The Jefferson Independent is proud to release the inaugural edition of the Middle Grounds column. Through this column, we’re hoping to showcase the diverse views and interests of students at the University of Virginia through a side-by-side comparison of two key views on issues facing the University, the state, and the nation. Each new release of the column will focus on two sides of a new issue, along with a short, fact-based introduction to the topic at hand.
Our inaugural article focuses on the question of the legalization of sports betting, where fans may place wagers on the performance of teams and players. Sports betting was originally illegal in the US under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). In Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Supreme Court struck down PASPA. Dozens of states across the United States have since legalized sports betting, but many more haven’t. Since the legalization of sports betting in many of these states, sports betting has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.
- The Editorial Board
Pro: Legalizing Sports Betting
Number 1: It’s fun!
Sports betting is a hobby that lots of people like myself get into: pretty decent at sports in high school, but not even close to good enough to play Division 1 sports, so you pick up sports betting to give yourself the rush that you can no longer get from the field. It’s harmless: you choose an amount you are comfortable losing, and then you have a reason to be locked in for the whole game; it’s like you’re playing high school sports again. I wagered on the Super Bowl just the other day, and it was the most fun I have ever had losing $20.
Number 2: If the lottery is legal, sports betting should be too!
The lottery is a ploy devised by the government to take advantage of stupid people. You effectively have a 0% chance of winning the lottery; if you do somehow win it, you are going to lose over half to taxes (which go where? The government!). With gambling, you are essentially playing the lottery, but actually have a chance of winning. Everyone has seen screenshots of betslips on Twitter where someone has turned dollars into tens of thousands of dollars; whether it be by luck or well-thought-out analysis, sports betting is just the lottery with an actual chance of cashing.
Number 3: Sports betting allows us to take a share of athletes’ profits.
Athletes make millions of dollars, and many argue are grossly overpaid. So, if they make millions of dollars, don’t you deserve the chance to profit off their accomplishments? For example, LeBron James makes nearly $45 million each year off his salary from the Lakers alone. If we all expect LeBron to perform like an athlete that makes $45 million, then we should be allowed to wager on his performances to try to make $45 million as well. We are the ones providing the NBA with the revenue to pay the players anyway, why shouldn’t we be allowed to try to make some back?
Number 4: Everyone is doing it anyway.
This is a reason that definitely wouldn’t fly if you’re raising children (if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?), but in this sense it actually works. The amount of underground and offshore books is absurd, and so too is the fraud that goes with it. Bookies can create inflated/deflated lines and refuse to pay out profits, while users can refuse to pay out losses. There are plenty of stories about gamblers in these underground books getting brutally beaten or killed over failing to make payments. With a regulated sportsbook, none of this is an issue.
Number 5: Why not?
To those of you that think sports betting should be illegal: it costs you literally nothing for me to place bets on sports. Will you be that upset if I lose my money? It’s my money! I worked long and hard at a restaurant for three years so I could have spending money in college, and I will choose to spend it as I see fit! Every gambler that quits, quits before he strikes it rich. Let’s go get rich out there.
- Aidan McGowan
Con: Legalizing Sports Betting
You can’t go longer than a commercial break when watching any televised sport without running into an ad for Caesar’s Sportsbook or DraftKings or hearing one of the announcers mention the over/under for the game. Any day, you can check the odds for your team’s next match and decide whether you want to risk some money on it. Wherever you go at a sports game, you’ll be ambushed by 50/50 raffles and betting.
Is this necessary? This sort of betting culture has started to seep into the games we love. Mike Tomlin, the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, made a great point, highlighting betting and fantasy sports as “distractions” from the actual game at hand. When we allow ourselves to care more about one detail of a game occurring to save a parlay, the game ceases to be about, well, the game. It might be considered a way for a fan to feel more like they’re playing a part in the game without playing in it, but can you really be involved in a game when all you care about is one player passing for a certain number of yards or recording a certain number of assists? This mindset really detracts from the energy of a sport, the back-and-forth fight, the spirit of competition, when the details become all that matters rather than the overall contest.
I also can’t imagine that this betting culture would be easy for someone recovering from a gambling addiction or an otherwise addictive personality. With how prevalent all of it is in modern-day sports, would it be reasonable at all to even be a fan? Even for fans that haven’t faced these problems, it’s quite easy to get started but difficult to get out of betting. The thrill of hitting all the legs of a parlay can be unmatched, but what happens when all your savings are lost when you lose another? The only answer for some would be to bet again to make it back.
Gambling is harmful to sports fans and the sports themselves. It’s a distraction from the beauty of our games and it should at least be harder for fans to access, if not kept out of sports entirely.
- Adam Rodriguez