I’ve been reading a lot lately about the possibility of new gambling opportunities being afforded those who seek to wager on sporting events. These would be legal bets and not the kind that have apparently always been available from guys in the backrooms of nondescript storefronts who have collectively been known as “bookies.”
Las Vegas, of course, has long been known for legal wagering on all types of games, including those that involve cards, dice, and a variety of balls. As a matter of fact, very few people would ever visit the middle of the desert in Nevada for any other reason than to try their luck with games of chance.
Over the last few decades, though, wagering has spread far beyond the confines of the Silver State. Atlantic City, New Jersey, opened casinos. Tribal lands across the country became fertile grounds for betting parlors. And many, many states began participating in the Lottery drawings that now occur three or four times a week, if not daily, in some areas.
Now, it seems, there are some states that allow wagering on sporting events. No need to be a resident. Just pop on into a local gaming establishment and place your bets. Thus far, that appears to be a lucrative taxable venture for the participating localities. So, it probably won’t be too long before just about every state jumps on that sports-betting bandwagon. Nobody in political power wants those tax dollars crossing state lines.
As I read about the possible betting changes just mentioned, it occurred to me that, in addition to sporting arenas of days gone by, there could also have been some interesting wagers made in the context of history.
Suppose, for example, there had been legalized gambling back when the Founding Fathers were gathering to sign the Declaration of Independence. I wonder what kind of odds English bettors could have gotten on the new United States beating the British? The Redcoats far outnumbered the colonists in terms of trained soldiers. The British Navy was the envy of the world. And King George had tons of money at his disposal to quell the uprising in the New World. I have a feeling the American riffraff would have been unequivocal underdogs. So, anyone wishing to choose the guys NOT wearing red uniforms and marching in straight lines would have probably gotten some really big odds.
Side bets, no doubt, would also have been available. Gamers, for instance, may have been able to predict the day George Washington would be captured. Or when the Colonists would run out of ammunition. There may have been a betting parlor that took wagers on how long the American soldiers would last at Valley Forge. One bet carrying huge odds may well have been what day the ragtag bunch would cross the Delaware to attack the Brits.
Other wagers might have included how many signers would actually put ink to paper on the Declaration parchment itself. Or someone might even have said, “I bet ol’ John Hancock has the biggest signature.” No doubt some “bookie” would have taken that bet.
Those who like to bet on just about anything might have wanted to put money down on how many tankards of ale Ben Franklin would quaff the night before the Declaration was signed. Someone else might have wanted to wager on the number of words Tom Jefferson would use in his opening phrase. Or what the temperature was going to be in that Philadelphia building where all the deliberations were to take place.
The wagering possibilities would undoubtedly have been endless. In all probability, Tory sympathizers would have bet heavily on the outcome favoring the establishment. Truthfully, some Colonists might well have gone along with that sentiment. Although, they could have hedged their bets and maybe put a shilling or two on their fellow Americans just in case the longshot came in.
History doesn’t record any such specific gambling activity surrounding the events of July 4, 1776. And that’s probably a good thing. I’d hate to think any of our original signers were rooting for anything but complete victory.
Fortunately, the “casinos” of the day would probably have lost their collective shirts over the battles that ensued and the victories that were won by a bunch of Minutemen. Amidst all the hoopla we now enjoy while celebrating their triumph, we sometimes tend to forget that those who signed the document and those who fought the battles actually WERE actually betting on the outcome – with their fortunes and even their very lives.
Given the current divisiveness rampant throughout our country, I think maybe it would be good for all of us to just take a moment this 4th and salute those men and women who literally “bet the farm” and a good deal more so we can celebrate our freedom. Happy Independence Day, everyone! Don’t ever bet against America.
©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer