Why We Should Embrace Sports Gambling

By Sean Moran

Now that football is back, we can expect to see several things this fall: the enormous amount of tailgating before the games, grown men using Twitter to bash analysts who criticize their team and now, the embracement of gambling and fantasy sports.

It’s hard to watch a football game on TV without seeing commercials for daily fantasy sports sites, or DFS’s, such as FanDuel and Draftkings. These sites offer competitors the chance to win millions of dollars by playing weekly fantasy sports. The premise is simple: place a small deposit online (sometimes as little as $3), join a contest and use a generated salary cap to select players who you think will perform well. Your players score points based on their individual performances in stats such as reception/rushing/passing yards and number of touchdowns scored. The player with the highest team score then collects his winnings.

On September 14, New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked that the legal status of fantasy sports for the professional leagues be re-evaluated. “These sites are enormously popular, arguably central to the fans’ experience, and professional leagues are seeing the enormous benefits as a result,” Pallone said in a statement.

Pallone said he would like to see an amendment to the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that currently has a “fantasy carve out” that allows wagers to be placed as long as fantasy teams do not reflect actual team rosters. Essentially this means that fantasy players are choosing and betting on specific players rather than teams. In addition to closing this loophole, Pallone Jr. would also like for all sports gambling to be legalized and regulated.

It doesn’t appear that Pallone is alone either. Back in April while talking on the Boomer and Carton radio show, NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed support for legalizing sports gambling, saying “it’s good for business.” Silver believes that legalizing sports betting would allow the leagues to monitor “irregular activity…like insider trading on the stock market.”

Even if pro sports betting were legalized, where would that leave college athletics? For the first time, ESPN had its College GameDay crew pick football games against the spread during opening weekend. This was accompanied by special “cover alerts” that notified viewers of spread beating scores. ESPN has since dropped these features, but their use has raised questions about the relationship between the sports giant and DraftKings.

College athletes are still considered amateurs and would be unable to reap any of the benefits from legalized sports betting. Recognizing this, the PAC-12 Network has reportedly refused to further air commercials for DFS giants Fanduel and DraftKings (per SportingNews). The NCAA has also chimed in on the debate, saying that student-athletes who participate in daily fantasy sports will automatically receive a one-year ban from competition. Whether this policy is fair or not is another debate.

Right now, the sports world faces a serious dilemma. What was once seen as one of the greatest threats to sports, gambling is now embraced. In the past, gambling was dismissed as a moral issue. As societal norms have changed, gambling is now an exciting way to enhance the social culture of sports.

People are beginning to notice how much revenue legalized sports gambling could generate for local communities and governments. Unlike Deflategate, daily fantasy sports and sports betting are serious issues that ought to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

Cover Photo Credit: Moazzam Brohi/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

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