Gambling – Is it All About The Money?

Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press

“Show me the money!” said actors Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. in the iconic film Jerry Maguire.  Like Cruise trying to convince client and wide receiver Rod Tidwell (played by Gooding Jr.) about seeing beyond the money, is gambling all about how much money is made?  Or should we as a society also consider social responsibility when it comes to gambling?  

Here are the three things that could go wrong with the normalization and standardization of state-sponsored gambling across these United States of America:

1. The Four “I’s” of Gambling: Integrity, Impropriety, Investigation, and Incarceration 

Pete Rose and the MLB Hall of Fame.  The Chicago Black Sox and the 1919 World Series.  Michael Jordan, the NBA, and minor league baseball.  Examples of gambling and sports gone wrong and why professional sports leagues resisted gambling for such a long time.  The normalization of gambling as a game in sports is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because it adds tax dollars and other revenues to the coffers, both to state and private entities, while simultaneously reducing the dreaded black market for gambling.  Gambling is also a curse because it offends the traditional dividing line between gambling and sports.  It becomes less and less likely that one can claim that their integrity and lack of an appearance of impropriety is intact where the leagues are collecting sponsorship dollars and engaging in partnership relationships with gambling houses. 

State-sanctioned gambling also increases the likelihood of investigation by private and state entities alike with possible fines and incarceration as a result where violations have occurred.  

2. Issues of Game and Sport 

Gambling is in some sense a novelty.  It was only allowed in three states prior to the Murphy decision by the Supreme Court in 2018.  It was something people did in Las Vegas for fun, where the serious gambler made a career out of it, or something on the black market.  While losing life and limb for gambling debts is something we mostly see in the movies, the vision for sports leagues, teams, and third-party vendors is to engage more people in their broadcast content by having people, fans or not, holding a stake in the outcome beyond personal favorites.  It is like the funny GIF that shows the young boy being asked by his father how do you bet the Patriots to win the Super Bowl, but root for the Rams to win.  When people put money down, they tend to care more about outcomes and that increases viewership and spending.  Gambling was traditionally viewed as a game, while sports is a profession with unions and television contracts.  That line has been blurred by the modern gambling-sports relationship that was helped by the U.S. Supreme Court as well as prior sponsorship deals with fantasy sports companies (who have become the gambling centers), broadcasting, and streaming of gambling tournaments.

3. Personal Debt & Responsibility

Money aside, debt and personal responsibility is and will be a major issue in America in general and especially when it comes with increased access to gambling.  How can regulators, leagues, and legislators moderate good behavior?  Can they legislate good behavior, good decision-making, and investments?  A concern going forward is what effect the normalization and standardization of gambling in sport will have on fans, participants, the athletes, coaches, and the leagues.  During ancient Greek and Roman times, laurel leaves were all the rage.  The leaves were considered medicinal, hard to get, and a hallucinogenic.  The government banned them from public consumption.  No one cares about laurel leaves now.  Normalization and standardization does that to things and ideas about things.  However, the problem here is that increased access to gambling may indeed have actual consequences. 

Whether you are an avid gambler or not, we as a society need to monitor its effects on the individual and the masses. 

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