Supreme Court ruling that legalizes sports gambling opens door to trouble
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I’m sure you’ve heard the U.S. Supreme Court recently set the table for states to legalize sports gambling. The justices voted 6-3 to strike down a 1992 federal law that barred sports gambling in most places.
Yeah, you always had Nevada to fill your point-spread jones, and the sports books in the desert — and, to a limited extent, Delaware, Montana and Oregon — aren’t going anywhere. But the gravy train of open and taxed sports betting is soon to be available just about everywhere. Maybe on your block!
Does this make you happy? It disgusts me.
Call me old-school, behind the times, stuck in the tar pit of past sensibilities. But don’t say I don’t love and respect sports, discipline, hard work, coaching, teaching, fair competition, winning for winning’s sake, the splendor of games played at every level by everyone of every creed, color, gender and skill set, with the joy of achievement, teamwork and physical freedom being the ultimate reward.
Money? Sure, that’s nice for those who earn it as pros. But the games themselves are the pure things. They have to be. If we don’t believe that, then we might as well believe in pro wrestling and magicians who make elephants ‘‘disappear.’’
Abruptly, some folks in black robes in our nation’s capital think our many states can say it’s dandy to gamble on whether little Jimmy’s peewee basketball team can beat little Johnny’s. With a spread, too.
Of course, official betting lines aren’t going to descend to the grade-school level. That never will be covered by state-run gambling parlors and online books, right? They’re just kids, right?
Ginning up taxes for a broke state doesn’t mean stooping so low that we’d exploit juvenile innocence. Or high school athletes. Or even college student-athletes.
Oops. Those college student-athletes (the NCAA loves that term!) are already part of this money grab. How big can the Big Dance of March Madness go now that you soon will be allowed — encouraged, even — to bet huge on that allegedly amateur sport?
Of course, new laws will be conjured up to enforce the ‘‘integrity’’ of this government-sponsored vice. And those laws and their enforcement should be fun things. It’s OK to gamble on anything that moves, throws, hits, runs, swims or tackles, but just up to a point, citizens.
Here’s one thing for sure: The NCAA and all four major pro leagues were against the Supreme Court ruling. It’s guaranteed unpaid college football and basketball players are going to want a cut of the millions to be bet legally on their games. NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball pros are going to demand bumps for their services, too.
There was this opposition, too: When people gamble, players will cheat. We’ve seen tennis and soccer gambling scandals, and we get college point-shaving affairs from time to time. (Does anybody recall that proud Northwestern is still the only university to get nailed for football and basketball point-shaving in the same school year?)
With big sums bet legally, the money to influence athletes grows. Greed and shortcuts are the passwords of too much of what is called business these days. Athletes are human, as — we’ll assume — big-time gamblers are.
So what happens when we can’t trust sports to be clean and fair? Pro wrestling happens, folks.
The Illinois Lottery began in July 1974, and that was a con job from the git-go. The money from vice taxation was all going to education funding. I’m not sure how long that lasted before the cash went elsewhere, but a New York minute comes to mind.
Is playing the lottery gambling? In 2017, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery were calculated at one in 292 million.
This is the state where we sold our parking meters to pay massive debt or, rather, massive interest on massive debt. We still own our light poles, drinking fountains and sidewalks — for now. But don’t blink.
Listen, I’m not naive. The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally bet about $150 billion on sports each year, so legalizing what we already do makes a kind of sense.
But what we’ve found is that our morality — and, hence, our outrage — is fluid and for sale.
If sports betting is legal, why isn’t marijuana legal everywhere? And prostitution, the oldest profession? And pornography? (Oops, it is.)
If everything is OK, then nothing is taboo. Sure, mores evolve. But humans also need anchors, stones to cling to.
Gambling used to be bad — like, yesterday. Now?
Hey, according to VegasInsider.com, Northwestern is 350-to-1 to win the NCAA football championship next winter.
Might want to get some of that, children.
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play or via RSS feed.