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March Madness is a basketball fan’s fantasy: 68 of the best intercollegiate teams battling for supremacy. What more could a fan want?

Apparently for some it’s a chance to win money by gambling on the games. Sports betting is now a $100 billion per year “business,” and it’s getting bigger. March Madness offers the perfect opportunity, game after game, points and point spreads, quick results—some $12 billion bet in a matter of three weeks. It’s a multiple betting paradise, except for one thing: it’s mostly illegal, due to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

Meanwhile, casinos offering legalized sports betting take in about $30 billion per year. But there’s pressure from legislatures and much of the public to legalize sports betting and tap its revenues for public coffers.

The problem, though, is that sports betting represents a significant threat to the integrity of sport. Reason being is that it’s not difficult to imagine people approaching players, coaches, and officials with monetary incentives to throw games. Think the 1919 Chicago “Black Sox” World Series scandal, Pete Rose accused of betting on games while managing the Cincinnati Reds, and most recently in 2007, NBA referee Tim Donaghy serving time for betting on games he officiated. Intercollegiate sports associations the NCAA and NAIA both oppose legalized sports betting, as do all the professional leagues, NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, etc.

Yet sports betting via local, noncommercial office bracket “pools” is increasing geometrically. College students are particularly susceptible, and golfers of all ages are by far the most inclined to gamble. With more than 2,000 gambling websites available and smart phone mobile gambling apps around the corner, gambling is a now pervasive opportunity of postmodern life.

Gambling seems harmless, a victimless crime if crime at all. But gambling’s history is replete with emotionally devastated individuals and bankrupt families. Sports betting is no different.

Because of its penchant for luring cheaters, legalized sports betting would do little but destroy the competitive purity of athletics. Eventually, sports betting would ruin the fun and fandom that makes athletics so enjoyable in the first place. Given that sports is already beset by drug challenges, legislators and the general public would do well to look for revenues somewhere other than sports.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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