambling is still rooted in smoky bars, pool sharks, and seedy underlings. Sports betting, in the eyes of the sports establishment, is not the friendly wagering around the office cooler, but the sleazy dealings of ill-intentioned men and women. How can you deplore that image and yet associate yourself with it?
The unanswered questions surround the influence of gambling on the moral fabric of sports. Would betting on the local team be banned, as was once attempted in regards to UNLV’s squads? What would the repercussions be for those insiders who did bet when they weren’t supposed to? These are just two of the challenges those against legalizations pose.
Sports betting will become legal precisely because it’s currently unregulated state poses a larger risk to the sports world than the alternative. Bring on the ridiculous prop bets. Here’s one: how many streakers will we see in professional sports this year? Any takers?