BY PATRICK MacDONALD
In November 2011, the people of New Jersey voted to allow sports betting in its Atlantic City casinos and at it’s horse tracks. Governor Chris Christie signed the motion into law the following January.
Naturally, this raised the ire of the hypocritical sports conglomerates, the NCAA, MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL, who filed suit against the state in the summer of 2012. Last Tuesday, with the state ready to start issuing sports betting licenses, the Federal government decided to join the suit on the side of the sports leagues.
Why do any of them care what the state of New Jersey does?
As any soccer fan knows (at least those who follow the English Premier League) legal gambling is very prevalent in the European game. They have betting parlors in stadiums across the UK. It’s hardly uncommon to see betting websites advertised in the background during the course of the game. Hell, six premier league squads have casinos or gambling sites as their jersey sponsors.
In the country where sports betting is legal, the last time the integrity of the game was called into question was the 1960s. Even outside England, the recent sports fixing scandals throughout Europe involved criminal organizations and not legal betting companies or parlors.
So again, why do the sports leagues and the Federal government care? The leagues claim that betting in NJ would, “irreparably harm amateur and professional sports by fostering suspicion that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition.” But how does that make sense? How could any legal gambling company explain away $100,000 in missing funds every time a star player has a miserable game. It’d be a one way ticket to being thrown out of business and thus, making no more money.
However, a criminal who’s operation is off the books, could bribe anybody without their being any kind of paper trail.
Not to mention the complete hypocrisy of sports leagues pretending like the media outlets they use to self promote don’t routinely publish the sports betting lines on a daily basis. Do they really think those lines are used for anything other than gambling? Of course they know what they’re for, but they’d never take the moral high road they’re taking with NJ and revoke those news outlets’ press passes.
Then what of the Federal government? Yet more hypocrisy is on display. In November of last year, the states of Washington and Colorado (through the same referendum process as New Jersey) decided to legalize marijuana, despite a Federal ban. The president was asked if the Justice department would go after the two states. President Obama replied that while he didn’t support legalizing marijuana, “at this point, Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue.”
Is that not what happened in New Jersey? Did they not vote in the majority that they wanted to legalize sports betting? Why do the voices of Washington and Colorado seemingly speak more clearly than New Jersey? It’s a double standard … though double standards are hardly unusual in DC.
Banning sports betting also makes no fiscal or economic sense. As of now, billions of dollars currently either go to organized crime or offshore through gambling websites. And it’s not like finding a way to gamble is difficult. I guarantee everyone who reads this article knows someone who either has a bookie or has bet on sports through an offshore website. If you don’t, well, Google will solve that problem in five minutes. Sure, we could keep the status quo, but that’s billions in taxable dollars that are going to waste and billions going to crooks or foreigner outlets while millions remains unemployed in the United States.
It’s just devoid of sense.
As this is a soccer website, let’s bring it back to the beautiful game. However unlikely, Don Garber could play a role in this. MLS is not listed in the lawsuit against New Jersey, which means Garber has not weighed in on the matter. As an NJ resident and a former NFL exec who worked in NFL International (re: NFL Europe) (or quite simply as a nice publicity stunt!) Garber could come out in favor of New Jersey’s sports betting legislation. Being the only team based U.S. sports league that doesn’t mind if you bet on its games would certainly give it a marketing tool that the others don’t have. Besides, if he loves this state as much as I do, he’ll want to do what’s best for good old Jersey.
Soccer proves that legal sports betting works without the integrity of the games being jeopardized. The sports leagues and Federal government hardly have a leg to stand on. Hopefully, the state and its voters don’t have their rights trampled on, and common sense comes out victorious in the courts.