It seems the Supreme Court likes the odds – on everything. Striking down a 1992 law that barred most state-authorized sports gambling, those in black robes ruled this week that not just Nevada, but every state in the Union now has the right to allow its citizens to bet cash money on just about any sporting event they so desire.
What could possibly go wrong with that?
The state of New Jersey, that bastion of fair play and ethics, actually instigated the legal proceedings. With the popularity of Atlantic City casinos and racetracks dwindling daily, recently departed Governor Chris Christie saw a chance to grab the gamblers’ money another way. He and others wanted the Garden State denizens to be able to wager on individual games as anyone in Nevada can. Christie was quoted as saying, “I am proud to have fought for the rights of the people of NJ.” Does that mean the right to lose the milk and bread money? Just wondering. (As a side note, Justice Samuel Alito, a New Jersey native, wrote the court’s opinion in the case.)
The collegiate ruling board (NCAA), as well as the major professional sports leagues, Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL), all kind of voiced opposition to the ruling. Not because they are totally against betting, mind you. No, it was more along the line of, “We want our cut.”
It would stand to reason that governors in many states would salivate at the prospect of seeing tax dollars flow into coffers too. Because you know darn well that if you put a fiver down on the local heroes to win when they aren’t supposed to, that fifty bucks you get back will shrink accordingly based on your tax bracket come April 15th.
In other words, the state becomes the betting parlor. Which, again, might not be such a bad thing. As the head of something called the American Gaming Association reportedly said, “The expansion of sports betting is going to be faster than anything we’ve see. I’m confident that we can put the illegal market out of business.” Yes, no doubt the corner bookie will simply fold up his tent and apply for work at the Department of Motor Vehicles instead.
One has to wonder, if sporting contests become fair game, what about other opportunities for making a quick buck. Brits have long been able to come up with creative ways to wager legally. Extensive research has shown that Englanders can bet on seeing snow before Christmas, whether a certain actress will not only win an Oscar but also cry during her acceptance speech, and out of which seven tubes a ferret will emerge when placed in a specially-made cage. One Canadian man reportedly accepted a $100,000 bet to get and live with breast implants for a year. He won (and supposedly still has them).
I have no doubt Americans could top even those examples.
Handicapping any presidential campaign might well become a national pastime. What do you suppose the odds would have been for Donald Trump two years before the actual voting took place?
How about wagering on whether the U.S. will insist on making Kim Jong-Un get a decent haircut as part of the upcoming talks?
Parents could really liven up all those Little League games they get to sit through by betting that little Sammy will walk on four straight pitches or how many kids Wild Willie on the mound will hit with fastballs.
Those of a certain age will remember daredevil Evel Knievel trying to jump over the Snake River on his motorcycle. Wagers could have been made as to how many exact feet he would fall short.
Bets could be placed on how many politicians/producers/news anchors will be brought down by sexual improprieties this year. (Special bonus odds for indictments and convictions.)
Fortunately, all sports in America are pure, and every participant plays only for the thrill of victory. Right? The possibility of any wager making a scintilla of difference in performance is preposterous. And, hey, Pete Rose might actually be allowed into the Hall of Fame.
But, chances are, more and more people will find more and more ways to forfeit their hard-earned pay for a shot at sudden wealth. Look how many play the ten million to one ‘chance’ lottery every week. And even if the state rakes in the tax money from winnings, rest assured elected officials will find a way to waste it. As a matter of fact, you can bet on it.
©MMXVIII. William J. Lewis, III