Betting on sports is a popular pastime in America, but it’s often a burdensome one. For decades, federal law has dictated that citizens must travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, to lose their life savings betting on the New York Knicks or Notre Dame football. But a new poll indicates that 55 percent of Americans now believe that those delusional Knicks and Fighting Irish fans should be legally allowed to lose their life savings from anywhere in the country.
This is a reversal of public attitudes from a 1993 poll, when 56 percent of Americans considered sports betting detrimental to the country. Of course, that was a different era. All elements of the gaming industry were more contained in Las Vegas, and sentimental gambling favorites Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs were deep into their championship droughts — which made betting on them about as shrewd an investment as giving your cash to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
But attitudes have shifted, loveable losers have won championships, and Jim Bakker went to jail. Now, in 2017, American majorities no longer believe that a person should have to travel to a desert full of Elvis chapels and $10.99 buffets in order to lose money on his or her favorite sports teams.
The poll was conducted by The Washington Post and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell — a town that has lost much of its GDP to Red Sox bets placed in Vegas. Now imagine if Vegas was taken out of the equation. A Sox fan looking to bet the heating budget on a 162-0 season and a World Series sweep (a fairly standard Red Sox wager) could do so right in Lowell — enriching the lives of his local loan shark and mob-affiliated gambling impresario, instead of giving his cash to some stranger in Vegas.
Nationwide legalized sports betting would produce clear winners — like local gambling operations and, of course, the Internet. It would also produce losers, like Vegas kingpin Sheldon Adelson, who’d have less income to spend on his pet causes: claiming that Palestinians don’t exist and pretending that Newt Gingrich is relevant.
This isn’t to say that betting on sports isn’t already a nationwide pastime. While betting on team results is largely illegal, the rise of fantasy sports has made it quite ordinary to bet on individual results.
In other words, if a delusional Knicks fan is already blowing his savings on a fantasy league where he drafted Kristaps Porzingis in the first round and Joakim Noah in the second round, how is that any worse than Sheldon Adelson blowing his savings on Newt Gingrich?