The following is an unsigned editorial from the March 24 issue of Catholic New York, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York.
Now that the Supreme Court has struck down a 1992 federal law that banned sports betting in most states, New York is likely to become one of the first to put the practice in play.
Anticipating a high court decision favorable to states that have long wanted a piece of the estimated $150 billion in illegal sports bets placed in the United States each year, New York lawmakers passed legislation in 2013 that would make sports betting legal in upstate casinos if the federal ban were lifted.
All that’s needed are the rules and regulations for implementing the program — a task that could easily get bogged down in discussion on whether the law should be expanded to include online bettors in partnership programs with casinos, given that most illegal betting already takes place over the internet.
Whatever the ultimate method of implementation, it is expected the casinos would be taxed 8.5 percent on sports betting revenue and would also pay a cut to sports leagues.
This monumental change in the betting landscape will not be without problems, but with proper safeguards, there could be many positives.
First, of course, is the money it will generate for New York and other states that allow the practice — money that can provide vital services to citizens and help balance budgets. Then there’s the inescapable reality that sports betting is going on anyway, often with organized crime groups running the show, experts say, and legalizing it would remove the criminal element.
The downside of opening a new, easy-to-play gambling route is in more people becoming involved in betting, more people betting more than they should, more people becoming addicted and more families suffering.
The National Council on Problem Gambling, co-founded in 1972 by the late archdiocesan priest Msgr. Joseph A. Dunne, is neutral on legalized gambling in accordance with its founding principles. However, in a statement on the Supreme Court decision, the council, which is the national advocacy group for problem gamblers and their families, said that everyone who profits from sports betting bears responsibility for gambling problems.
Executive Director Keith Whyte said in the statement that the only ethical and economical way to maximize benefits from sports betting is to minimize the harm caused by problem gambling. “Any governmental body and sports league that receives a direct percentage or portion of sports betting revenue must also dedicate funds to prevent and treat gambling problems,” he said.
Sports leagues, including college and amateur leagues, also must recognize and guard against the risk of the integrity of sports in light of the huge increases in betting and bettors that are on the way.
According to one expert, Gabriel Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane Law School in New Orleans, the court’s decision “will likely change how we have viewed sports for the past 100 years.”
“It’s called the gamblization of sports,” he told The New York Times. “Fans will become much more focused on gambling than following a team. It will make every second of every game of every week interesting to fans as it will give everyone something to root for.”
That doesn’t sound like a good thing, especially now with sports betting here to stay.
The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicPhilly.com, Catholic News Service or of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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